Extremist forces delaying reconciliation: Sri Lanka

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was speaking at a session of the UNHRC in Geneva.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was speaking at a session of the UNHRC in Geneva.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Tuesday attributed the perceived delay on the part of the Sri Lankan government in moving ahead with reconciliatory efforts to “extremist forces”, who, he said, were creating road blocks for narrow political gains.

Speaking at the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Minister said: “While stubbornly refusing to acknowledge any of the far-reaching gains we have made in the last two years, they argue that we have either done too much or too little.”

Rights abuses

Sri Lanka made several commitments to the UN body in September 2015, when it co-sponsored a consensus resolution calling for a credible judicial process to probe alleged rights abuses. However, sections of Sri Lankan society, particularly those living in the north and east, have been dissatisfied with the pace of government initiatives.

Outlining the steps taken by the government on truth, reconciliation, accountability and non-recurrence — the “four-pillar approach” that Sri Lanka has committed to — Mr. Samaraweera told the Council that the draft legislation on the Truth-Seeking Commission would be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers within the next two months.

International standards

He noted that the government was progressing with the formulation of the legal framework of the proposed Counter Terrorism Act. Following criticism over the draft legislation, the government is said to be fine-tuning it to meet international standards.

Pointing to work done on drafting the new Constitution, the Foreign Minister said six sub-committees tasked with deliberating subjects such as fundamental rights, judiciary; law and order, public finance, public service, and centre-periphery relations had handed over their reports to the Constitutional Assembly.

Tripartite talks

Despite that, the reports are yet to be taken up for parliamentary debate, prompting President Maithripala Sirisena to initiate tripartite talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan, to expedite the Constitution-making process.

Minister Samaraweera had earlier said the government would ask for more time to take its efforts forward. Sri Lanka is expected to push for a “technical rollover” of the 2015 resolution in order to buy more time to fulfil its promises to its people, seven years after the country’s bloody civil war ended.

The Foreign Minister’s remarks in Geneva come even as hundreds of people in the island’s north and east are protesting for their land to be released by the army, and for a convincing response from the government on thousands of disappeared persons.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 4:34:11 pm |