Sri Lanka gets two more years to keep promises

The UN Human Rights Council has passed by consensus a resolution to grant Sri Lanka another two years to fulfill its promises made four years ago of post-war transitional justice and accountability.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Colombo and moved by the UK, Canada and Germany at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 40th session yesterday (Thursday).

The decision by the Council to reprieve Sri Lanka came despite criticism from various quarters inside and outside the country of the government’s dismal record of keeping promises it had made to the war-affected people in the country and the international community.

Sri Lanka’s record and promises came up for discussion on Wednesday when the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet presented a report on the progress the country had made in the past four years.

Bachelet was critical of the progress, proposing that her organisation open an office in Colombo to push for progress. Independent research foundation Verite noted that Sri Lanka has fulfilled only 6 of the 36 promises it made to the international committee four years ago.

Foreign Minister Tilak Marapone addressed the council after the debate and thanked the council for taking a consensus approach. His task had been made more difficult by open differences between President Maithripala Sirisena and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the approach the country should take at the crucial session.

Just weeks before the the sessions President Sirisena said that he favors efforts at the meetings to persuade the Council to hold back putting pressure on Sri Lanka to prosecute war crimes, offer reparations for war victims and the other post-war promises the country gave. He said he wants the UN to have a “hands off approach.”

He then announced he would be sending three people, former Ministers Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Samarasinghe and the newly appointed Governor of the Northern Province Suren Raghavan as his representatives to pursue these objectives.

However the government in a media statement, hit back saying it would stick with co-sponsoring the resolution that would “roll over” the earlier resolution and give Sri Lanka two more years to fulfill these promises.The government also indicated at the time that it would not be sending a delegation from Colombo but expected the embassy in Geneva to deal with the matter.

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The strongly worded statement had a thinly veiled attack against the nationalist stance and pro-military leanings of the President. Embarrassed Foreign Ministry officials told RepublicNext that “this is not our language.”

In the end the two sides compromised after discussions between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the President and the MFA announced on March 13 that a delegation that included two members of the team appointed by the president would represent the country.

The MFA statement said after consultations between the president and the MFA Amunugama and Raghavan who were nominated by Sirisena would join the delegation led by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana and comprising Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha and Deputy Solicitor General A. Nerin Pulle.

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