Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe says the rejection of the proposed domestic mechanism by members of the Mahinda Rajapaksa group, a call which is echoed by the LTTE Diaspora can only imply one thing – the two factions are working hand in glove.
Q: Dissidents of the UPFA in the joint opposition claims that the domestic mechanism mandated by the A/HRC/30/L.29 US resolution is a sugar-coated pill on Sri Lanka. Your comments?
A:Our government did not ask for any mechanism on Sri Lanka. It was called for by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, four days after the conclusion of the war by having an agreement with UN Secretaty General Ban ki Moon. One week after the conclusion of the war, former Ambassador in Geneva Dayan Jayatilleke, for the first time in history, volunteered to bring a Resolution in respect of his own country.
They divided the international community at the Council in that vote.In this Resolution the Government volunteered to ensure accountability according to international standard. This meant they volunteered for some kind of mechanism. When we took the reins in January this year, member states of the Human Rights Council had decided on an international mechanism. The former Government had requested for a domestic mechanism.
With the help of all stakeholders of the previous Resolutions on Sri Lanka, we convinced the Council, that Sri Lanka is now in a position to conduct an independent domestic probe into the allegations against it. Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Geneva twice in 1989 and 1990 to ask for an international mechanism to look into the country’s internal affairs.
As a result of his pleas in Geneva, since 1989 to 1994, until Chandrika Kumaratunga’s election, many international organisations deprived Sri Lanka of monetary assistance or loans. All these are consequences of their own conduct. What we did as a Government was to mitigate the effects of their actions.
If the Opposition read the agreement dated May 23, 2009 between Mahinda Rajapaksa and UN Secretary General and if they peruse Dayan Jayatilleke’s resolution of May 26, 2009, they would not make such baseless allegations.
Q: The joint opposition says Sri Lanka today is at peace due to the bold decisions by the previous government. And the new Government must take the country forward from there without taking a different stand at the UNHRC and discussing war crimes ?
A:We have not taken up the position that there had been war crimes. But the question is why did the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government agree to a mechanism of inquiry, unless there had been war crimes, why did Prof.G.L.Peiris thank UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for having the Darusman Report, in which they talk about 40,000 civilian deaths and white flag killings!
Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prof.G.L.Peiris thanked Ban ki Moon for preparing that report which claimed war crimes against Sri Lanka.
We straightened the U-turn taken by the former regime. I would like to put it that way. The Human Rights High Commissioner’s report was to come out with a long list of names and various damning allegations against those people.
In view of the policy we adopted during the past eight months and due to the genuine commitment shown, the Government diluted it and got a general report.
Q: They are accusing the government of willingly giving into international pressure and getting on their bandwagon?
A:This is just childish talk.
Q: What have you got to say about the allegation that the domestic mechanism is going to be a witch-hunt?
A:War heroes were betrayed by the former government and we are trying to redeem their good name.
Q: The Opposition says although there is big fanfare on the All Party Conference (APC) which is said to have been mooted to discuss the modalities of the proposed domestic mechanism, they are yet to know what it is?
A:This entire thing is something that was set in motion by the previous government. They had been talking about a domestic mechanism to probe allegations of war crimes. We have inherited this problem, not that we invented it.
The idea is to put the contents of the Resolution before Parliament and let Parliament decide as to how we should proceed. People’s representatives will decide as to how it should be done. We are not going to do it at home.
Q: Will it be brought before Parliament shortly?
A:There is no scheduled date as yet. Within the next couple of months we will have to attend to that. It is a matter of national interest and we will certainly include civil society and all stakeholders in evolving a domestic mechanism.
We have the best interests of the country at heart. This is not an attempt to betray the country or the war heroes.
Q: Tamil Nadu politicians who are extra sensitive to the issues of Sri Lankan Tamils have rejected this domestic mechanism and criticised India’s central Government for backing the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka. Your comments?
A:We are dealing only with the central Government. Foreign policy is a matter for the central Government.
Q: Even hardcore Tamil diaspora groups are rallying against the domestic mechanism. Is the Government going to take their concerns on board ?
A:Their objections prove that whatever call made to the UNHRC has not been answered. They are not satisfied with the outcome at the last UNHRC session. What is interesting is, part of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government is also opposing the domestic mechanism. Does it mean that the LTTE diaspora and the Mahinda Rajapaksa group are on one side?