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    Trust us and join us to work together - Minister of Foreign Affairs Featured

    September 15, 2015

    On Wednesday I will release the report of the comprehensive investigation that OHCHR was mandated to conduct in March 2014, including my recommendations. Said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the opening of the thirtieth session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, 14 September 2015

    Speaking on its findings he said that, I welcome the vision shown by President Sirisena since his election in January 2015, and the commitments made by the new Government under his leadership.

     

    Accordingly, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sri Lanka) Hon. Mangala Samaraweera made following observations at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday (14th Sep).

     

    He informed that, "trust us and join us to work together and create the momentum required to move forward and take progressive, meaningful and transformative steps to create a new Sri Lanka", while elaborating below mentioned facts.

     

    Minister went onto say that, the appointments of the Tamil National Alliance leader as Leader of the Opposition, as well as the appointment of the 44th Chief Justice of Sri Lanka in January were clear messages that in the new Sri Lanka, extraneous considerations such as ethnicity, religion, class or gender would not be used to deny anyone their rightful place. From May 2009 post-conflict reconciliation eluded us as a result of the short-sighted policies and the triumphalist approach that was adopted immediately following the end of the conflict. The National Unity Government is now approaching reconciliation afresh as a matter of urgent priority, he added.

     

    He also reiterated that, Government of Sri Lanka recognises fully that the process of reconciliation involves addressing the broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence and for non-recurrence to become truly meaningful, the necessity of reaching a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people.

     

    Speaking on accountability and image of the security forces he said that, to all those who have doubts about a process of accountability, I would like to say, please don't fear. Maintain your confidence that a process of this nature would impartially observe due process and, in fact, help restore the good name of the armed forces.

     

    Further the Minister pointed out that, ideas that the Government has evolved for setting up independent, credible and empowered mechanisms for truth seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence within the framework of the Constitution include the following:


    - For truth seeking, the establishment by statute, of two mechanisms:

     

    (i) A Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence to be evolved in consultation with the relevant authorities of South Africa. This mechanism is envisaged as having a dual structure: a 'Compassionate Council' composed of religious dignitaries from all major religions in the country and a structure composed of Commissioners. For many victims of human rights abuses, from whichever community, where the perpetrators are unclear for a judicial mechanism to handle, or where the practices of the state and society have resulted in discrimination, this Commission will allow them to discover the truth, understand what happened and help remedy any sense of injustice.


    (ii) An Office on Missing Persons based on the principle of the families' right to know, to be set up by Statute with expertise from the ICRC, and in line with internationally accepted standards.


    -On the Right to Justice, what is being proposed is for a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to be set up by Statute. This takes into account the right of victims to a fair remedy and aims to address the problem of impunity for human rights violations suffered by all communities. There have been previous instances as well in Sri Lanka when criminal justice mechanisms of different kinds have been set up. This, therefore, is not at all an alien concept. Neither is it aimed at a particularly group of persons, but something that is essential in terms of upholding the rule of law, and creating a society that respects the rule of law.


    -On the Right to Reparations, an Office for Reparations to be set up by Statute to facilitate the implementation of recommendations relating to reparations made by the proposed Commission on Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, the Office of the Missing Persons, the LLRC and any other entity;


    In order to guarantee non-recurrence, it is proposed that a series of measures would be undertaken including administrative and judicial reform, and the adoption of a new Constitution. A series of measures including amending the penal code to criminalise hate speech and enforced disappearances are also in process. The best guarantee for non-recurrence is of course a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people. We hope that we can achieve this through the adoption of a new Constitution. A Constituent Assembly of Parliament will be set up for this purpose shortly.

     

    Minister emphasized that, this journey may not be as fast as some may want it to be. And for some, we may have already gone too far. But the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has the political will and the courage of their convictions to ensure that we take the country forward, breaking the barriers of ignorance, fear, prejudice and hate.

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