Sri Lanka’s new government announced Monday that it would take two measures to resolve the differences and “grievances of the Tamil people” left by its ethnic conflict. Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, unveiled the measures in a speech to the the 30th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
According to Mr. Samaraweera, one plan is to set up the reconciliation commission with advice from authorities in South Africa and other countries that have set up their own truth commissions on how to use such a commission to provide remedy to victims and to track down missing people. Part of the plan is the creation of an “independent and credible” Office of Missing Persons to identify the fate of people who disappeared during the civil war, and an Office of Reparations to address remedy, Samaraweera said. The former organisation would take expertise from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The latter would implement the recommendations made by the proposed Truth Commission and other entities. But concerning the demand of Tamil minority representatives to include independent international judges, Mr. Samaraweera spoke only of accepting financial, material and technical support from international partners.
In order to avoid a recurrence of ethnic conflict in the future, Mr. Samaraweera said, the government also plans to adopt a new constitution by creating a “constituent assembly of Parliament” to prepare it.
His address came three days before Wednesday’s release of a United Nations report on the killing of an estimated 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in 2009 during the final stages of the Eelam War, allegedly committed by armed forces under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein already said, the findings of a UN report into abuses in Sri Lanka's civil war were of "the most serious nature", but he welcomed “the vision shown by President Sirisena since his election in January 2015, and the commitments made by the new Government under his leadership.” A copy of the report has already been delivered to Sri Lanka. The report was supposed to have been presented to the council in March but was delayed to give President Maithripala Sirisena, who had defeated Mr. Rajapaksa in an election two months earlier, time to come up with plans for achieving reconciliation and accountability and for cooperating with international investigators.
Adressing the UN Human Rights Council, the foreign minister pledged the government would tighten the disengagement of the military from commercial activities. Concerning the conduct of the military he did not propose other specifics than issuing instructions to the security services that torture, rape, sexual violence and other abuses were prohibited and those responsible would be punished.
Other measures would include the strengthening the National Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles and signing and ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
The moratorium on death penalty would be maintained with a view to abolishing it ultimately.
Sri Lanka’s new foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera, had once been the campaign manager of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005. After Rajapaksa had won the presidency, Samaraweera was appointed Foreign Minister, though many expected him to become the Prime Minister. In January 2007, Samaraweera was replaced as Foreign Minister. After being sacked from the cabinet, Samaweera creates a new political party, the SLFP (Mahajana) wing, separating from Rajapakse’s SLFP and joining the UNP opposition. On 12 January 2015 Samaraweera was again appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs under the newly elected President Sirisena.
The full text of the Minister Samaraweera’s speech addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council is reproduced here...
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