Geneva Resolution being implemented – Mangala


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Monday assured that the the process implementing the Geneva Resolution was on track

Strongly denying a dispute within the ruling coalition over the process, Minister Samaraweera stressed that President Maithripala Sirisena had been consulted before the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) co-sponsored the Resolution at the Sept/Oct, 2015 sessions of the UNHRC in Geneva.

The Matara District MP vowed to proceed with the process regardless of resistance by hostile elements hell-bent on sabotaging the peace initiative.

Foreign Minister Samaraweera Monday evening called a special session with the media, including members of the Foreign Correspondents Association to explain the measures taken by the government to address accountability issues. Having explained the circumstances under which the GoSL had reached agreement on Resolution 30/1, Minister Samaraweera declared the agreement as Sri Lanka’s biggest achievement recently.

Minister Samaraweera revealed that at the time the issue had been taken up at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), he had been with President Maithripala Sirisena in New York. Foreign Minister Samaraweera said that he had been able to obtain the president’s advice, comfortably while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe coordinated with Colombo-based diplomats involved in the process.

Acknowledging the government’s failure to include a recommendation made by the JVP relevant to the Office on Missing Persons (Establishment, Administration and Discharge of Functions) Bill when it was presented to parliament on Aug. 23, 2016, Minister Samaraweera said that it would be accommodated to enable the process to go ahead.

Minister Samaraweera said that the Constitutional Council would soon recommend to President Maithripala Sirisena seven members to the Office of Missing Persons (OMP). In an obvious reference to recent media reports pertaining to the appointment of Mano Tittawella as the Secretary to the OMP, Minister Samaraweera insisted that a Secretary hadn’t been appointed to the proposed office.

Declaring that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration wouldn’t do anything inimical to Sri Lanka’s interests, Minister Samaraweera insisted that the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the GoSL wasn’t meant to establish a hybrid court as propagated by various interested parties. Responding to a query by the media, Minister Samarasinghe said that foreign judges wouldn’t be included in the proposed judicial mechanism under any circumstances though the GoSL could secure the services of foreign experts. Minister Samaraweera said that hybrid courts had been set up in some countries where the UN intervened.

Asked by The Island whether he could shed light on Jaffna District Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran on behalf of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) declaring in Washington on June 14, 2016 that Geneva resolution 30/1 was subject to Sri Lanka agreeing to accommodate foreign judges on a local judicial mechanism, Minister Samaraweera claimed that he wasn’t aware of the said meeting. The Island pointed out that MP Sumanthiran made the statement before the ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’ in the presence of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Washington Prasad Kariyawasam.

Minister Samaraweera declined to indicate when the judicial mechanism would be ready or the members of the body.

Minister Samaraweera pointed out that the Paranagama Commission tasked to inquire into accountability issues, too, received the backing for foreign experts from several countries, including UK, Canada and Australia. However, the GoSL was committed to ensure credible and transparent process as requested by those affected by violence as well as the international community.

Minister Samaraweera alleged that those who had accused the government of betraying the war winning armed forces caused irreparable damage to their reputation. Their relentless objections meant that they believed the accusations directed at the military, therefore feared credible and transparent investigations, Minister Samaraweera said.

Referring to varying figures mentioned by different parties, including the ICRC in respect of the total number of disappearances reported during the conflict, Minister Samaraweera said that the proposed OMP would undertake a comprehensive inquiry in this regard. Emphasizing that the country couldn’t further delay an inquiry, Minister Samaraweera recalled how he teamed up with the then Opposition MP Mahinda Rajapaksa during the second JVP inspired insurgency in the late 80s to represent the interests of the families of the disappeared. "We set up Mothers’ Front to pursue inquiries into disappearances," Minister Samaraweera said.

Samaraweera quoted MP Mahinda Rajapaksa as having said that he was ready not only to take their cases to Geneva but go to Apaya (hell). Minister Samaraweera said that now there was no requirement to go to hell as the government had settled the issue. Inquiries could be conducted here, Minister Samaraweera said.

The Minister alleged that the wartime Defence Secretary (Gotabhaya Rajapaksa) had facilitated about 200 hardcore LTTE cadres to secretly leave the country in the last week of the military offensive. The armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009.

In addition to the OMP and the proposed judicial mechanism, Samaraweera also explained government efforts to finalise Draft Bill on the Truth Commission by October and present it to parliament before the budget on Nov. 10. "If we fail to do that, we will bring it to Parliament in January.".

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