Sri Lanka must come to terms with past tragedies: Mangala

Mangala Samaraweera

Insisting that as a sovereign state the final decision with regard to the 23 March Geneva resolution rests with Sri Lanka, Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to move forward with the two-year extension.

To this end, he said, the contours of the proposed Truth-Seeking Commission (TSC) are currently being worked out.

“The Prime Minister has been consulting different experts. They have given us the contours of such a mechanism, and one of our priorities will be to get Cabinet approval for the TSC within the next few months,” Minister Samaraweera said while fielding questions from journalists at a special press briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo.

The Government, he said, will sit down with all stakeholders and work out a road map for the next two years.

Asked if President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were on the same page about the proposed new Constitution, Minister Samaraweera opined that a referendum was a risk worth taking though it’s not as big a risk as some perceive it to be – particularly given that the ruling coalition came into power promising to “introduce a constitution that will celebrate the diversity of our country along with the entrenchment of democratic values.”

“The President and Prime Minister, I’m sure, will want to honour the commitment given by us to the people,” he added. Samaraweera also took the opportunity to compare and contrast the diplomatic gains made by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration to that of the previous Government. “In Geneva, where acrimonious debates, votes and divisions used to take place over Sri Lanka in the past, the international community upheld and reaffirmed its trust and confidence in Sri Lanka to be in charge of its own reconciliation process, with no acrimonious words or votes but only praise,” he said. In 2014, he recalled, only 12 countries stood by Sri Lanka when the international community decided to appoint an international investigation into Sri Lanka. “This time there was no vote, no division, no accusation, no half words. Country after country took the floor to praise the Government and the people of our country and express their support for Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that these countries included the five permanent UN Security Council members.

Responding to criticisms made by Opposition lawmakers back home, Samaraweera asserted that Sri Lanka’s sovereignty has not been compromised in any way.

“There are those who say that Sri Lanka sold its soul, compromised sovereignty, cowed down to the West, because of their envy and their jealousy; but I want to state very clearly that all we have done under President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is to reassert our sovereignty and regain the lost respect for Sri Lanka among the international community,” he said. Questioning the term ‘war crimes probe’, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said: “All we know is that there are very serious allegations against Sri Lanka. We will look into those allegations and decide, first of all, whether those are war crimes or not.” “I personally believe Sri Lanka has one of the most disciplined armies in the world, but like in all armies, we have miscreants; we have black sheep. So if there are people who are proven after an investigation to have done wrong, then we will deal with those people and thereby retain or protect the good name of our armed forces,” he added. It is imperative, noted Samaraweera, that at least now Sri Lanka comes to terms with its past in order to move on as a nation.

“We must come to terms with the tragedies of the past and then we can move forward as a new country towards a new era. When Sri Lanka celebrates its 70th anniversary of independence, let’s hope we can put our past behind us and create a country which can be proud of its diversity and be united in its diversity,” he said.

(Source: FT.LK – By Himal Kotelawala)