FNO calls for explanation from govt

Sumanthiran’s bombshell:


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Federation of National Organisations (FNO) yesterday sought an explanation from the government regarding the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) declaration that there had been a tripartite agreement on the inclusion of foreign judges and other international experts in the proposed war crimes court.

Addressing the Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka on June 14, Jaffna District MP and TNA spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran named the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), the US and the TNA as parties to the agreement. They also agreed that the proposed arrangement was in line with the Constitution.

Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka thera, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera, Dr. Wasantha Bandara and attorney-at-law Kalyananda Thiranagama called for the government explanation on behalf of the FNO.

Both Dr Amarasekera and Dr Bandara said MP Sumanthiran’s statement should be examined against the backdrop of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s latest call for the participation of foreign judges and other experts in the proposed domestic inquiry. Hussein repeated the call for foreign judges on June 28 during the ongoing 32nd sessions of the council.

Pointing out that MP Sumanthiran had made the revelation in the presence of Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington Prasad Kariyawasam, Dr. Bandara said that the TNA heavyweight was on record as having said that the Geneva based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a watered-down resolution in respect of accountability issues on the basis of the tripartite understanding.

The Washington event was moderated by Sadhanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank. The Caucus is an initiative launched by United States House Representatives Bill Johnson of Ohio and Danny Davis of Illinois, in November, 2013.

Dr Bandara said both print and electronic media had largely ignored MP Sumanthiran’s revelation made in the run-up to Hussein’s statement. The academic said that the FNO and the Global Sri Lankan Forum (GSLF) would move the court on the basis of the controversial statement attributed to MP Sumanthiran.

Dr Bandara said that the government hadn’t disputed the TNA MP’s statement so far. The TNA, too, hadn’t contradicted The Island report headlined Constitution no bar to foreign judges in war crimes court, which dealt with the Congressional hearing.

The country should be told of the circumstances under which the tripartite agreement had been reached, particularly who represented the government,

Dr Bandara said. According to him, those who had been responsible for co-sponsoring the adopted Geneva resolution were certainly against Sri Lanka’s interests.

Dr Amarasekera said that the recent statements made by MP Sumanthiran and Hussein had revealed the existence of a road map meant to divide the country on ethnic lines. At the onset of the briefing, Hussein having praised President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as well as Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera for their efforts to implement Geneva resolutions, Dr. Amarasekera pointed out that human rights chief pushed them for speedy implementation of the project.

Responding to media queries, FNO spokespersons pointed out that the Geneva body should not get involved in the constitutional making process. The UNHRC comment on the formation of a Constitutional Assembly to draft a new Constitution by end of this year before being put to a referendum in 2017 revealed the world body meddling in purely domestic politics.

Having explained specific measures proposed and adopted by the UNHRC against the Sri Lankan military, Dr. Bandara said that a well calculated attempt was being made to weaken the armed forces. The threat to deprive Sri Lankan forces of an opportunity to serve under UN command at various world trouble spots unless troops picked for such assignments were subjected to stringent screening process was degrading, Dr. Bandara said.

Dr. Bandara alleged that President Maithripala Sirisena and the government hadn’t submitted six reports, including the Report on the Second Mandate of the Paranagama Commission to the UNHRC , thereby depriving the military of much needed protection. Those reports could have countered unsubstantiated allegations propagated by various interested parties.

Attorney-at-law Thiranagama insisted that regardless of the status of the inquiry it wouldn’t be impartial. Thiranagama said that the military wouldn’t get a fair hearing whether it was international, hybrid or domestic inquiry.

Thiranagama alleged that FM Samaraweera had publicly asserted the government’s right to pursue a plan of its own regardless of President Maithripala Sirisena’s declaration that foreign judges wouldn’t be accommodated under any circumstances. Subsequently, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, too, ruled out foreign judges. Both declared their acceptance of foreign expertise in support of the proposed domestic inquiry.

Dr. Amarasekera said that MP Sumanthiran had clearly contradicted both the President and the Prime Minister, therefore a clear explanation was required.

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