The Sri Lankan government on Monday said it had no objection to the U.N. Secretary-General's experts panel visiting the country to depose before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The panel, to advise the Secretary-General on accountability issues arising from the war against the LTTE, has been a bone of contention between the U.N. and Colombo for several months. When Ban Ki-moon appointed the panel, Colombo had voiced serious concerns on the ground that it impinged on the nation's sovereignty. The latest stance is a clear sign that U.N. has succeeded in persuading Colombo that the panel is not aimed at undermining the country's efforts in the post-conflict scenario.
Appointment of the panel by the U.N. Secretary-General followed vociferous demands from some quarters outside Sri Lanka for an independent investigation into war crimes, both by the security forces and by the Tigers, particularly towards the last phase of the war.
The government resisted the demands and has consistently maintained that the eight-member commission appointed by Mr. Rajapaksa in June this year will look into all aspects of the three-decade-long conflict. The Commission has been mandated to look into the incidents from the time of ceasefire between the Government and the LTTE in 2002 till the end of war in May 2009 and make recommendations for reconciliation.
The commission had, a few weeks ago, invited human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch to depose before it.
At a news conference, Mr. Ban made it known that Sri Lanka had agreed to the panel visiting the country and interact with the LLRC after long consultations between him and Mr. Rajapaksa.
“I am pleased that the Panel of Experts is now able to visit Sri Lanka and meet with the Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation, and I sincerely hope that the Panel of Experts will be able to have good cooperation, to have an accountability process and make progress as soon as possible. This is a result of long consultations, and I appreciate the flexibility of the Mr. Rajapaksa on this issue”, the Secretary-General noted.