Sri Lanka avoided isolation, sanctions by treating own citizens better: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has avoided international isolation and economic sanctions by trimming the powers of an authoritative presidency, taking steps to make the judiciary and public service more independent, President Maithripala Sirisena said.

Sri Lanka’s ousted Rajapaksa administration had gone out of its way to anger the international community and the United Nations inviting sanctions and isolation with tragic consequences, he said after returning from addressing the general assembly of the United Nations in New York.

When he came power in the January 08 elections, Sri Lanka was facing a grave situation internationally facing an ‘international defeat’ which would have resulted in tragic consequences to the country, Sirisena said in an address to the media.

"I think we deliberately lost the international community," Sirisensa said. "The first steps to economic sanctions were taken by the European Union when they cancelled GSP+ trade concessions.

"Later our fish exports were stopped. These were precursors to economic sanctions."

He said charges and repeated proposals were levelled against Sri Lanka in international fora. Though the issue divided nations and divided members of the UN Human Rights Councils, resolution after resolution were still passed against the country, and it was cornered on human rights abuses.

"We were a defeated as a country and state," he said.

Sirisena said the ousted Rajapaksa administration had gone out of the way to upset foreign nations.

"I think we deliberately lost the international community," he said.

When the UN office in Colombo was blockaded by protestors, they were fed king coconut water, the President recalled.

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"They rubbed shoulders with (Libyan leader) Kadaffi. Some people followed that type of characters."

President Rajapaksa’s sons were also seen consorting with Kadafi’s sons in pictures that appeared later.

President Sirisena said he had reduced his powers by changing the constitution as much as allowed by the Supreme Court, which recommended a referendum for deeper changes.

The constitution was also changed to set up constitutional councils to make the public service independent. Some analysts however are warning that the constitutional councils may not serve the purpose intended after seeing the way as the country does not have permanent ministry secretaries.

Since the January 08 elections ministry secretaries have been changed twice. Sri Lanka’s independent public service and those of other less corrupt and just countries areas like the UK and Hong Kong came from the institution of permanent secretaries.

President Sirisena said a domestic mechanism under Sri Lanka’s constitution would be set up to examine alleged war crimes.

Several reports on human rights and the ethnic conflict including the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC), the Udalagama Committee, Desmond Silva report will be taken into account. (Colombo/Oct03/2015)

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