SLFP wants issue referred to Speaker

CC member Radhika’s role in UN war crimes report on Myanmar:


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in his capacity as the head of the Constitutional Council would have to examine the conduct of its members, Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe said yesterday.

Samarasinghe said so in response to The Island query whether Constitutional Council member Radhika Coomaraswamy could endorse UN condemnation of Myanmar over its alleged war crimes accusations especially against the backdrop of the global organization directing unsubstantiated war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka.

Jayasuriya is on an official visit to New Delhi with a parliamentary delegation sans the Joint Opposition.

The Island sought Samarasinghe’s reaction to the three-member UN team comprising Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Dominic Sidoti (Australia) and Coomaraswamy requesting the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or create what they called an ad hoc international criminal court. The trio also recommended an immediate embargo on transfer of weapons to Myanmar and targeted individual sanctions against those responsible for violations.

Samarasinghe insisted he couldn’t comment on Coomaraswamy’s role in the UN report.

The Island pointed out that the report on Myanmar was released just ahead of President Maithripala Sirisena received the appointment as the Chairman of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in Kathmandu.

The 10-member CC comprised the Speaker, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, Presidential nominee Patali Champika Ranawaka, Parliament’s nominee Vijitha Herath, Opposition Leader’s nominee John Seneviratne, Prime Minister’s nominee (vacant) and three representing the civil society, A.T. Ariyaratne, Shibly Aziz and Radhika Coomaraswamy. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s original nominee Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa no longer serves the CC.

The UN called for the immediate resignation of Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for what the global body called genocide in the north of the Rakhine State.

The UN also blamed one-time darling of Western powers, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, for the failure on her part to stand up for Rohingya minority.

Smiling Samarasinghe recalled how Aung San Suu Kyi was hailed by a section of the international community and awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1991. In the wake of the damning report, the Norwegian Nobel Committee declared that Aung San Suu Kyi wouldn’t be stripped of her award.

Former presidential human rights nominee Samarasinghe emphasized that the situations in Myanmar and Sri Lanka now couldn’t be compared.

At the onset of the briefing Samarasinghe explained President Sirisena’s role at the forthcoming UN General Assembly sessions. Samarasinghe said that President Sirisena would address the UNGA on Sept 25, the first day of the sessions along with other leaders. The President would brief the international community with regard to the challenges faced by Sri Lanka and post-war reconciliation process. In addition to that President Sirisena would meet UN Secretary General António Guterres, Samarasinghe said, adding that Ban ki moon’s successor was aware of the wartime situation here as he served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) during the conflict. Samarasinghe recalled his association with Guterres during his visit to the northern Sri Lanka.

The Island sought an assurance from Samarasinghe as to whether President Sirisena would brief the UNGA and Guterres regarding British wartime dispatches that cleared Sri Lankan military of unsubstantiated accusations. Samarasinghe said that since the change of government, President Sirisena had taken tangible measures to improve Sri Lanka’s relations with the international community. Samarasinghe insisted that Sri Lanka no longer faced threat of foreign judges and other foreign experts. The minister said that President Sirisena wouldn’t betray the armed forces and allow external interference.

The Island maintained that the government hadn’t so far officially brought existence of British dispatches to the notice of New York and Geneva and the controversial Oct 1, 2015 resolution remained unchanged.

The Island also pointed out that no less a person than Field Marshal Fonseka last week admitted that the cabinet never took up Sri Lanka’s response to Geneva accusations.

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