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We are passionate about implementing LLRC recommendations - Secretary to the President

The Army court submissions would come out soon on matters related to civilian casualties in the end stage of the war on terrorism said Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, who is heading the Task Force for implementing the National Action Plan on LLRC recommendations.

Speaking to media heads in Colombo on Thursday Weeratunga said the Attorney General's Department was going through the evidence, in cases involving violations of human rights during the time of hostilities.

With regard to the ACF killings in Muttur, the AGs Department has to prosecute according to the law. Child combatants have been released. Ex-combatants have all been released; more than 11,000 of them (11,872 to be precise) were released, but 171 remain in rehabilitation following legal proceedings, he said. They have to be brought back (to the process of criminal investigation) if an investigation is opened Mr. Weeratunga said, and do these foreign powers want that? he asked

"ICRCs numbers on civilian casualties are about the same as the Sri Lankan Government's estimations, and in fact the ICRC is more interested in helping the families than in the numbers game," he said.

Not knowing where Sri Lanka is on the map, they moot resolutions against this country', said the President's Secretary speaking on a US Congressman who was in the forefront in moving a US Senate resolution in Sri Lanka He said she did not know where exactly Sri Lanka was on the world map, when asked.

The Commission of Inquiry or an internal investigation is a matter to be taken up, and the first step is the Missing Persons' Commission. Once the figures are out on that, the next step could be considered, he added.

With regard to missing persons there were 13,000 applications received by the Commission. Roughly about 8,000 civilians have gone missing as per these applications.

In May 2012 the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was informed about the reconciliation process and at that time she was told that the bottom line is that reconciliation cannot be done in a matter of months. 'Please -- do not expect us to do magic', she was informed, Mr. Weeratunga said.

There were eighteen months of work already put into implementing the LLRC at that time. A tremendous amount was done upto then since the LLRC report was first released.Twenty thousand acres of land belonging to private owners has been returned since the end of the war on terrorism and 5,700 acres of state land have been returned.

"We are contemplating the appointment of a Land Commission: we have a State Land Ordinance dating from the 1800s," he said."We will consider appointing the 4th Land Commission very soon," he said..

The military strength now in the Northern Province is 80,000, he said, and so these soldiers that were moved have been brought to the South, and we cannot de commission them without finding alternative employment, he added.

Some 5,000 families of IDPs remain. There are others with relatives and friends. Out of 285 LLRC recommendations, 43 recommendations are those dealing with reconciliation, and the trilingual policy is important.

Hate speech legislation is being drawn up. As for criticism that the new Law and Order Ministry is under the President, but the Secretary there is an army man, Weeratunga said "we don't have people that fit the bill. They are not that easy to come by". "Once you leave the army you are a civilian," he said, and cited an example from Australia of an ex-soldier holding a top public post.

"The process of implementing LLRC recommendations is complex and difficult; it's not because there is lack of commitment but due to ground level reasons," he said. Outside the LLRC much has been done such as lowering the qualification bar for the SLAS admission (Sri Lanka Administrative Service).

"We are very passionate about implementing all 285 recommendations of the LLRC report," he said. "Already 144 LLRC recommendations have been implemented. We have taken on board all, and there are 23 ministries through which the work is being implemented," he added.

On Geneva and the US resolution I was able to talk to the officials in Geneva. I spoke to 40 Congressmen in the US, he said.

Why is the scrutiny only on the last two weeks of the conflict, he said he asked the Congressmen. As for what happened in those last two weeks (of the hostilities) we interpret it differently, he said.

He added that some of the Congressmen asked 'what right have we to advise you when we have taken over two hundred years to reconcile at the end of our strife.' Weeratunge said, his latest lobbying effort was not to stop the Geneva resolution but to inform the relevant people in the UN and in the US.

 

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