Sunday Observer Online   Ad Space Available Here  


Sunday, 10 March 2013





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Reconciliation on track, resolutions unwarranted – Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

Following is an online interview Sunday Observer had with Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

Q: On what basis is Sri Lanka rejecting the US sponsored resolution?

A: As at today (March 8) there is no resolution formally tabled by any country. There are two drafts that have been circulated but nothing has been officially submitted. We are in the process of studying the second draft. However, in general, our position is that country- specific resolutions are unnecessary and unwarranted except in exceptional circumstances that are identified in the founding documents of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

The situation in Sri Lanka does not justify such a measure; neither did it in March 2012. At present, Sri Lanka, nearly four years (3 years and 10 months) after the end of the armed conflict, is well into its reconciliation and peace-building phase and certainly does not warrant this kind of attention. It appears that we are subject to selective targeting for collateral purposes and, that, we strongly oppose.

The intrusiveness of the draft resolution is manifest in the language that refers to accepting High Commissioner Pillay’s recommendation on an international inquiry and it is indicative of a coordinated move against Sri Lanka. This is one reason why in my statement of 27 February I focused on the subjectivity of the approach of several forces working together to target our country. In a way, this strengthens our position as many countries would find it unacceptable as such action would set a bad precedent.

Our experience with international inquiries both in Sri Lanka and in other countries have been negative. Our position is that domestic issues should be handled through domestic

Q: How would you evaluate the support base for Sri Lanka at the UNHRC on this particular issue?

A: In November last year we made a comprehensive presentation to the Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). That process will be brought to a conclusion by 15 March when the UPR Working Group Report comes up for formal adoption by the HRC. I would measure our support by the number of countries that appreciated our progress. In my estimation 90% of the countries acknowledged the positive moves the Government has made since 2009. This is not to say that we received blanket approval – some countries pointed out the challenges we face. Those who made constructive recommendations, we accepted with appreciation for their interest.

Other recommendations we did not support. We have submitted an Addendum explaining our position very clearly as to those recommendations we did not support.

I feel Sri Lanka’s support base remains strong as long as the various delegations view our situation objectively and impartially. Unfortunately my impression of the Council through being associated with it since its inception is that many delegations are subjected to pressure tactics from bigger nations or are compelled to adopt subjective viewpoints due to domestic compulsions.

Q: You have said it was unfair to single out Sri Lanka and we have been treated subjectively by the office of the HC Navi Pillay. Don’t you think Sri Lanka too is to share the blame, lack of progress in certain areas, i.e. power sharing, reconciliation, has empowered anti-Sri Lanka elements?

A: As I said, we are just three years and 10 months into the post-armed conflict phase. There is a lot that has been achieved in terms of demining, reconstruction, restoration of infrastructure, resettlement, development of livelihoods, strengthening the civilian administration, rehabilitation of ex-combatants and so on. We have every right to be proud of these accomplishments. Of course there are other issues that we are still working on.

On power sharing for example, these are matters of constitutional importance and that is why Government has taken the position that a Parliamentary Select Committee must deliberate on these issues and forge a national consensus among all segments of the national polity.

We have been ready to initiate these processes for well over a year. The Opposition is still to nominate its representatives. By not nominating its representatives, the Opposition is making a self-fulfilling prophecy that there will be no progress. This only strengthens the hand of anti-Sri Lanka elements who want to criticize us. It is unfortunate that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been given to making sweeping statements and generalizations demonstrating a subjectivity of approach.

Q: Many foreign delegates visiting Sri Lanka leave the country satisfied of its post conflict progress, for example recent visits by foreign Ministers and their Deputies from Australia, UK, etc but when it comes to the HRC sessions we see a completely different story. Is it ‘only’ due to LTTE propaganda?

A: I would also include the delegation from India and Congressman Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa. It is indeed unfortunate that this group of defeated terrorists and their supporters, by attempting to pursue punitive action at the Human Rights Council through some of their host governments, should be resorting to undermining the genuine reconciliation process under way in Sri Lanka. They are actually compromising the future of those of their own community by taking these measures to put pressure on Sri Lanka.

Of course, they must deeply resent the destruction of their separatist dreams. We can also discern a coordinated program of destabilization against the Government and people of Sri Lanka. This also has to do with global strategic interests and also with regional concerns.

