‘President will never accept foreign judges’

Former President accused of raising Geneva bogey

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Maithripala Sirisena and the government would never accept foreign judges in the proposed court to be established in accordance with Oct. 1, 2015 Geneva Resolution to inquire into accountability issues during the final phase of the Vanni offensive, Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faizer Musthapha, PC, said yesterday.

The Minister was answering a query raised by The Island at yesterday’s media briefing at SLFP party office, T. B. Jayah Mawatha.

Minister Musthapha insisted that foreign judges wouldn’t be accommodated in the proposed court under any circumstances. One-time staunch Rajapaksa ally ignored the reference in Geneva Resolution in respect of Commonwealth and other international judges as well as defence lawyers, authorised prosecutors and investigators.

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that at the conclusion of his four-day visit to Sri Lanka, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Al Hussein had expressed satisfaction with the current situation.

Hambantota District MP Amaraweera claimed that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa had no option but to call for early presidential polls two years ahead of schedule because he feared the possibility of Geneva adopting a Resolution severely detrimental to the country.

Minister Amaraweera claimed due to Maithripala Sirisena’s victory at the last presidential election, Western powers had changed their attitude towards Sri Lanka. The former President’s defeat had helped avert a major crisis, he said.

When The Island pointed out that Prince Hussein had called for international participation in the accountability mechanisms to be set up to deal with international crimes and gross human rights violations after having castigated the local judiciary, Minister Amaraweera left the briefing requesting Minister Musthapha to respond.

Addressing the media at the UN compound in Colombo Hussein alleged that Sri Lanka’s key institutions had been ‘corroded and corrupted’ during the war and that though Sri Lanka had many excellent judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials, the system they depended upon had become highly politicised and unbalanced.

Recalling the circumstances under which the then Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake had been impeached at the behest of President Rajapaksa, Minister Musthapha said that such actions caused rapid deterioration of judiciary. Regretting that he, too, had backed the impeachment of the Chief Justice, the minister said that remedial measures taken since the last presidential polls had helped improve the situation gradually.

The Minister said that Sri Lanka was ready to accept international observers and technical assistance. When The Island pointed out that the Geneva push for foreign judges had been the major issue, Minister Musthapha said that proposed international participation in accountability mechanisms could be interpreted in different ways.

The Minister said that the government wouldn’t give in to international pressure. "Various people can make recommendations though we’ll not accept anything inimical to Sri Lanka."

Former MP Reginald Cooray alleged that certain political elements had been making a despicable attempt to exploit the Geneva situation to make political mileage.

In an obvious reference to former President and Kurunegala District MP Rajapaksa and his loyalists, Cooray claimed that the Geneva issue had been manipulated to instill fear in the people of an impending international intervention. Such a situation would enable the former leader to emerge again as a hero, Cooray, widely tipped to be the next Governor of the Northern Province said.

A smiling Cooray pointed out that Rajapaksa had cleverly exploited accountability issues since the conclusion of the war in May 2009 to secure electoral victories. He recalled the former President campaigning on many election platforms to save himself from electric chair and save the military from what he called war crimes rap.

President Maithripala Sirisena had in no uncertain terms had emphasized in interviews with the BBC as well as Al Jazeera that the proposed investigation would be carried out through domestic mechanisms, the former Kalutara District MP said.

Asked whether he was backing President Maithripala expecting some plum position, Cooray answered in the negative.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...