Alleged war crimes’: President to make proposals to UN

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka will soon seek the assistance of the United Nations and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to amend the Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition on Oct 1, 2015 soon after the last parliamentary election.

President Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday, revealed a decision to propose a ‘set of solutions’ to the UNGA in New York later this month and the UNHRC.

The announcement was made close on the heels of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) declaring that it would press for an international role in the accountability process as the President himself was interfering in high profile investigations.

Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, told editors of national newspapers and senior print and electronic media representatives he would take up the issue at the forthcoming UNGA. President Sirisena is scheduled to address the gathering on the first day of the world leaders’ summit.

Flanked by Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, PC, and Deputy Media Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanne, President Sirisena explained why he decided to resort to the unprecedented action.

President Sirisena, while declining to discuss Sri Lanka’s proposals ahead of presentation to the UN, said that written subject matter would be handed over to the UN and UNHRC.

President Sirisena is scheduled to meet UN Chief António Guterres and UN Human Rights Commissioner former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. She recently replaced Jordan’s outspoken Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

President Sirisena underscored the need to take into consideration punitive action proposed against armed forces in respect of accountability issues and constant calls to release those who had been convicted of terrorism, still held without being charged and whose cases were being heard.

Sri Lanka rehabilitated nearly 12,000 LTTE personnel within few years after the end of war.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. The then General Secretary of the SLFP Sirisena functioned as the Acting Defence Minister as the Army mopped up the remnants.

President Sirisena emphasized that the armed forces couldn’t be allowed to be at the receiving end, harassed and humiliated though he firmly believed legal action should be taken in cases where sufficient evidence was available.

Geneva wants Sri Lanka to fulfill its obligations in terms of Oct 1, 2015 resolution by March 2019.

At the onset of the briefing, President Sirisena discussed the circumstances leading to EU ban on Sri Lanka fish exports as well as the country being deprived of GSP plus over the dispute the previous government had with a section of the international community.

President Sirisena described EU action as the beginning of fully fledged economic sanctions imposed on post-war Sri Lanka. Blaming his predecessor for not addressing post-war issues, President Sirisena said that massive international pressure forced Rajapaksa to call presidential poll two years ahead of schedule.

President Sirisena called the media briefing, in the wake of two meetings he had with the police and his cabinet to discuss the crisis over the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) move to arrest highest ranking serving military official Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne on a charge of aiding and abetting Lt. Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, a suspect in the wartime abduction and disappearance of 11 youth and men.

Referring to the assassination of The Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga (January 8, 2009), abduction and torturing of the Deputy Editor of The Nation Keith Noyahr (May 22, 2008), abduction and disappearance of 11 youth and men (2007-2008) and the disappearance of media personality Prageeth Ekneligoda on the eve of January 26, 2010 presidential election, President Sirisena flayed the CID over the current status of the investigations.

President Sirisena acknowledged that those high profile cases were connected to the Geneva issue.

President expressed serious disappointment over the failure on the part of the CID to file charges so far against any one of those taken into custody and remanded over their alleged involvement. President Sirisena referred to the arresting of former Military Intelligence Chief and Chief of Staff of the Army, Major General (Retired) Amal Karunasekara over Noyahr abduction and Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake over his alleged role in the wartime disappearances case.

President Sirisena lambasted the police for moving to arrest Admiral Wijegunaratne on a charge of aiding and abetting suspect in the wartime disappearance case to flee the country, while those already taken in were given bail except one Navy man.

President said that had told the police their actions weren’t acceptable under any circumstances. Sirisena pointed out that the CID hadn’t even bothered to take a statement from Adm. Wijegunaratne, though announcements were made of his impending arrest.

President said the CID’s conduct had paved the way for interested parties to propagate a lie that the government was harassing those who contributed to the defeat of terrorism risking their lives.

In an obvious reference to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s recent statements as regards security in the Northern region, President Sirisena denied allegations. Having briefly explained the gradual re-deployment of the Army in former battle zones, President Sirisena assured the highest consideration for national security.

He criticized those former officers who had authored books depicting themselves as the ultimate heroes in the battle against terrorism. The Commander-in-Chief said such endeavors were certainly unfair by others, who contributed to the war effort.

The President said that he instructed that action be taken to prepare a comprehensive dossier on Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism to ensure that the truth would be recorded. It would contain armed forces victories, defeats, setbacks and all other and relevant developments for the benefit of future generations, the President said.

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