by Zacki Jabbar
Sri Lanka was under various international pressures because the Mahinda Rajapaksa government had failed to hold a proper inquiry into serious human rights violations against its citizens, Senior Vice President of the UNP Lakshman Kiriella MP, said yesterday.
He told The Island that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission did not have a mandate to inquire into human rights abuses.
The LLRC had been established to ascertain why the Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE had failed, but the reason was obvious to all. It had crumbled because the Chandrika Kumaratunga regime ably assisted by the JVP saw to its demise. There was no need for a Commission to ascertain that, he said.
“I am referring to human rights violations. War crimes is a different issue altogether.”
Kiriella said that the Udalagama Commission had been appointed in 2007 to inquire into serious human rights abuses including the killing of 17 French aid workers in Muttur, five youths in Trincomalee and the disappearance of Rev. Nihal Jim Brown of Philip Neri’s Church at Allaipidi, but its term had come to an abrupt end in June 2009, with hearings into only seven cases being concluded.
Even the killing of over 30 media personnel and Members of Parliament was yet to be investigated properly, he said.
Kiriella said that India’s former Chief Justice Baghwatti had been brought down to give credibility to the Udalagama Commission but he had left a few weeks later having realised that the whole exercise was meant to bluff the international community.
The United Nations, he said, did not want to interfere in other people’s headaches, but it was compelled to do because there was no law and order in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lankans are forced to complain to foreign embassies and the UN Human Rights Committee, because the Rajapaksa regime had violated its own peoples’ human rights”, he said. “President Mahinda Rajapaksa was accusing Opposition MPs of being traitors but has conveniently forgotten that it was he who showed us the way to the UN. As an Opposition SLFP MP, he petitioned the UN Human Rights Committee against the then Premadasa government.”
In the absence of a Witness Protection Act, the LLRC was a waste of time and public resources. The Witness Protection Bill had been presented to the last parliament but following one day’s debate it had been put off on the grounds that there were 30 odd amendments, Kiriella said.