Indeed, that is why HC Pillay was invited to come to Sri Lanka and witness things for herself.

She will then be able to form an objective opinion; gain a first-hand perspective on the situation. As long as international institutions and foreign governments rely on third-hand reportage and unsubstantiated propaganda from dubious sources with their own agendas, they will never gain an accurate picture of the country and her people. Many high level visitors have seen and appreciated developments on the ground but when it comes to HRC Sessions, we see a different approach from some countries.

Q: The Human Rights High Commissioner has once again postponed her visit to Sri Lanka. The invitation was handed over to her two years ago. Are you satisfied with her reasons for postponing the trip?

A: We regret that the HC has postponed her visit for nearly two years. I made it clear in my statement to the Council on February 27. She is aware and has acknowledged our openness in granting unfettered access to her team which visited in 2012. We assumed in good faith that the team was here in advance of her impending visit.

It now appears that the team was only here to gather material for her report to the Council. She has laid down more conditions such as visits by special rapporteurs and the like. It is for this reason that we questioned the bona fides of the OHCHR.

Q: Why is it so important that she visits the country, she is being constantly updated by her officers who have been visiting the country from time to time?

A: The High Commissioner for Human Rights is a senior official in the UN System. Such an official generally has little time to focus on one country exclusively. This is why her attention on Sri Lanka is surprising. Most information is filtered and summarized by her office before it is put up for consideration.

We have seen from her various statements on Sri Lankan issues over the past three years, that they are based on unverified and unsubstantiated material. She often makes her comments based on second or third hand reportage on Sri Lanka. We think that an official Mission will help her focus on the reality in Sri Lanka. There is no substitute for first-hand experience. Having made a visit, if she then wishes to make statements based on her actual observations and is able to make them impartially and objectively, we would view that as constructive engagement.

Q: What can we expect in Geneva during the coming days? (The absence of Russia, China and Cuba in the Council – what impact will this have on our case?)

A: It is going to be a busy fortnight. We have the adoption of the UPR report on 15 March and the High Commissioner’s report pursuant to last year’s Resolution on 20 March, in the Council. If, indeed, a new Resolution is to be tabled that could also be taken up.

There are preliminary meetings associated with such a move. We will have to consider our next moves strategically, considering our challenges. We have had open engagement with all members of the Council and also other delegations in Geneva. As long as delegations are able to view our side of the story objectively and the 47 Members of the Council are receptive to our side of the narrative, we have no fear of any adverse consequences.

We must recognize that there is considerable pressure on these delegations from various quarters. All we can do is put our case forward and hope for an unbiased hearing.

Q: When will you be leaving for Geneva again and what will be your key responsibilities? How would you describe the support from the Sri Lanka mission in Geneva and the officials in your delegation?

A: When it comes to safeguarding Sri Lanka’s interests, we work as a team and pull in one direction. This is what I expect as the leader of the delegation.

Q: If someone says that Sri Lanka is being subject to a slow death by the international community in Geneva, how would you respond?

A: If so, that would be totally wrong. The HRC is bound by a number of principles which are: “universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectiveness, constructive dialogue and cooperation, predictability, flexibility, transparency, accountability, balance, inclusive/ comprehensive, gender perspective, implementation and follow-up of decisions”.

The HRC is bound to apply these principles to each country equitably. Our engagement over the years; openness and transparency since 2006 at the least, must win us some approbation.

The international community does not mean only the western group of countries but also includes many others. What we expect is that all will be bound by the governing principles.

I have always said that if Sri Lanka is judged objectively and impartially, I have no doubt that the international community as a whole would understand and appreciate that considerable progress has been made and that we have to be given time and space to move further forward.

After all, there is no ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka and we have not been stuck in one place. We have achieved progress and have shown that we are committed to move towards comprehensive reconciliation. My fear is that we are pushed against the wall unreasonably as some are trying to do in Geneva, it would negate the gains that we have made already and compromise further progress. What we should not forget is that many thousands sacrificed life and limb to end terrorism and unite the country.

After 30 long years we have restored political, economic and social stability that no amount of pressure based on political agendas will be able to destroy. This hard won stability will lead to gains in development and prosperity as a result of the end of terrorism. The Sri Lankan Government’s resolve to achieve reconciliation cannot be broken by anyone.


KAPRUKA - Valentine's Day Gift Delivery in Sri Lanka
Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2013 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor