Reconciliation, an internal issue Ė Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva
* Pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora, and INGOs in US
exaggerate without evidence
* Domestic mechanism the need
* Broad Human Rights Action Plan prepared
* Human rights record could be defended at next UNHRC sessions
The Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Management Minister
Nimal Siripala de Silva said the Government reiterated that the
reconciliation process is entirely a domestic issue. The Minister in an
interview with the Sunday Observer said that nobody could dictate to us
as to how we should initiate the reconciliation process. The Government
firmly believes in a homegrown solution. If outside forces try to point
their finger at us and meddle in our internal affairs, the issues would
get more complicated.
The Minister said that even under international law, issues relating
to good governance, norms in democracy and international relations, are
internal matters which should be settled internally through a domestic
mechanism and not by external forces. External forces fail to realise
the ground realities of a situation and it will further complicate the
issue. Therefore, the Government firmly believes that it must be left to
the Sri Lankans themselves to sort out problems.
He said a broad Human Rights Action Plan has been prepared both at
policy and implementation levels and the Government is in the process of
implementing it. At the same time, the Government is ready for the
upcoming UNHRC Universal Periodic Review in October. Sri Lanka will
certainly present to the Human Rights Council what the Government has
done so far to ensure human rights.
Compared to many countries where indiscriminate killings and various
human rights violations are taking place, Sri Lanka could be proud of
its human rights record. However,to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka, the
pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora, various other organisations and INGOs in US and
some other countries exaggerate certain things which are not based on
any evidence. The Government is quite confident that its human rights
record could be defended at the next UNHRC sessions.
Q: What is the Governmentís stance on the LLRC Report? Some
ministers have said it has exceeded the mandate and not all
recommendations can be implemented. Some others call for its
implementation in its entirety. What is the Governmentís position?
A: The Government has already implemented some of the
recommendations of the LLRC report. For example, the release of
detainees. The Government has released over 10,000 hardcore LTTE cadres
after rehabilitation and integrated them into civil society. Nowhere in
the world such a thing has been done after a three decades of terrorism
within a space of few years.
Hence the Government has done its best in the area of rehabilitation.
The 290,000 civilians taken hostage by the LTTE were liberated from
their clutches and only 5,000 - 6,000 are in camps. All others have been
resettled in their own villages.
The remaining numbers could also be resettled. But the obstacle, is
the landmine issue. In terms of the international humanitarian law, we
are not permitted to resettle the displaced people till the landmines
are cleared. We are in the process of clearing the landmines.
When it is over, they will be resettled. In countries where conflicts
and disasters had occurred, it had taken so many years to resettle the
displaced people. Sri Lanka could be proud that we had resettled them
within a very short period of time.
In fact the Indian Parliamentary delegation which met me in
Parliament on Tuesday praised the rehabilitation and resettlement
process carried out by the Government. They also endorsed the economic
empowerment and development drive in the North and the East.
They said they are fully satisfied with this process initiated by the
Government. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa also briefed
them on the rehabilitation and resettlement program launched by the
Government. The delegation toured the Northern area on Wednesday and
they had witnessed themselves the rapid development in the North. Those
in the detention camps and prisons are hardcore LTTErs pending
investigations and trial.
Moreover, the Government trilingual policy was inaugurated by Indian
President Abdul Kalam in concurrence with the Sri Lankan Government on
his visit to Sri lanka.
We are living in a civilised society. In a civil society, we have our
own penal code and legal systems. As in a barbarian society, we canít
arrest people and hang them or burnt them. We have to ensure that
charges are framed evidence produced and trial fixed. The accused should
be given an opportunity to defend themselves. So the process is long and
one canít act in haste.
Therefore, I should say that the Government has embarked upon the
implementation of the LLRC report. It has to be phased out since there
are practical problems in gathering evidence. I mean nowhere in the
world that the recommendations of a report have been fully implemented.
We are making every endeavour to ensure that these recommendations are
Q: The UNHRC Universal Periodic Review is in the offing and
our HR record will be reviewed at its sessions. What is the government
plan to brief the international community on our HR commitments?
