Prez, govt. urged to speak with one voice on accountability process

*Ex-officer alleges contradictory statements cause turmoil

 

article_imageby Shamindra Ferdinando

Alleging that President Maithripala Sirisena and the UNP-led government had simultaneously issued vastly contradictory statements in respect of accountability issues and the role of the international community in the process, National Front to Protect Security Forces yesterday urged the government to speak with one voice.

Addressing the media in Colombo, retired Maj and attorney-at-law Ajith Prasanna convenor of the front said people shouldn’t be deceived as regards the understanding between the government and Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Referring to a joint statement issued

by the Foreign Ministry and the European Union on Thursday night, the Maj., formerly of the Sinha regiment said that the two parties had reiterated commitment to the full and speedy implementation of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution of Oct. 2015.

The Oct. resolution has called for a hybrid war crimes court with the participation of Commonwealth and other international judges.

The former soldier repeated what he called the relevant paragraph from the statement issued consequent to the first meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights in accordance with the EU -SL Joint Commission held in Colombo yesterday: “An exchange of information took place on the Government’s plans for further constitutional and legislative measures, including consultation with the Sri Lankan people on a new Constitution and the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and its replacement with a comprehensive National Security Act. Both sides recognized the full implementation of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution of October 2015 as a priority. There was an exchange of views on ongoing consultations on the establishment of domestic reconciliation and accountability mechanisms. The EU expressed its readiness to continue supporting Sri Lanka in this process and to identify together with the Government the needs and opportunities for assistance.”

The meeting was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo with the participation of senior officials from Sri Lanka and the European Union.

The delegation of the European Union was led by Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Head of Division, Asia and the Pacific Department of the European External Action Service. The Sri Lanka delegation was led by Mr. A.L.A. Azeez, Director-General for European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.

The Major pointed out that the Foreign Ministry and the EU had reiterated commitment for the full implementation of the Geneva resolution whereas President Maithripala dismissed a major external role in the process. Sandeshaya of the BBC quoted President Maithripala Sirisena as having said on the same day that the international community need not worry about matters of state interest and the investigation into war crime charges should be internal and indigenous, without violating the laws of the country.

The Sinha regiment officer retired after having being wounded in fighting in the Jaffna peninsula in early 90s.

“Foreign judges and prosecutors should not be involved in an investigation into allegations of war crimes. I believe in the judicial system and other relevant authorities in Sri Lanka in this regard,” he said. The President declared that the country did not need to “import” specialists.

President Maithripala Sirisena also rejected deadlines, while emphasizing such delicate investigations couldn’t be carried out overnight.

The retired major urged the Joint Opposition to take up the issue in parliament as a matter of utmost importance. Responding to a query, the former soldier said that UK Minister for Asia Hugo Swire during a recently concluded visit to Colombo declared in no uncertain terms that the UN expected Sri Lanka to get on with the investigative process before June Geneva sessions. President Maithripala Sirisena couldn’t ignore the British statement, Maj. Prasanna said, adding that in fact it was nothing but an ultimatum.

Maj. Prasanna said: “The government should issue a statement immediately to clear whatever doubts in the minds of the people.”