Reconciliation on track, resolutions unwarranted – Minister Mahinda
Following is an online interview Sunday Observer had with Minister
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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