Foreign participation in ‘domestic mechanism’ confirmed Weliamuna reiterates Lanka lacks expertise to investigate ‘system crimes’
Posted on October 13th, 2015

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy Island

Attorney-at-law J.C. Weliamuna yesterday confirmed that there would be international participation in the proposed domestic court to inquire into accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the media at the Information Department, Weliamuna said that Parliament would have to make the required amendments to pave the way for international participation in the process. He said that a hybrid court would have been much better where the addressing of the issues was concerned, but the recently adopted Geneva resolution co-sponsored by the government of Sri Lanka had promised on less intrusive mechanism.

The Information Department organised the briefing in collaboration with the state-run Rupavahini.

Weliamuna was flanked by Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Harsha de Silva.

Weliamuna, a former head of the Transparency International, Sri Lanka insisted that Sri Lanka needed foreign expertise to meet the challenging task of inquiring into accountability issues. Post-war Sri Lanka required international expertise though some extremists sought to cause chaos. Quoting from the recently released UN report that dealt with Sri Lanka, Weliamuna said that the local judiciary lacked the capacity to investigate system crimes.

Weliamuna described a spate attacks on places of religious worship during the previous government as system crimes. The lawyer pointed out that the international community couldn’t be expected to have faith in Sri Lankan judiciary when Sri Lankans themselves lacked faith in it.

Weliamuna insisted that the country could have avoided international intervention had the army swiftly responded to allegations against it. The lawyer stressed that the army couldn’t ignore the need to address accountability issues on its own. Commenting on the role played by the Tamil Diaspora as regards the Geneva project, Weliamuna said that it wasn’t an exclusive Tamil Diaspora campaign. Many had contributed to the far reaching changes that had been brought in the wake of the January 8 revolution.

Referring to war crimes investigations undertaken in other countries, Weliamuna pointed out that instead of those who had fired weapons persons giving orders had been investigated. The attorney-at-law explained foreign expertise in investigating serious crimes with the help of latest technology.

Weliamuna said that the international community would have gone ahead with an international investigation if not for the change of government in January. According to him, international action wouldn’t have been deterred by protests here.

Weliamuna also insisted that the domestic law was superseded by international laws. The domestic law, he explained was a part of the international law and therefore there couldn’t be any justifiable reason to resist an international role in the proposed investigation.

The lawyer said that terrorism and the issue of human rights weren’t domestic issues. Weliamuna pointed out that Sri Lanka had been ready to secure international support to eradicate LTTE terrorism but when it came to human rights successive governments had taken an entirely different stand. The Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had acted decisively to change that situation, Weliamuna said.

Weliamuna dismissed the previous government’s claim that China and Russia could always use their veto power to protect Sri Lanka. That was nothing but a myth, Weliamuna said.

Weliamuna cited the then United Nations Human Rights Commission initiating an investigation into South Africa’s apartheid regime as an example of UN intervention. The UN intervened in South Africa and set up an investigation outside that country in spite of strong objections from the US and the UK. But, the UNHRC move received the backing of China, Russia, Germany, France and several other countries.

Weliamuna stressed that there was absolutely no dispute over the need to eradicate the LTTE. “Sri Lanka paid a huge price in its war against the LTTE. But that shouldn’t be reason for justifying excesses.”

Weliamuna lambasted the previous government for not implementing the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). He alleged that not even 10 per cent of the recommendations had been properly implemented. The previous government also interfered with the Udalagama Commission and gone to the extent of using the then Attorney General to challenge the Commission. Weliamuna said that the Udalagama report too hadn’t been released so far and was gathering dust like other reports.

He said the previous government had even denied visas to foreign judges and acted contrary to international laws and obligations.

Weliamuna and Dr Harsha de Silva admitted that though they worked together they had differences. Weliamuna said that he felt the government should endorse the Rome Statute whereas the new government believed otherwise. The previous government and the new government both were reluctant to ratify the Rome Statute to pave the way for Sri Lanka accepting the International Criminal Court.

The UN has recommended that Sri Lanka sign the agreement without delay.

Weliamuna also called for the abolition of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

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