President says troops did not commit war crimes; his proposal being studied by Foreign Ministry.
Sri Lanka is considering withdrawing its co-sponsorship of the United States backed resolution at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council which wants the government to address accountability issues, including alleged violations of human rights during the final phase of the military operations to defeat the LTTE.
The council wants Sri Lanka to set up a war crimes tribunal with international participation.
“I would wish we can withdraw from it. Discussions are now on over this matter,” President Maithripala Sirisena told the Sunday Times.
The move would be a dramatic shift in Sri Lanka’s official position since September 20, 2015. The pros and cons of the withdrawal, a Foreign Ministry source said, were now being studied in consultation with President Sirisena.
This is ahead of the UN body conducting its 40th annual sessions in Geneva from February 22 to March 25. “We are preparing for these sessions. We have shown some progress. Our armed forces have not committed war crimes. The worst crimes were committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” he said. President Sirisena said that this “position would be clearly explained at the Geneva sessions.”
It was then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who proposed Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the resolution at the UNHRC in September 2015. The US-backed resolution calls upon the government to deal with a number of accountability issues arising from the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas in May 2009. Such a co-sponsorship did lend credibility to then government’s bona fides. Its withdrawal, if President Sirisena finally approves it, no doubt, would raise new diplomatic issues and queries over whether Sri Lanka was now reneging on promises. More so, with President Sirisena’s position that the troops did not commit war crimes.
The news of the Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the co-sponsorship of the resolution at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, comes amidst another significant development. The Sri Lanka Navy’s former Commander, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, has been listed as a murder suspect in the alleged killing of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006. Earlier, nine suspects were arrested. He is accused of conspiracy to murder, an offence that carries a death sentence.
The Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake has impounded his passport. The Criminal Investigation Department has so far not been able to record a statement from Admiral Karannagoda, the Navy Commander, during the period the Tiger guerrillas were militarily defeated.