Local activists, organizations condemn President’s statements

Local activists and organizations have condemned President Maithripala Sirisena’s recent statements wherein he appears to be indicating a withdrawal from the obligations the Government had committed to in the consensus resolution passed at the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2015.

In a joint statement, 144 local activists and organizations said that it is worth recalling that the Government as a co-sponsor of the resolution in Geneva, was in a position to negotiate the exact terms of the resolution.

“Owing to the Government’s positions taken at these negotiations, the resolution in itself was a compromise, much to the disappointment of many victims and activists. The Government now appears to be backtracking from even these compromised commitments. The President in these interviews categorically stated that foreign judges and experts would not be part of the process. In his interview to BBC Sinhala Service he also went on to express his full confidence in the existing judicial system and in Sri Lanka’s investigative authorities. In that interview he added that if there was any international support necessary for Sri Lanka that it was only for economic development,” the joint statement noted.

The statement also noted that on 26 January 2016, a few days after the Presidents interview to the BBC, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in an interview to Channel 4 appeared to be engaging in damage control when he stated that that the Government will abide by commitments given in Geneva.

“These contradictions between the President and the Prime Minister are however not new and have been a constant feature of the Government’s public communications about their commitments under the resolution ever since the resolution was passed,” the joint statement added.

The local civil society organisations and activists said that it is widely acknowledged that the victim communities in Sri Lanka consider a purely domestic process to be untrustworthy.

The joint statement noted that the President’s comments come at a time when his Government claims to have embarked on a process of consultations on the design of transitional justice mechanisms outlined in the UNHRC resolution.

The statement also notes that these comments severely compromise that process and cast doubt on the intentions of the entire endeavour. There are also reports that the Government has already started drafting the necessary legal frameworks to put in place these mechanisms, which local civil society say then raises the question as to whether the consultations will be merely tokenistic.(Colombo Gazette)