Sri Lanka President chides his own party over reconciliation

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena has sent a message of disapproval to members of his own party who have shown dissent over the government’s handling of the war crimes issue at the UN Human Rights Council.

Shortly after returning from New York where he addressed the UN general assembly, Sirisena in an address from the Presidential Palace in Colombo parised effiorts of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the government.

He singled out Wickremesinghe’s "untiring commitment" and thanked Foreign Minister mangala Samaraweera and his diplomats for saving Sri Lanka from economic sanctions that Western nations were about to slap on Sri Lanka.

While he was heaping praise on the UNP-led administration, Sri Lanka Freedom Party stalwarts who only a few hours earlier had claimed credit should go only Siripala, were forced to nod in agreement with the president.

The president made no new announcement at the Friday evening statement which was followed by a banquet, but the seating arrangements showed that the president was keen to show he had had roped in the dissidents.

Wickremesinghe was the only UNP member to be seated along with the President while apart from Arjuna Ranatunga and Ven. Athuraliya Ratana all the others — Susil Premajayantha, Nimal Siripala, Dilan Perera, John Seveniratne, Dumina Dissanayake, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Anura Priyadharshana yapa are all SLFP members.

Sirisena predictably did not take any questions.

Already there was intense criticism over his son accompanying him to the General Assembly of the UN following in the footsteps of his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse who had similarly used tax payers’ money for his son sojourn in New York.

The welcome for President Sirisena was also controversial. A president who spent less than 65,000 rupees for his simple swearing in ceremony at Independence Square in January had spent over LKR nine million for the welcome at the airport.

State television commentators were waxing eloquent on the  conquering hero returning to the motherland after defeating powerful world forces. Traditional drummers and the rush of sycophants would have made Rajapaksa proud.

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A senior minister in the government was ready to give Sirisena the benefit of the doubt.

"All these things have been arranged by local party organisers who are looking for brownie points," he told reporters at the president’s house on Friday night.

"There were two Muslim SLFP stalwarts who had a cutout war to demonstrate who could put up more eye sores in praise of Sirisena."

The UN Human Rights Council resolution does not have the words “hybrid courts” and was also not prescriptive, the president said claiming that it was a victory for Sri Lanka.

He said he will consult all political leaders as well as religious dignitaries on the proposed domestic mechanism to address accountability for alleged war crimes.

Sri Lanka has about 18 months to come up with an internationally acceptable inquiry that will also include independent foreign judges, prosecutors andtechnical experts.

Although Sri Lanka managed to secure a softening of the language of the resolution that was adopted unanimously, the subtext is clear that Colombo had undertaken to ensure some form of international involvement to underwrite the independence of any investigative mechanism.

Sirisena getting his senior SLFP stalwarts to the president’s house and putting them on television while he praised the resolution could give the impression that the SLFP is also on board although the Rajapaksa faction has made it clear that they will oppose any involvement of foreigners. (Colombo/Oct03/2015)

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