On January 31, official government spokesperson Rambukwella made a formal announcement at the weekly news briefing that Sri Lanka’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council would be led by Minister MahindaSamarasinghe. The latter is the President’s Special Envoy on Human Rights and led the Sri Lanka team at last year’s sessions of the Council. After his announcement, a government official was to confirm to the Sunday Times that Samarasinghe was indeed the team leader as reported in these columns last week. That is not all.
Based on Rambukwella’s announcement, officials in the Attorney General’s Department telephoned Samarasinghe to ask how many of them from their outfit should accompany his delegation. A source at the department said they even spoke of conducting a conference later in the week to further discuss Sri Lanka’s strategy. It has now come to light that there was no move to either designate him team leader or to ask him to fly to Geneva. President Rajapaksa has given his concurrence for Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Ariyasinha to head the country’s delegation.
Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris will of course be present for a limited time. This is in marked contrast to millions of rupees being spent to send an “all and sundry delegation” last year, with some members not familiar with human rights issues. It even included a senior member of the Jamiathul Ulema now embroiled in a controversy with the BoduBalaSena over issuing “Halal” labels. Whether the new strategy in Geneva is after lessons learnt or conscious of an inevitable outcome is not clear.
That the official spokesperson of the government of Sri Lanka was ignorant of the factual situation then is one thing. During last Thursday’s media briefing, Rambukwella did an about turn. This time, he said, there was no decision still on Sri Lanka’s delegation to Geneva. He said the government would decide on its team only after “observing the developments.” If his assertion is correct, the government has two weeks to carry out its “observations.” The Human Rights Council sessions begin on February 25.
- From the political column of ST