US hopes government confronts the past

The United States says it hopes the Sri Lankan Government will accept the need to fully and honestly confront the past.

US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski tweeted today saying that when the report on Sri Lanka by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is released, the Government must not be defensive.

“When UN report comes hope #SriLanka gov will continue defending country w/o being defensive, accepting need to fully, honestly confront past,” he said in a tweet.

Tom Malinowski concluded a four day visit to Sri Lanka today during which had had also visited the East apart from having talks in Colombo.

Malinowski accompanied US Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal to Sri Lanka but Biswal left early on a visit to India.

nesonBiswal had said yesterday that the US will be submitting a resolution in support of Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva even as the Council looks to discuss a highly critical report on alleged war crimes committed in the country.

Biswal told reporters that the matter had already been discussed with the international community as there is a need to give the new Sri Lankan government time to address the human rights concerns.

The report by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council during its 30th session in Geneva next month.

Meanwhile, Tom Malinowski, speaking to reporters in Trincomalee today, said that the US will judge the new Sri Lankan Government, not by its promises but by its actions and achievements

Excerpts:

Q: So, it says that the UNHRC process and the United States’ [impact] on the government was probably also one of the reasons people were pushed into the brink of changing that government because that’s the level of resentment they had towards them.  But would that kind of pressure, momentum continue into pushing this government to ensure resettlement, reconciliation, issues like that?

A: The United States will sponsor another resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in September and we are not going to walk away from this process of encouraging reform and change after September.  We very much hope that with the changes after January 8th, the new government will work with us and work with the United Nations on a real process of accountability and reconciliation.  The international community will remain involved in that process.  It will continue to monitor that process.  And as much as we are hopeful about the promises that the new government had made, we will judge it not by its promises but by its actions and achievements.

Q: So we would like to ask, what do you think about the resettlement particularly in Sampur area and Valikamam?

A: Some of the problems that Sri Lanka faces are going to take a tremendous amount of time to resolve.  Full justice will take time.  Reconciliation between communities will take time.  Changing the political culture, especially at the local level, will take time.  But some things ought to happen more quickly. It is possible for the Sri Lankan military to return land that was taken from people very quickly, and that is something we feel will build confidence and trust among the population.  It is something that we hope the government will encourage the military to do as quickly as possible.

Q: International probe on human rights violations is expected to be in favor of Tamil people.  What is your opinion on this?  In terms of the human rights violations that have occurred [inaudible] what is your stand?

A: The important thing is that there be a judicial process that is credible to the people of Sri Lanka and to the international community.  For that process to be credible, I don’t think it has to be a completely international process, but it does have to be independent of political leadership.  It has to be led by people who are trusted by the minority communities and it should have some degree of international involvement, even if it is a domestic process organized under the laws of Sri Lanka.

Q: The final question is will you visit to the resettlement areas?  We have received information that you will visit the resettlement areas.

A/S Malinowski: I do hope to visit the resettlement areas while I’m here, yes.