Hold criticism until LLRC releases its report – HR Minister

Premature condemnation not fair by Sri Lanka’


Human Rights Minister Mahahinda Samarasinghe addresses the media on Tuesday (Photo Coralie Favre)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe says those demanding an independent international probe into Sri Lanka’s war on LTTE terrorism should at least wait till the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) presented its final report.

The Minister says once the LLRC report is published anyone can point out shortcomings, if any.

Minister Samarasinghe criticised ongoing attempts in some quarters to undermine the LLRC on the basis that it comprised retired public servants, including former Attorney General C. R. de Silva, Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara and Dr. Rohan Fernando, former advisor to the External Affairs Ministry.

Samarasinghe, who also holds the Plantation Industries portfolio, was responding to human rights watchdogs, the Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and a section of the international community critical of the ‘LLRC process.’ These organisations declined an invitation to testify before the LLRC late last year.

Addressing the media at the Plantation Industries Ministry on Tuesday (8), on his return from Geneva, where he briefed the Human Rights Commission of post-war reconciliation and rehabilitation efforts, Minister Samarasinghe said that it wasn’t fair by Sri Lanka to criticise the ‘LLRC’ process even before it released the report.

Responding to a query by The Island whether the international community as well as local and foreign NGOs would accept the LLRC’s recommendations having rejected out of hand its appointment and the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, under which President Mahinda Rajapaksa had set up the five-member Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Minister Samarasinghe said that the majority member states of the UN appreciated Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts.

During his recent visit to Geneva, he said, he had had an opportunity to brief senior representatives of about 50 countries on the post-war recovery measures and ongoing efforts to rehabilitate ex-LTTE cadres. He said: "The majority of them appreciated what we are doing to improve infrastructure in the former war zone. They were also pleased about the ongoing LLRC process and rehabilitation of LTTE cadres."

It would be a grave mistake on our part to recognise a small group of countries bent on targeting Sri Lanka on the human rights front as the international community, the Minister said.

Responding to another query, the Minister said now that the country had won the war it was time to win peace. "Sri Lanka experienced horrors of war for 30 years. We’ll not create conditions to pave the way for a similar situation. The LLRC process will facilitate reconciliation and ensure peaceful co-existence of all communities."

The Minister declined to comment on recent media reports on a secret New York meet between Sri Lankan delegation, including Attorney General Mohan Peiris and Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe and a UN delegation, which included members of a panel appointed by UNSG Ban Ki-moon to advise him on accountability issues with regard to Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE.

When pressed for his opinion on negotiations, the Minister said he couldn’t comment as he wasn’t present in the room where the meeting took place. He urged the media to direct that particular question to the Attorney General.

Minister Samarasinghe in answer to another question pointed out that as the meeting had taken place in UN territory the Sri Lankan delegation couldn’t interfere in UNSG decision to invite the three panelists. The Minister emphasised that the panel had been appointed by the UNSG to advise him, thereby it didn’t have the mandate of the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Commission.

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