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Backtracking on the Geneva resolutions will lead to the resumption of resentment, frustration, and fear among the vulnerable in our country – Mangala Samaraweera

Former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that the decision to co-sponsor Geneva Resolution 30/1 was taken by the yahapalana government under the leadership of then President Maithripala Sirisena.

Samaraweera, in a statement issued on withdrawal from Resolution 30/1 and subsequent resolutions extending its mandate in the UN Human Rights Council, has said: “At a time when Sri Lanka was in dire straits, the government changed in January 2015, and the Government of the day, under the leadership of President Sirisena decided, based on the 100-Day Programme, to bring all these issues back home from the international arena, by taking local ownership and taking charge of all processes through Resolution 30/1. This was a reassertion of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and regaining Sri Lanka’s lost respect and dignity among the international community once again. It was also an opportunity for Sri Lanka to prove that Sri Lankan justice is fully capable of ensuring credible accountability. Resolution 30/1 gives Sri Lanka and NOT the international community or an international court that responsibility.

Sri Lanka co-sponsored the resolution on Oct -1, 2015.

Samaraweera has said: “The final text of the resolution was largely negotiated over the telephone, with the President and I at the same hotel in New York, and the Prime Minister in Colombo accompanied by the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time and the Ambassador of the US and High Commissioner of the UK. Once consensus was reached, the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time who was in Colombo had coordinated with Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and conveyed the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council.”

[title]Three main aims [/title]

“The consensus resolution was intended to achieve three main aims.

First and most importantly, it provided the means for Sri Lanka to take charge of its own reconciliation agenda and provided a broad-framework and vision for Sri Lanka to strengthen reconciliation, end impunity, fortify democracy and strengthen, uphold and entrench institutionally the human rights of all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, race, religion, faith or gender. The legislation to criminalize enforced disappearances, the work of the Office on Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations, releases of private land, and the strengthening of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka including the Commission regaining “A” grade status stand as testaments to the partial fulfillment of these aspirations.

“Second, the process undertaken allowed Sri Lanka the means to restore the dignity of the institutions of the army, air force, navy, and police, by investigating locally, through locally designed processes, all allegations of violations of the law including by the LTTE and any others.

“Third, it enabled Sri Lanka to regain its due place and dignity on the international stage, normalizing its relations with the international community to chart its path to economic progress and prosperity as a hub in the Indian Ocean. In addition to many other benefits, normalizing ties with the EU which is the largest market for Sri Lankan exports enabled the restoration of GSP+ which has helped create many jobs. The resumption of military-to-military ties and intelligence sharing arrangements with the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America enabled the establishment of the Sri Lankan Marine Corps and opened up opportunities for our security forces to participate in joint training and exercises including on humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Other than training and equipment transfers such as blue-water ships, the value of this partnership could not be clearer than in the days and weeks after the tragic Easter Bombings, when US experts played an immediate and critical role in helping to identify the remaining terrorist operatives in Sri Lanka.

[title]30/1 was tabled in Parliament[/title]

“Once the resolution was adopted by the Council, it was tabled in Parliament on 23 October 2015. There was broad consensus in the House. Members from the major political parties represented in Parliament – including the UNP, SLFP, TNA, and JHU – spoke in favor of the resolution. We all agreed that Sri Lanka had to come to terms with its past and reflect and introspect in order to move forward and achieve reconciliation, peace, stability, and prosperity that had eluded our nation since Independence.

“President Sirisena also convened two sessions of an All Party Conference at which the views of all political parties were consulted and sought for implementation of the provisions of the resolution, including the design of mechanisms. However, if I recall correctly, the parties representing what was then called the Joint Opposition in Parliament did not submit any views at the time.

“Backtracking on the resolution sends a very clear signal to the people of our country and our partners in the world. The message is that Sri Lanka cares not for reconciliation, accountability or even democracy. It heralds the dismantling of the institutions that form the bedrock of our nation’s progress, the reversal of trust among communities and countries that was earned through much toil, and the embrace of our basest instincts of hate, insecurity, fear, and envy. It is important to be mindful of the fact that although Sri Lanka withdraws from co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 and subsequent resolutions that extended 30/1 (i.e. 34/1 and 40/1), the mandate of the resolutions passed by the Human Rights Council does not go away. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will remain bound by the provisions of resolution 40/1 and will have to continue to report to the Council even though Sri Lanka may not cooperate, and just as the Council did in pre-2015, it can continue to act without Sri Lanka’s cooperation.

Having explained how the failure on the part of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to fulfill commitments made to the international community resulted in isolation of the country, lawmaker Samaraweera said: “No responsible country fights battles in the Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is not a battlefield and it is certainly not a court of law. But the then government spent enormous sums of money sending large delegations to Geneva to stage protests, sending special envoys to countries all over the world – all for local political purposes while knowingly dragging the country to an international investigation; when all that was required was to uphold the rule of law and the human rights of all our citizens, investigate into allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations in the country by all sides, and provide reparations to victims on all sides including families of missing police and security forces personnel.

[title]The country was slowly healing[/title]

“Over the last five years, the country was slowly healing. Relations between the communities were beginning to normalize. A Sri Lanka where everyone felt truly at home and at peace, as equal brothers and sisters, was beginning to emerge. Space had opened up to discuss and resolve problems without fear. We were beginning to work together to fulfill our dream of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka. Our relations with the world were restored. We maintained close ties and amity with all the major powers of the world – India, China, the US, and EU – while strengthening our ties with all states including the states in East Asia.

If the government backtracks on this resolution, it must be prepared to take responsibility for the resumption of resentment, frustration, and fear among the vulnerable in our country. From the many insurgencies we have experienced over the last few decades, we know where such feelings lead. It will have to take responsibility for the erosion of democracy. And, for our isolation in the world. We know the costs. Individual sanctions have already begun with a travel ban being placed by the USA on the Commander of the Army. It would be no surprise if such targeted sanctions increase and, in a few years, our economy would be in tatters once again. And most of all, we know that feeling of unease and anxiety, the feeling of simmering conflict and fear, rather than tranquility, amity, and progress. “

(The Island)


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