A: Throughout history, Sri Lanka briefed the UNHRC on human
rights. We had no problem of going before the UNHRC and placing our case
before it. There had been an attempt earlier also to discredit Sri
Lanka. Sri Lanka has represented matters very well. I remember Minister
Mahinda Samarasinghe placing the Cabinet approved Human Rights Action
Plan before the UNHRC. The Human Rights Action Plan has been prepared at
policy and implementation level and we are in the process of
At the same time, we have to be conscious about the upcoming UNHRC
Universal Periodic Review to be held in October. We are fully ready for
it. Sri Lanka will certainly present to the Human Rights Council what it
has done to ensure human rights. Our Constitution itself safeguards
human rights. How many fundamental rights applications are being argued
before the Supreme Court every month? The Human Rights Commission is the
forum for human rights compared to other countiries where indiscriminate
killings and other crimes committed. I think Sri Lanka can be very proud
of its human rights record.
The pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora, various other organisations and INGOs in
US and other countries exaggerate things not based on evidence to
tarnish the image of Sri Lanka. We are quite confident that our human
rights record could be defended at the next UNHRC sessions.
Q: Several politicians and civil society figures have made
anti-US and anti-West statements following the UNHRC resolution on Sri
Lanka. Will there be any change in our relationship with, and policies
towards, these nations that voted against us? And are there any plans or
actions to win over these countries and convince them of our commitment
to human rights ?
A: Sri Lanka is a free democratic country. Every citizen has a
right to express what he feels about a situation on any a problem
whether it is against the US or any other country. We canít stop that.
This is the freedom which the people enjoy themselves. The West also
says that you must permit the people to express their views.
The people are exercising that right and this proves that there is
media freedom and also the freedom of expression in our country. As far
as our relations with the West, India, China and other countries are
concerned, we have a very coherent foreign policy.
Though India voted against us at the UNHRC session in Geneva, we have
not abandoned India. Our relations with India are strong. We have to
make it stronger. We have to adopt the same attitude towards the West as
well, since we canít live in isolation. So we can debate, argue, agree
or disagree which means that we are not enemies. We canít have enemies
round the world.
We may not however agree with certain policies and actions on the
part of US, UK or France. There are double standards practised by the
Western countries. Our relations with those countries are strong.
We condone the mistakes and the crimes they commit. We could
criticise them and say that we donít agree with them. We will maintain
cordial relations with those countries.
Q: India too voted against us due to various reasons including
domestic compulsions. Will there be any effect on our long-standing
relationship with India?
A: I say it should not have any impact on our long-term
relations. Of course, we donít agree with the Indian action. Sri Lanka
does not believe what India did was correct. That is a separate issue
which does not mean it hampers the good relations with India. India is
our closet neighbour. It has immensely helped us during the time of war
to eradicate terrorism. India has also helped us a lot in the areas of
development and rehabilitation.
We should not forget that. Since India voted for the US-sponsored
resolution, we should not distance ourselves from India. But we donít
approve Indiaís voting for the resolution.
Q: Is there a rationale behind the decision to open more
embassies and consulates in Africa and Latin America?
A: Certainly. Africa is an emerging market and an industrial
zone. Lots of natural resources are found in Africa. So the purchasing
power of the African people will be enhanced in time to come.
For example we are looking at Europe and US for our garments. In
another ten years, we have to look at Africa for the number of gold and
diamond mines and other natural resources are being exploited. I visited
Uganda recently where I witnessed development taking place at a rapid
pace. It was not only for political reasons, but also for trade.
The Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) which is under my
Ministry is conducting a consultancy service in Uganda for power
projects extended to some other countries in the African continent.
Likewise there are lots of Indian professionals working in Africa.
We can send trained professionals to Africa rather than housemaids,
masons and workers. I think African countries will welcome them most.
That should be the nature of business and economic connections we
have to establishing in Africa. Consequently we need to have more
embassies in Africa which is a very large continent.
At the same time, we have to further strengthen our relations with
Latin American countries as well. Brazil is becoming an economic giant
in Latin America. Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to have become very
Africa and Latin America are also emerging as new economic giants
like Asia overtaking the West and the US. So we cannot forget Latin
America or Africa. We should have closer relations with that part of the
globe as well.
Q: What actions could be taken to ward off any external threat
to our sovereignty and reconciliation process?
A: We believe the sovereignty and reconciliation process is a
domestic issue. Nobody can dictate to us how we should reconcile and how
our process should take place. Because we believe in a homegrown
solution. Therefore we can sort out these issues.
If outsiders try to point fingers and meddle, these issues would get
more complicated. This is an internal issue. Even under international
law as well as good governance norms in democracy and international
relationship, an internal problem of a country should be settled
internally through a domestic mechanism, not by external forces, because
external forces will not realise the ground realities and it will
complicate the issue. We believe that it must be left for Sri Lankans to
sort out this issue.
