Ambassador-at-Large of the Office of Global Criminal Justice of the United States, Lawyer Stephen J. Rapp, appeared puzzled yesterday when he saw the website of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), and questioned what “Ongoing, Ongoing” as stated on the site, in the Action Plan of the LLRC, meant.
When Rapp had asked what the “level of ongoing” of the implementation of the LLRC recommendations was, none of the officials who had met him had been able to give a suitable answer. He said that implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and compensating the victims of war for losses of life and property, would be the best ways to bring about reconciliation between the two major communities. Ambassador Rapp who was the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, arrived in Sri Lanka on 6 January and is expected to stay till the 11th, during which period he would meet with a broad cross-section of people –government officials, political as well as civil society leaders, to discuss a range of issues focusing on Sri Lanka’s accountability and reconciliation processes.
He will be flying to Jaffna today to meet the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran, and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
While commending the resettlement programmes of the displaced persons in many parts of the country, especially in Mannar, he had also queried about the IDPs who had been resettled in the houses constructed by non-governmental organizations (NGO) and in houses that had been built with the support of the Indian Government.
The ambassador who is mostly concerned about violations of human rights, and believes in punishing the wrongdoers, had also met the Attorney General (AG) Palitha Fernando, yesterday. The meeting had lasted for one-and-a-half hours. He had made inquiries about the progress into the investigations of the murder of five students in Trincomalee, as well as the killing of 17 staff members of Action Against Hunger in Muttur, during his meeting with the AG.
Officials of the AG’s Department had explained the difficulties they had encountered in obtaining evidence on the Muttur incident, and had said it would be also difficult to prosecute anyone without concrete evidence, while assuring Rapp that they will continue with their investigations.
Ambassador Rapp had also inquired about the individuals arrested under the PTA Act and the progress of the trials in this regard. The AG’s Department had told him that a number of cases had been taken up; yet there are many suspects who have not been tried due to the complexity of the cases such as suspected links with outside terrorist organizations. He was told ‘it is not easy to prosecute them as the cases are full of complexities’ and the ambassador had ‘accepted’ those facts.
Rapp also paid a visit to the Boossa Camp in Galle, yesterday.
Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians, Mavai S. Senathiraja and M.A. Sumanthiran, who had met Ambassador Rapp over dinner on Monday, had brought to the notice of the visiting ambassador, the issue of the mass graves found in Mannar.
According to Sumanthiran, the meeting had given the TNA MPs ample opportunity to brief Rapp on the unresolved humanitarian problems in the North and East.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan