Last chance to use Naseby’s revelations squandered Sri Lanka co-sponsors UK-led accountability resolution
Posted on March 6th, 2019

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces yesterday (March 06) said that he was trying to settle issues arising out of Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka in Oct 2015 through dialogue and consensus.

President Sirisena warned that he would deal firmly with those pursuing strategies contrary to his policy. Asserting that it was an internal issue of the government, he emphasized the foreign policy was the prerogative of the President.

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Sirisena faulted those who he described as having acted secretly in respect of the Geneva issue.

President Sirisena said so when The Island sought an explanation from him at his regular meeting with editors of both the print and electronic media and media proprietors at the President’s House as to why a three-member delegation was to be sent to the ongoing 40th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at taxpayers’ expense against the backdrop of the government having already co-sponsored the latest Resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva top career diplomat Ambassador A.L.A. Azeez endorsed the latest resolution following instructions from Colombo even before the informal discussion on the draft, The Island learns. Azeez succeeded Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha in April last year.

A section of the media last week quoted President Sirisena as having said that the government was considering withdrawing from co-sponsoring the resolution.

Referring to explosive disclosure made by Lord Naseby in the House of Commons in Oct 2017 on the basis of once classified wartime British High Commission dispatches from Colombo (January-May 2009) to clear Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations the basis for Oct 2016 Geneva Resolution, The Island also asked President Sirisena why the relevant evidence weren’t so far presented in Geneva. The Island pointed out that the ongoing constitution making process was based on the Sri Lankan government’s understanding with the Geneva body.

The President defended the decision to send a special delegation to Geneva.

Lord Naseby told The Island sometime ago that the relevant documents were made available to both the government and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s group for further action. The documents secured with the intervention of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) turned down Lord Naseby’s Nov 06, 2014 request placed the number of dead at 7,000 to 8,000 not 40,000 as alleged. Of the 7,000 to 8,000 killed one fourth was categorized as LTTE combatants. The British reports also asserted that Sri Lanka never deliberately targeted civilians.

Before the question and answer session, President Sirisena said that he would be sending a three-man delegation comprising Ministers, Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Samarasinghe and Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan. Dr. Raghavan, who succeeded Reginald Cooray in January this year sat next to the President.

President Sirisena said that he was exploring ways and means of resolving what he called a knotty problem. Sirisena said that the continuing international pressure was inimical to the country. The President also said that he expected a favourable response from Geneva to his call to leave the past aside and move forward.

The President said that the war was brought to a successful conclusion nearly a decade ago.

He vowed to reveal those working secretly contrary to his efforts to clear the military of war crimes accusations propagated by the likes of South African Yasmin Sooka.

The UNSG’s panel which accused Sri Lankan Army of massacring 40,000 civilians comprised Sooka, Steven Ratner and Marzuki Darusman (Chairman).

The UK has led the operation against Sri Lanka in the absence of the US responsible for the Oct 2015 Resolution and sponsored the latest. The US quit the Geneva body last year calling it a cesspool of political bias.

The Resolution essentially endorsed the full implementation of the Oct 2015 Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

Many an eyebrows has been raised over the reference to Oct 2018 constitutional coup that arose in Sri Lanka from Oct to Dec 2018 in the latest Resolution.

Authoritative sources told The Island that Sri Lanka had deliberately squandered the last chance to use Lord Naseby’s disclosure based on British wartime dispatches from Colombo, to clear its name of any willful wrongdoing.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

Since the change of government, foreign affairs portfolio was held by Mangala Samaraweera (January 2015 to May 2017), Ravi Karunanayake (May 2017 to Aug 2017) and Tilak Marapana (Aug 2017 to Oct 2018), Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Oct 2018 to Dec 2018) and Marapana returned to the Foreign Ministry last Dec.

Minister Marapana in late Nov 2018 assured parliament during an adjournment debate on the Geneva situation that Lord Naseby’s disclosure would be used at an appropriate time and venue.

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