By Saman Indrajith
President Maithripala Sirisena will not be sending a separate delegation to represent him at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva, UPFA MP Mahinda Samarasinghe told Parliament yesterday.
Speaking during the committee stage debate on the Budget, MP Samarasinghe said that following discussions held yesterday President Sirisena had agreed that the government’s delegation to Geneva would be led by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.
UPFA MP Dr Sarath Amunugama, who is currently sitting in the Opposition, would also be included in the official delegation. “He will go as President Sirisena’s special representative,” Samarasinghe added.
The five member government delegation also included Northern Province Governor Dr Suren Raghavan, the MP said.
Samarasinghe said that the President had planned to send his own delegation as the government had initially not named an official government delegation and tasked the country’s mission in Geneva with articulating the government’s stance at the sessions.
MP Samarasinghe, who was initially due to be part of the delegation, said he had withdrawn as he told President Sirisena that it was important to send a single delegation to represent the country.
While there would be no change in the government’s stance on co-sponsoring the resolution submitted by the ‘core group’ led by Britain, MP Samarasinghe said the speech Foreign Minister Marapana would deliver at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, on March 21, would be a joint text that conveys a “unified stand.” Accordingly, Dr Amunugama would also make the draft as the President’s special representative, Samarasinghe added.
The draft of the Foreign Minister’s speech would be submitted both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for approval, he said. “You can’t do this by sidelining the President,” MP Samarasinghe stressed.
Earlier, TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran asked whether President Maithripala Sirisena was empowered to send a delegation to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva to represent him.
MP Sumanthiran queried whether such a delegation was indeed being sent and questioned the legality of the “unofficial” delegation comprising two Opposition MPs and the Governor of the Northern Province. He asked whether the government could allocate funds for the delegation’s visit. He insisted that Parliament reject allocating funds for such a delegation.