GTF confident US won’t dilute Geneva resolution

Full implementation of proposals demanded



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) yesterday declared that the US stand on a resolution unanimously adopted on Oct 1, last year at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with the consent of the Sri Lankan government hadn’t been changed.


UK based GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran told The Island that the grouping hadn’t been told of the US changing its stance.


Surendiran was responding to a query whether the GTF felt the US was taking a softer approach in respect of the resolution, paving the way for Sri Lanka to rule out foreign judges in contravention of the Oct 1, 2015 resolution, jointly sponsored by Colombo and Washington. The Geneva resolution also recommended international prosecutors and investigators.


The Geneva body is scheduled to receive an oral statement as regards the post-resolution developments during the last week of this month.


Surendiran said as far as the grouping was concerned the top US representative in Geneva Ambassador Keith Harper on January 25, 2016 declared credibility of any accountability mechanism required involvement of foreign judges et al. Surendiran quoted Ambassador Harper as having said that the position wouldn’t change. Surendiran added: "Just as most governments, the US administration, too, has and will acknowledge progress and positive steps whenever a new government takes. That is how international relations work."


 Asked whether the GTF was concerned about the implementation of the Geneva resolution in the wake President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe ruling out foreign judges in the proposed judicial mechanism, Surendiran stressed that the resolution should be fully implemented. The GTF spokesperson said that anything less than what had been stipulated in the resolution would not be acceptable to the Tamil people and especially families of the victims.


 Having committed Sri Lanka to the Geneva resolution by co-sponsoring it, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government couldn’t go back on it. The bottom line was that Sri Lanka had accepted the resolution in letter and spirit in its entirety, Surendiran said, adding: "Post that co-sponsorship and internationally binding commitment, one cannot, whether you are the President or Prime Minister go back and renegotiate or misinterpret that resolution’s conditions and try to deviate from an agreed path."


 Surendiran recalled Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader and the Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan as well as Ambassador Samantha Power during a visit to Colombo several months ago calling for the full implementation of the Geneva resolution. Asked whether the GTF would compromise its stand vis a vis the Geneva resolution, Surendiran insisted that the grouping would stand firm at all international forums including the UNHRC and Sri Lanka demanding the full implementation of the resolution."


 Demanding that Sri Lanka should respect its international obligations, the GTF spokesperson said that those who had suffered due to the conflict couldn’t be further denied justice.


 Asked whether the GTF would share information with Office for Missing Persons (OMP) set up in accordance with a Geneva Resolution adopted in Oct. 2015 to establish the whereabouts of the missing and also request foreign governments to do the same, Surendiran said that the grouping would certainly assist any genuine and sincere efforts of anyone.


 Surendiran said: We want foreign governments to facilitate the process. But, it is the responsibility of the government to reveal the fate of tens of thousands of people who gave themselves up to the military or surrendered during the final phase of the fighting.


 Referring to Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration that except for less than 300 LTTE suspects and convicts in custody, the rest either perished during the conflict or fled the country, Surendiran said the government couldn’t ignore the need to investigate the cases of those who had surrendered to the military.


 Responding to another query, the GTF spokesperson said that the Commanding Officers of fighting formations deployed in areas where people surrendered east of the Kandy-Jaffna road should be held accountable for those thousands and thousands of disappeared persons. "Surely, they should have known what happened because they were in charge. Any illegal actions they may have carried out on orders in contravention of the law of the land and international law need to be investigated thoroughly and action be taken by prosecuting those who committed the crimes and against those persons who gave orders to commit those crimes"


 The GTF spokesperson said that the grouping would campaign aggressively in Geneva and other capitals to highlight the commitments made by the government and what he called confusing and contradicting statements that had been made by the President and the Prime Minister recently. Surendiran said that the international community should realize that the government hadn’t implemented some of the basic commitments. He said that they couldn’t be satisfied with the progress in the release of private and public land held by the military, inordinate delay in the release of political prisoners, failure to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), some disappearances, torture and sexual abuse disproportionately in the north and east compared to the rest of the country, and the military was still stationed, be it in barracks, disproportionately in the north and east. He alleged that the military had been actively engaged in what he called civilian assignments and activities.


 Surendiran acknowledged that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had taken a series of positive steps, including restoration of freedom of expression, the freedom to mourn the dead, the ability to demonstrate and make public protest without being intimidated and assaulted, the creation of the Office of Missing Persons and the mandate given to that Office by hopefully passing legislation, release of some of the private lands, the creation of the Constitutional Council moves to introduce a new constitution, 19th amendment to the current constitution, lifting the illegal proscription of some of the diaspora groups including GTF, ATC, CTC etc.


 The GTF declared that they remained committed to work with the government though their cooperation wouldn’t be at the expense of the Geneva resolution, which the Diaspora groups believed was central to the post-war national reconciliation process. Reconciliation couldn’t be achieved unless the issue of accountability was addressed, Surendiran said.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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