Give us space to resolve our problems, Sirisena appeals to international community

The Sri Lankan President’s statement comes weeks after TNA leader Sumanthiran sought an international element in probing wartime excesses

September 26, 2018 08:58 pm | Updated 08:58 pm IST - COLOMBO:

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Sri Lanka does not want any foreign power exerting influence, President Maithripala Sirisena has said, while appealing to the international community for “room to resolve” the country’s problems.

Mr. Sirisena made the remarks while addressing the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York Wednesday morning (India time). “As an independent country we do not want any foreign power to exert influence on us,” he said, asking for the “right of the Sri Lankan people to find solutions” to be respected.

His statement comes weeks after the island’s main Tamil party accused him of interfering in the investigation of a top military officer's alleged link to a suspect involved in the case of 11 youth who were kidnapped and murdered in the final years of the civil war.

“We are very concerned at such political interference from the highest level,” Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran had said, after Mr. Sirisena held an "emergency cabinet meeting" to discuss the matter. The Tamil lawmaker also sought an international element in probing wartime excesses, citing his waning faith in domestic processes.

While Mr. Sirisena had earlier said that he would make a strong case at the UNGA, for members of Sri Lanka’s armed forces to be exonerated from war crime blame, on Wednesday he stopped with hailing the soldiers’ “immense contribution” to building “lasting peace” by defeating the LTTE.

Though Sri Lanka’s war came to an end in May 2009, disturbing questions on the several thousand civilian deaths – UN estimates say 40,000 people were killed – and disappearances remain unresolved.

In October 2015, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that Sri Lanka co-sponsored, for a credible judicial process to address them. Sri Lanka committed to a “four-pillar approach” for truth, reconciliation, accountability and non-recurrence. The government has taken some steps, including setting up of an office on missing persons, but critics say the efforts are rather slow-paced and inadequate.

Observing that his government had done well to address post-war concerns, Mr. Sirisena on Wednesday said: “I request the international community to look at Sri Lanka in a new perspective and with new ideas…. with respect, I my request here is to let us solve our problems.”

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