Sri Lankan military has crucial role to play in addressing issues of reconciliation etc – UK

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lankan military has a crucial role to play in addressing long-standing issues of reconciliation, accountability and human rights, a spokesperson for the British High Commission in Colombo said.

The official was responding to a query by The Island whether post-war defence ties between the UK and Sri Lanka would be undermined by the outcome of Geneva Resolution. The Island pointed out to the British High Commission that the House of Commons was told in Sept. 2011 that the Sri Lankan military killed 100,000 LTTE cadres and civilians during January-May 2009.

The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is scheduled to receive an oral report in respect of progress made by Sri Lanka in addressing accountability issues next month. It’ll be followed by a comprehensive written report in March 2017.

The BHC spokesperson said in accordance with the Geneva Resolution adopted on Oct 1, 2015, Sri Lanka had been committed to addressing long-standing issues of reconciliation, accountability and human rights. "The military has a crucial role to play in this process. The UK is supporting Sri Lankan government in these efforts to build a peaceful, prosperous and united future."

However, Sri Lanka continues to be named in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Annual Human Rights Report. Sri Lanka is one of 30 ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’ (HRPCs); where the UK has serious human rights concerns and hopes to engage positively to develop human rights performance, according to the British High Commission.

The 30 HRPCs are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

The Island: Against the backdrop of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office releasing its Annual Human Rights Report 2015, would you please state weather the controversial British military deployment in Iraq examined by Chilcot Inquiry was ever probed by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

BHC: The Chilcot Inquiry was announced by former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown in 2009 to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict. Information on the Chilcot Inquiry can be found on their website; It can give a fair idea of who was involved in the inquiry.

The Island: Did UK government receive an indication from Chilcot Inquiry as to the date its report is likely to be released?

BHC: The Inquiry into the Iraq war will be published by Sir John Chilcot’s team in June or July, 2016 as he outlined in his letter to the Prime Minister on 28 October 2015.

The FCO began publishing the Annual Human Rights Report in 1998.

President Maithripala Sirisena last week briefly explained measures taken by the government to fulfill Sri Lanka’s obligations. Addressing proprietors of print and electronic media organizations at the President’s House, President Maithripala Sirisena said that government efforts were on track.


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