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Sri Lanka: Heading towards a ‘third warning’ from Geneva

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has officially rebuked the call made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament last week to participate at the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to deal with the Tamil question.

The President extended the invitation to participate at the PSC to the TNA’s two key figures, the leader of the Alliance, R. Sampanthan, and Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister, C.V. Wigneswaran.
 The President’s invitation to the TNA was taken up at a high profile meeting of the Alliance held in Vavuniya a few days ago, which was presided over by Sampanthan in the presence of NPC Chief Minister Wigneswaran, along with TNA Parliamentarians and the Provincial Councillors from the North and East.

The Vavuniya meeting was the first to be convened by the TNA since the Alliance registered a thumping victory at the NPC polls in September this year.
 The Vavuniya meeting of the TNA, apart from taking up the President’s call to attend the PSC, also took up the challenges faced by the NPC administration over the alleged involvement of Northern Governor, G.A. Chandrasiri, in the Council’s administration.

At the end of the meeting, the TNA decided unanimously to reject the call made by President Rajapaksa to attend the PSC, saying that the Committee was not credible enough to discuss the issues about a meaningful settlement to the Tamil question.
 Sampanthan went on to say that the TNA is for a negotiated settlement and prepared to talk to the government, but not amidst Parties with extremist views represented in the PSC.
Right from the beginning, the TNA expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the representations were made to the PSC and had even submitted its reasons for keeping away from the Committee.
 Negative response

The TNA also pointed out that in January 2012 three dates were fixed for talks with the government over the issues with regard to the PSC and on holding talks in a constructive manner.
According to Sampanthan, the government did not respond positively and it did not even come forward to attend the three meetings in January 2012, which were expected to sort out the differences between the two sides.
 Since the war came to an end in 2009, locally as well as internationally, the expectations were high over expediting the political process to address the humanitarian as well as the political issues in the island.

However, both issues still remain unresolved with local as well as international figures, including those who are part of the government firing ‘warning shots’ over the impending UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva in March 2014, where the Sri Lanka affair is one of the prime issues to be taken up.
 Senior Minister and Leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Prof. Tissa Vitarana, addressing his party’s 78th anniversary celebrations in Ruwanwella on Thursday (26) said that an economic embargo on the island by the international community is likely, if the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) are not implemented.
 Being an intellectual and the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which was formed in 2006 to work on a new Constitution, Prof. Vitarana had warned the government in the backdrop of the TNA rejecting the call by President Rajapaksa to attend the PSC.

A few months earlier, former Sri Lankan Ambassador to France, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, had even said that he could hear the sound of the ‘gallows’ being prepared for the Sri Lankan Government in Geneva in March 2014.
 Having visited the island in the middle part of this year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, who had also travelled extensively in the North and East during her stay in the island had even emphasized on the importance of implementing the LLRC recommendations and resolving the humanitarian issues.

 Repeated warnings

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was in the island to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) walked straight into the IDP camps in the North and warned the Rajapaksa Government to expedite the process of settling the human rights as well as the Tamil political issues in the island. The British Prime Minister also warned that his government would be in the forefront to look into the accusation of alleged war crimes against the Sri Lankan Government, if no proper action is taken to address the issue.
 As far as the TNA is concerned, while rejecting the call by President Rajapaksa to participate at the PSC, the Alliance also continue to agitate for the removal of the Northern Governor, who they claim, is interfering with the NPC administration.
 The Northern Province being a key region with enormous humanitarian issues with thousands of Internally Displaced Persons still living in pathetic conditions, the TNA has even pointed out that the President’s call to take part in the PSC came with vested interests to escape the backlash it is expected to receive at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva next year and it was not an invitation to look into the problems genuinely.
 Since two resolutions have already been brought against Sri Lanka in Geneva in 2012 and in 2013 urging the country to put its human rights record straight and emphasizing on the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, the 2014 March session is expected to be tougher on the island as some of the key international figures such as Navanethem Pillay and British Prime Minister David Cameron having already visited the island and witnessed to themselves the realities in the war-torn areas.
 Therefore, at the UNHRC sessions in March next year the Sri Lankan Government is expected to face simple questions such as what happened to the implementation of the LLRC recommendations? What is the state of the investigations into the alleged war crimes? Along with the question on the progress gained in resettling thousands of IDPs in the North.
 As the island nation has hardly made any move towards the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, investigating the alleged war crimes and dealing with the IDP issues, it is certain the country is heading towards a third warning from Geneva, with a likely economic embargo as Prof. Tissa Vitarana warned.



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