Sri Lanka asks HRC for time, space, and opportunity to conclude domestic process

May 31, Geneva: Sri Lanka told the critiques of its domestic accountability process to desist from arriving at hasty conclusions and afford time, space and opportunity to complete its own process of reconciliation.

Addressing the 17th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Plantation Minister and Special Human Rights Envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe said the process of reconciliation is a priority for the Sri Lankan government and need to be sustained and gradually built upon.

The Minister apprised the HRC of the measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to address the issues affecting the lives of the displaced during the war.

Out of the 290,000 displaced people at the end of the war two years ago, 95 percent have been resettled now and the remainder will be resettled once the demining process is completed. A large number of houses have been constructed and distributed to the resettled families, the Minister said.

Commenting on the ex-combatants, the Minister said out of the 11,644 ex-LTTE cadres surrendered or arrested at the end of the war, 6,500 had been rehabilitated and reintegrated in to the society.

“The Government is in the process of working towards the release of all remaining ex-combatants undergoing the rehabilitation on a staggered basis commensurate with their culpability with terrorist activities,” Minister Samarasinghe added.

The Government is implementing a comprehensive development program targeting Northern and Eastern Provinces enabling their rapid rehabilitation and reintegration to the national economy, he further informed.

Informing the Council that the government is engaged in discussions with the Tamil political parties to resolve the issues, the Minister said “healing the wounds of recent past is important to sustain the reconciliation.”

Reminding the Council that the home-grown domestic process of reconciliation, the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) commenced its work in August 2010 and yet to complete one year while similar processes elsewhere have taken longer, the Minister slated the critiques of the process.

“In this context, it is disheartening to note the haste with which some have sought to usurp the Sri Lankan government’s prerogative in deciding its domestic process,” the Minister criticized.

“We firmly believe that our home-grown process is capable of addressing the nuances of the unique situation,” the Minister said pointing out that there is no one international panacea that can be applied to the Sri Lanka’s complex situation.

Reminding the Council that Sri Lanka established the domestic process before the UN Secretary-General appointed his Panel of Experts to investigate Sri Lanka’s accountability during the later stage of the war, Minister Samarasinghe flayed the report as ‘manifestly flawed’.

He said “Sri Lanka regrets the procedural and substantive anomalies in the manifestly flawed report ostensibly compiled as an advisory document to the highest office in the UN, invoking a procedure outside the established intergovernmental process.”

The Minister further noted that in an unusual turn of events the report was made public simultaneously with a statement saying that the report was being carefully reviewed.

Recommending to the Council to discourage this kind of irregular practice as it might lead to circumvent established procedures, the Minister said the Panel has acted outside its jurisdiction in excess of its mandate.

He slammed the comments made by the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights saying that the statements made by the Commissioner lacked objectivity and contained prejudgment of the domestic mechanism established by the Sri Lankan government even before it has commenced its work.

He recalled that in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States, the UN resolution 1368 and 1373 established the right for a sovereign and its people to defend against terrorists and said Sri Lanka conducted the humanitarian operation exercising that right.

He said the recent characterization of Sri Lanka’s humanitarian operation by the HR High Commissioner as one which was conducted “under the guise of fighting terrorism” is most unfortunate.

“Such a characterization is fully misplaced as the community of nations was well aware that Sri Lanka was combatting one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world,” Minister Samarasinghe said.

Minister Samarasinghe, referring to the number of civilian casualties mentioned in the statements made by the UNHCR office said, use of unverified information in the statements is totally unwarranted and it gives rise to serious concerns as to whether the Sri Lankan situation is being considered in an objective manner.

“Having regard to the vicissitudes of manner in which Sri Lanka has been treated we seek the equal protection of the UN system,” the Minister concluded.

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