President to head new ministry for ‘integration and reconciliation’.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal at a press conference as Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera looks on. AFP
The Sri Lankan government has presented the mechanism of the domestic inquiry into alleged war crimes during the final phase of war in Sri Lanka to visiting US Assistant State Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, highly placed diplomatic sources told the Daily News yesterday.
“Biswal was upbeat about the mechanism adopted by the Sri Lankan government,” a senior spokesman of the government who was privy to discussions between the two parties said.
“The mechanism,” the spokesman said “will be based on the idea of restorative justice; and it will also draw parallels with the model adopted by South Africa in the early and mid-90s.”
He said the senior US officials were satisfied with measures that have so far been adopted by the new government on the reconciliation and accountability fronts.
“They were of the view that the passage of 19th Amendment to the constitution was an important step in the direction of democratisation. In addition, handing over lands to civilians in the North and East, the Witness Protection Act and lifting travel bans on foreigners entering former war-affected areas were also considered as ‘progressive’ steps,” he explained.
Meanwhile, informed government sources told the Daily News that the government would set up a new ministry for ‘Integration and Reconciliation’ as a comprehensive measure to address concerns raised by the international community.
The ministry is likely to be held by President Maithripala Sirisena who will also serve in the capacity of the Defence Minister.
Apart from Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski is also present in the country.
Speaking to reporters in Trincomalee yesterday, Malinowski expressed confidence that the new government would work with the UN on a “real process” of accountability and reconciliation.
“The United States will sponsor another resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in September and we are not going to walk away from this process of encouraging reform and change after September. We very much hope that with the changes after January 8, the new government will work with us and work with the United Nations on a real process of accountability and reconciliation. The international community will remain involved in that process. It will continue to monitor that process. And as much as we are hopeful about the promises that the new government had made, we will judge it not by its promises but by its actions and achievements,” he said.
Commenting on the domestic inquiry mechanism, Malinowski said: “The important thing is that there be a judicial process that is credible to the people of Sri Lanka and to the international community. For that process to be credible, I don’t think it has to be a completely international process, but it does have to be independent of political leadership. It has to be led by people who are trusted by the minority communities and it should have some degree of international involvement, even if it is a domestic process organized under the laws of Sri Lanka.”
Biswal said yesterday that the US would sponsor a resolution at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council supporting a domestic inquiry mechanism.
by Rasika Jayakody.