COLOMBO: Udaya Gammanpilla, a United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP from Colombo District proposes to move a bill in Parliament in October, to indemnify the Sri Lankan armed forces against prosecution for bona fide official actions taken during military operations.
“I will move a Private Member’s bill on this in the next two weeks,” Gammanpilla told Express on Saturday.
“An Act of Indemnity will protect military personnel from being prosecuted for their officially assigned or bona fide actions. But it will not provide protection for non-bona fide actions like mass killing,” he explained.
In the past, the Lankan military were indemnified thrice for limited periods to tackle troubled situations; first in 1915, during the Sinhala Buddhist-Muslim riots; and again in 1982 and 1988 to tackle Tamil and Marxist insurgencies, Gammanpilla said.
Former Lankan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleka, said that to avert a potentially destabilizing political storm in Lanka over the government’s acceptance of a judicial mechanism to try alleged war crimes cases with foreign judges, lawyers and investigators, Colombo should move an amendment to the US resolution to modify the intrusive provisions which severely abridge Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and to secure more time to implement the agreed provisions.
The UN report and the “hybrid court” which it suggests, are unprecedented in the annals of South Asia. “Never before has there been such an intrusive intervention in the region,” Jayatilleka pointed out.
In his view, government should have agreed only to foreign “consultants” or “advisors”, and not “judges” with sentencing power. In the past, Lanka had employed foreign judicial experts, but only as consultants or advisors or as members of a Commission of Inquiry without sentencing power.
Jayatilleka said that Colombo should have used New Delhi’s antipathy towards intrusive external mechanisms. He charged that the government had blacked out British consultant Sir Desmond de Silva’s 500 page tome highlighting the flimsiness of the war crimes allegations against the armed forces and the grave crimes committed by the LTTE. Sir Desmond’s findings were an adjunct to the Maxwell Paranagama commission’s report submitted on August 15. “Time could have been sought for UNHRC members to study the report,” Jayatilleka said.