( Killed in detention by Sri Lanka military: Naked standing man is Col. Vasanthan, A LTTE commander from Trincomalee who fought in the Vanni in 2009. Photo courtesy of British Tamil Forum)
by Shamindra Ferdinando/ The Island.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were of the opinion that the proposed judicial mechanism to inquire into alleged wartime atrocities would be handled by local judges, the media was told yesterday.
Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake emphasised that the government was addressing the issue in consultation with its international partners, a clear reference to those countries which relentlessly pursued an international probe during the previous administration.
Minister Dissanayake was responding to a query by The Island at a special media conference held at the Government Information Department to explain the circumstances leading to President Maithripala Sirisena’s participation at the recently concluded G7 summit in Japan. President Maithripala Sirisena’s delegation to G7 included Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Ravi Karunanayake, Malik Samarawickrama, Mahinda Amaraweera and Navin Dissanayake Minister Dissanayake was flanked by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema.
SLFP General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera left immediately after addressing the media, thereby preventing him being asked to clarify a statement in respect of war crimes allegation directed at Sri Lanka. Minister Amaraweera declared that the much talked about war crimes investigation was no longer an issue. The Hambantota District MP said that the Geneva probe no longer posed a threat to the previous political leadership.
When The Island pointed out that the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) would receive an oral report regarding progress made since the adoption of a Resolution on Sri Lanka on Oct 1, last year and a comprehensive report March next year, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake alleged that the country wouldn’t have been in a predicament if not for commitments made by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris to the international community.
Minister Karunanayake castigated the former President and External Affairs Minister for causing irreparable damage to Sri Lanka’s foreign policy.
Minister Samarawickrema explained measures taken by the UNP-SLFP coalition to address accountability issues. Minister Samarawickreme expressed the belief that the Geneva issue could be resolved.
Asked by The Island whether G7 could help Sri Lanka against the backdrop of six of its members (US, Canada, UK, Italy, France and Germany) strongly backing war crimes probe during the Rajapaksa administration, Ministers Karunanayake, Samarawickreme and Dissanayake explained Sri Lanka’s new relationship with Western powers. The ministers emphasized the pivotal importance of pursuing what Dissanayake called an all inclusive foreign policy.
Four of the G 7 grouping namely the UK, Germany, France and Italy are pushing for war crimes probe on behalf of the EU.
The Island also inquired about action taken by the government to disprove unsubstantiated accusations regarding the massacre of over 40,000 Tamil speaking people during the final phase of the offensive on the Vanni east front during January-May 2009.
Minister Dissanayake paid a glowing tribute to Japan for not voting against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC during the previous administration in spite of it being with the US led Western block. Referring to South Korea and India voting for US Resolution against Sri Lanka during the Rajapaksas administration, Minister Dissanayake described successive Geneva debacles as foreign policy failures.
Minister Dissanayake said the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration wouldn’t seek ties with any government at the expense of another. Cabinet colleague Samarawickrema twice visited Beijing to strengthen ties, he pointed out.
Minister Karunanayake explained that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s policy in respect of securing foreign loans vis a vis the Rajapaksa administration. Referring to recently obtained 38 bn Yen ODA loan from Japan as well as other Japanese assistance, Minister Karunanayake compared it with that of Chinese loans. The minister emphasized the importance of Sri Lanka being given a 40-year period to pay back the loan under conditions extremely favourable to Sri Lanka.