by Shamindra Ferdinando
Former UPFA MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha yesterday said that the anticipated change in US policy towards Sri Lanka was aimed atstrengthening the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration.
He was responding to the US declaration that it would move a joint resolution in Geneva backing a domestic war crimes probe undertaken by the new administration. The US successfully moved a resolution at the March, 2014 session calling for an external investigation into the alleged atrocities committed during the closing stages of the armed conflict here.
Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal said in Colombo: “The United States has announced on Monday in Geneva that it will be offering a resolution in the September session of the Human Rights Council. We have also expressed our hope that it will be a resolution which we hope to offer collaboratively, working with the government of Sri Lanka and with other key stake holders.”
Prof. Wijesinha said Western powers would go out of their way to bolster the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration. Biswal visited Colombo in the wake of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit here, Prof. Wijesinha said.
Prof. Wijesinha asserted that the previous government had to pay a very heavy price for its failure to establish a credible domestic mechanism. The academician said that would have solved a lot of problems.
Asked to explain previous government’s failure to address accountability issues, Prof. Wijesinha said: “The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a commitment to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to address certain concerns, but then took ages to appoint the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). When the LLRC delivered very sensible interim recommendations, nothing was done and indeed the Inter-Ministerial Committee never met. The government also failed to take forward negotiations with the TNA at a time when they had a very moderate position.”
Prof. Wijesinha said: “When the LLRC recommendations came out, it took over six months to develop an action plan, and the President did not reflect on why those he had entrusted the task to did nothing, he simply handed it, too late, to Lalith Weeratunge and Dhara Wijayathilka. Then he did not set up a proper mechanism to implement the recommendations.”
Prof. Wijesinha emphasized that he tried to convince President Rajapaksa of the need to act swiftly and decisively on LLRC recommendations. The former MP alleged that an influential section within the previous administration simply ignored the looming threat. Had the previous leadership responded to international and local developments, it could have taken remedial measures, he said.
“There were many lost opportunities, and I am sorry that I was the only person who kept writing to President Rajapaksa to urge formal action. I did ask Lalith Weeratunga why he did not push, since I believe in his bona fides, but he told me that he felt isolated in the President’s inner circle. The tragedy is that, had just one or two more people expressed concern, the President, who had not been intransigent before, might have realized how grave the problem was.”