Q: There is a perception in some quarters that if we had
ensured good governance, rule of law and demilitarisation following the
end of terrorism in May 2009, other countries would not have had means
to make inroads to our country. What is your comment?
A: What do you mean by militarisation? It has been reduced
now. But we canít reduce it to zero. The presence of the military is not
only there in the North and the East, there are several military
contingents in my district Badulla as well. Whenever there is a
disaster, the military takes care.
I must thank the Security Forces for their assistance during the
floods. When some of the tanks were damaged, it was the Security Forces
who repaired the tanks with the help of villagers.
The military has an important role to play in development and
rehabilitation. We are trying to recruit more Tamil speaking Policemen.
More people should come from Tamil speaking areas and join the police,
it cannot be done overnight.
Q: The Government rightly opposes any international mechanism
to probe any wartime abuses. But is it open to an internal independent
A: As I said earlier, Sri Lanka believes in a domestic
process. With regard to accountability, anybody can complain about
alleged war crimes. When the LLRC was sitting, Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International were invited by the LLRC to come and place before
the LLRC any evidence of abuse of human rights and war crimes, but they
did not come.
Even British Channel-4 was invited to come and place their original
video clip before the LLRC. They too did not come. Without taking part
in the process, they try to strangle decisions, this is not fair. We
canít allow that. We will not be subject to such external tactics.
Q: What was your mission to Uganda, which supported us at the
recent UNHRC sessions? Is there any possibility of venturing into the
Ugandan market to support our products?
A: Uganda is a country with 35 million people. They are in a
process of democratisation.
They have an agricultural economy, industries and area of hydro
power. There is development even in tourism. Despite various pressures,
Uganda supported us at the UNHRC resolution. So we have to be grateful
to them. I had the opportunity to meet the Ugandan President and the
Foreign Minister and thank them on behalf of President Mahinda Rajapaksa
and the people of Sri Lanka.
An invitation was extended to the President of Uganda to come to Sri
Lanka to strengthen bilateral relations.
I am sure even in trade, tourism and investment, we would have a good
opportunity. It would be a two-way traffic to help Ugandans as well as
Q: Considering Sri Lankaís bitter experience will not Police
and land powers to the North and the East be a catalyst for future
A: The issue of whether we are devolving police and land
powers is a matter that has to be decided through consensus. That is why
we have invited everybody to come before the Parliamentary Select
Committee (PSC). Then some may say devolving police and land powers will
be a catalyst for separation. Some may argue otherwise.
Let us see what the consensus at the PSC is and we have also to find
out the consensus among the people. This is an issue for all political
parties to get together and resolve. That is why we are asking political
parties to come to the PSC debate and analyse and reach a consensus.
Q: There are press reports that the Indian all-party
delegation has insisted on the full implementation of the 13th
Amendment. Why canít we have our own solution without outside
interference in our internal affairs?
A: There is no such pressure. We exchanged views when we met
the Indian delegation. I mean some other country canít say tell us what
to do. We interacted and explained certain issues and they also
explained some of their concerns. That is all and it was only a
discussion. There is no compulsion. It is up to Sri Lanka to decide what
has to be done.
Q: the Kumar Gunarathnam, Dimuthu Attygala, Lalith and Kugan
alleged abductions made headlines recently. The Opposition and Frontline
Socialist Party (FSP) are pointing fingers at the Government. What have
you got to say about this and the alleged disappearances?
A: I am not an investigator into disappearances. We see all
these things from police reports. It is up to the Police and the law
enforcement authorities to go into these disappearances and find out
whether allegations levelled against the Government are true or not. But
now this has become a common phenomenon.
Whenever there is an abduction, they put it onto the Governmentís
account. There is no evidence whatsoever to show that the Government had
a hand in any of these abductions.
The people can just say and the newspapers can print headlines, and
people can give comments to various channels. But where is the evidence?
There must be evidence. What about over 60,000 people who disappeared
and were murdered during the period 1988-1989 UNP regime.
The people have to be conscious when they level these allegations.
This Government will not condone abduction or indiscriminate killing.
But in every country various abductions and indiscriminate killings
happen from time to time because of underworld elements.
How many people and children are being abducted? Can we hold the
Government responsible? This is only an innuendo that they are playing.
They say the Government did this and nobody else can do it. But they
must have reasons to prove such incidents. Because some can make
allegations, but as I said it has to be proved.
That does not mean the Government is approving abductions. The
Government wants to find the truth. Some day the truth will be revealed.
Then they will say that this is false propaganda.