‘Reg. Requests for credit for accountability mechanisms used by previous administration‘
48th UNHRC meetings:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Lawyer Sudarshana Gunawardena has claimed that the government’s stance on accountability in the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva is at odds with its much-publicized opposition to Geneva Resolution 30/1, which was endorsed by the previous government.
Sri Lanka supported on October 1, 2015 on 30/1. Foreign minister at the time, Mangala Samaraweera, said on record that the UNP-led government had President Maithripala Sirisena’s approval to continue the co-sponsorship.
The media spokeswoman for the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gunawardena (17), pointed out yesterday (17) that the government was on the 48th
Civil society activist Gunawardena, who also served as Director General of the Information Department during the previous tenure, said Foreign Minister Prof. GL Peiris’s promise last Tuesday (14) against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s 01/30 withdrawal.
Prof. Peiris’s predecessor, Dinesh Gunawardena, announced Sri Lanka’s withdrawal at the February-March 2020 meetings.
The Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) owes a statement, Gunawardena stressed and called on the government to trust the public. “Stop playing politics at the expense of our international relations,” said Gunawardena, underscoring the need for what he called a national consensus on the post-war reconciliation process.
In response to another question, Gunawardena replied that in his speech to the Geneva sessions, Prof. Peiris had discussed progress in what he called the domestic process on accountability issues. Reference was made to the Office for Missing Persons (OMP), the Office for Reparation (OR) and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR). However, the FM conveniently failed to acknowledge that the OMP, OR and ONUR were established in line with the 2015 Geneva Resolution, which covered a broader understanding of transitional justice.
While the SLPP paid tribute to the ongoing process of transitional justice, it continued to publicly oppose 30/1, the basis of the solution, Gunawardena said. âIn other words, the actions of the SLPP are very different from what they promised to vote in advance of the 2019 and 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, respectively.
Referring to UNHRC’s Prof. Peiris’ assurances that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Council was performing its mandate, Gunawardena urged the government to prove its sincerity by investigating the raids by SLPP lawmaker Lohan Ratwatte in Welikada and Anuradhapura prisons on September 6th and 12th.
The announcement by the HRCSL regarding its decision to open its own investigation in the absence of a police investigation attracted public attention and recognition, Gunawardena said.
Commenting on the statement that Sri Lanka was involved in an integrated process to bring the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) into line with international standards and best practices, Attorney Gunawardena asked the government to continue the work of the previous government on this matter to study. Referring to statements by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gunawardena said that the then joint
The opposition maliciously rejected the move. “You should be ashamed of your behavior”, the responsible ministers and the attorney general could not overlook the agreement on a new anti-terror law.
Gunawardena said the SLPP administration should not hesitate to pay tribute to the previous administration’s accomplishments. âWe are very pleased that the mechanisms accepted by the previous government continue to work, even if progress seems slow. However, the SLPP cannot deprive the UNP-led administration of the credit it deserves, âsaid lawyer Gunawardena.
Gunawardena called on the government to examine the report of the committee appointed by then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe to develop what he called the political and legal framework of the proposed Sri Lankan anti-terrorism law. He said a politically motivated campaign had thwarted these efforts while the opposition spread the lie that the Yahapalana government intended to remove Sri Lanka’s anti-terror law.
In response to the revelation, asked by the SLPP government, which is holding talks with a group of civil society activists to explore ways and means to strengthen the reconciliation process, Gunawardena said that a 13-page note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated August 31, 2021 to Colombo- Headquartered diplomatic missions recognize the central role of civil society. After always accusing civil society of being part of a Western strategy, the same people exposed their duplicity by meeting a group of civil society activists.
Gunawardena was referring to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ministers Basil Rakapaksa, Prof. Peiris, Dinesh Gunawardena, Ali Sabry, PC, and Namal Rajapaksa who had separate meetings with the SLCC (Sri Lanka Collective for Consensus) ahead of the Geneva Conference. SLCC consists of 16 people.
Gunawardena also noted that Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet referred to President Rajapaksa’s meeting with the SLCC in her haunted September 13 statement on Sri Lanka.
Gunawardena said that in addition to the SLCC, another group, calling itself the Civil Society Platform (CSP) in a September 13 statement, was making clear its position on a range of accountability issues and increasing pressure on civil society. CSP consists of 30 organizations and 36 individuals.
In response to statements from FM Prof. Peiris and Secretary of State Admiral Jayanath Colombage that external investigations were unacceptable, attorney Gunawardena said that instead of rejecting the investigation, the government should divulge any information in their hands or access to the new investigative mechanism. The government could not ignore the fact that the UNHRC overwhelmingly approved the new investigative mechanism at its 46th session, with 22 countries voting for the resolution, 11 against and 14 missing the vote.
Gunawardena urged the government to take a realistic view, as Sri Lanka has neither time nor space for stupid maneuvers. The bottom line was that the March 2020 announcement that Sri Lanka was pulling back from 30/1 was nothing but a farce, Gunawardena said.