UNHRC session: Govt-in-waiting ponders response

mahinda groupby Shamindra Ferdinando

UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjayantha on Wednesday  (July 8) acknowledged that the government-in-waiting would have to gear up to face the next Geneva session in September.

Premjayantha said that the previous government had made known its position as regards the accountability issues to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) several years ago.

Consequent to the January 8, 2015, presidential  election, the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration had reached an understanding with Geneva rights body to delay the presentation of war crimes report until September, Premjayantha said, while referring to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s intervention in that regard.

Earlier the report was to be presented last March, the former minister said, adding that the caretaker administration should be prepared to defend the country.

fonseka_mahinda_gotabhayaSri Lanka will get an opportunity to see the report before being presented in Geneva.

Premjayantha was responding to a query by The Island at Wednesday’s media briefing at SLFP headquarters, whether the main Opposition party was ready to regain the responsibility in case it succeeded in winning the August 17 parliamentary polls. The September Geneva sessions begin immediately after Sri Lanka parliament meets on September 1.

Ms Sandra Beidas, formerly of the Amnesty International prepared the report in accordance with a US sponsored Geneva resolution adopted in March 2014. The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner declined to reveal members of the investigation team or their nationalities.

Premjayantha said that they would be taking up this matter, though the party was busy finalising nominations. The 10-day period to hand in nominations commenced on July 6.

The Human Rights Council holds three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least ten weeks. They take place in March (four weeks), June (three weeks) and September (three weeks).

The Geneva body is empowered to call for a special session in case one third of the 47-member states requested a special gathering.

War-Crime-Responding to another query, Premjayantha insisted that UPFA administration would terminate Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s strategy to woo pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. “We’ll not allow planned Diaspora festival later this year. The question doesn’t arise as we’ll be in power.”

Premjayantha asserted that the UPFA would pursue its own strategy.

Asked whether the dissolution of parliament leading to early elections would undermine Sri Lanka’s efforts to address accountability issues, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Kolonne told The Island: “Having elections is a good thing as it will create the necessary stability required for the President and the government formed after elections with the mandate of the people to carry out important policies and programs for reconciliation and sustainable economic development which are essential for the country’s progress”.