In an interview with the Indian network NDTV, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe said that the new governing coalition in principle has agreed to the implementation of the 13 amendment to the constitution. In addition he also said that the new government will deal with the United Nations differently and hoped to engage with the UNHRC in contrast with the previous Rajapaksa regime. PM Wickramasinghe however added that jurisdiction to punish those responsible for alleged war crimes will remain with Sri Lanka as the country is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The interview was broadcast as segments on an NDTV program on Sri Lanka post-election. Here we transcribe the full interview as appeared on the NDTV program:
NDTV: You say that it’s a transitional government, but many believe it’s a Wickramasinghe-government because all the cabinet ministers are from your party?
PM: Major party of course was the UNP, so the major number of ministers are from the UNP. But we set apart a number of ministries to be offered to the members who supported President Rajapaksa in SLFP.
NDTV: [Question about autonomy in the North]
PM : In principle all have agreed that the 13th amendment should be implemented. We are only having discussions about the police powers. That’s all.
NDTV : But that’s the key thing.
PM : Police powers is a provincial subject. But there are certain concerns, like when you bring the independent [police] commission in, how do we do that.
NDTV: [On new government’s India policy]
PM: As far as we are concerned, we are going to continue the traditional friendship with India, while we maintain our friendship with China, Japan and other countries.
NDTV : Do you believe that the tilt towards China has gone a little too far during the Rajapaksa time?
PM: I have always said that President Rajapaksa’s regime tried to play China against India, and India against China but it came a cropper.
NDTV: But what about the contracts, many of these that Rajapaksa has signed? Some of which with the Chinese?
PM : We are looking into all foreign contracts and local ones; and where there’s corruption we will certainly ensure we will take action against them whether they are Chinese or any other country. We are also looking into the Port City Project, because we haven’t yet seen the feasibility study and environmental impact assessment. When I was Opposition Leader, I asked the government to table it in parliament they didn’t do so. So therefore we will have to look into the environmental and feasibility aspects to it.
NDTV: What about the question of prosecution of war crimes?
PM: Our position has been that we are not a party to the statute of Rome, so whatever we have to do has to be within our domestic jurisdiction.
NDTV: So you are saying no international probe will be allowed?
PM: No what we are saying is that the jurisdiction to try any person who has committed a crime lies with Sri Lanka.
NDTV: So your stand is the same as the previous government. UN probe will not be welcome. You will do your own internal probe?
PM: The UN can give it’s report. We will engage the UN on these issues. That’s the difference. We are going to engage the UNHRC on these issues. All we are saying is any criminal jurisdiction must be exercised in Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile an NDTV tweet regarding the interview is kicking a fuss over Social Media. Earlier today NDTV tweeted this regarding the interview:
The tweet was widely shared by Rajapaksa-loyalists and others on Social Media as well as several websites including Former Minister Weerawansa’s Lanka C news, promoting the narrative that the new government will give into Tamil nationalist demands. A constant campaign theme.
No such references to grating full autonomy however were found on the segments of the video interview available online through NDTV channels. The closest statement we found was that the new government has agreed on principle to implement the 13th amendment, which is hardly the “full autonomy” that Tamil nationalists seek.