Domestic mechanism in 18 months

Mangala Samaraweera

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday said that the disscussions on setting up of a domestic mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights violations will be finalised by January 2016.

Addressing the media, the minister said the mechanism will be finalised following discussions will all relevant parties. The discussions in this regards he said will start from next month.

Samaraweera said that after finalising the mechanism it will be established within 18 months.

He added the government was also prepared to obtain international advise, technical and expert support when taking the mechanism forward.

He said the mechanism will be based on a four tier system. He said the set up will include a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, Office of Missing Persons, a Judicial mechanism with special counsel to be set up by statute and Office of reparations.

The minister also observed that the effort was not to please the international community or due to pressure from the international community, but, because the government was of the belief that there is no other path for the country than this. Minister Samaraweera said the government also has no intention of engaging in any cover ups and added that if any body accused of wrongdoing is found guilty to the charges, they would be punished.

The Foreign Minister said that the Government had invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Sri Lanka at the earliest possible and added that this may happen during the next month.

Referring to the ongoing UNHRC sessions Samaraweera said that it was likely that a joint statement supported by an overwhelming majority of countries will be presented backing Sri Lanka’s proposals and rationale, at the end of the sessions. Blaming the previous Rajapaksa regime for blowing the issue out of proportion, Samarweera said if the previous government had been in office today the report would have come out in March and even economic sanctions would have been in place today. Samaraweera said that the new government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been able to change international opinion favourable to Sri Lanka in a short span of time.

He also identified the new development as an opportunity to restore the good name of the country’s Security Forces to the exceptional levels which prevailed before.

Samaraweera was of the opinion that the previous Rajapaksa regime was responsible for blowing the issue out of proportions.

Highlighting past mistakes, he said that soon after the end of the conflict in 2009, the previous Government did two important things. “One, the Government made a Joint Statement with the United Nations at the conclusion of the UN Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka in May where it undertook, on behalf of the people of this country, to take certain steps including on accountability. Soon thereafter, on May 27, 2009, Sri Lanka proposed a Resolution in the UN Human Rights Council titled ‘Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights’ which was adopted by the Council. This Resolution too contained a series of measures to betaken by Sri Lanka including endorsement of the Joint Statement between the Government and the UN”. Samaraweera said thereafter, the Government appointed the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation which made a series of recommendations for implementation.

However, Samaraweera said that the previous regime had failed to carry out the duties towards its own citizens as well as realise the promises made in international for a.”Coupled with the general breakdown of the rule of law and democratic space in the country over the years led to the call by the Human Rights Council in March 2014, for an international investigation on Sri Lanka” he added.

He said the lack of commitment on the part of the previous Government, to carry out its duties towards its own people changed with the election of President Sirisena on January 8.

He said the process of accountability was already underway and Justice that has long proved elusive is now becoming a reality.

(Daily News)