Minister of External Affairs Professor G. L. Peiris has expressed regret at the manner in which the processes of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) is being carried out, pointing out that such flaws are being exploited by parties with vested interests to deceive masses affected by the conflict.
During a meeting yesterday between Prof.Peiris and representatives of the OISL and Heads of Missions, he had spoken of the recent arrest of SinnathambyKrishnarasa who had possessed blank forms containing signatures of conflict affected persons who had been promised of monetary compensations by the UN in exchange for their signatures and copies of National Identity Cards and death certificates.
He had pointed out that investigations following his arrest have revealed that the information collected by deceiving conflict affected families was to be fabricated and submitted in reports to the OISL. The Minister had used the incident as a case in point to illuminate facts on how the suffering of conflict affected families is being manipulated in order to distort evidence that is submitted to the OISL.
Minister Peiris had also commented on his concerns regarding the OISL processes, which he had described as ‘questionable’ due to issues in its integrity and transparency.
He had pointed to the unofficial extension of the deadline given to make submissions to the OISL that was conveyed by the OHCHR Spokesman to a local newspaper, in which he had stated that late submissions would not necessarily be refused since some material would take time to arrive.
Prof.Peiris had stated that although it is not unusual to extend the deadline, the manner in which it has been done and the fact that it comes soon after Northern provincial council member AnanthiSaitharan requested for such an extension, has benefitted groups with vested interests.
The Minister had stated that such actions are unacceptable and had expressed his shock at the unprofessional conduct demonstrated through such developments.
He had also expressed regret at the nature in which the hearings of the OISL are to be carried out in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America where alleged victims residing out of Sri Lanka are due to be accessed. He had pointed out that the absence of the dates or venues of such hearings shows that the OISL arranges only to interact with persons of their choosing who would give them access to the type of information they wish to receive for a specific outcome.
He had furthermore stated that the processes of the OISL so far demonstrates a selected and biased approach and had stated that despite Sri Lanka rejecting the investigation it is only reasonable to expect that certain fundamental principles relating to the objectivity and fairness is followed.
MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
The Minister of External Affairs, Professor G. L. Peiris,on Tuesday, 4thNovember,met the Heads of Mission and Representatives ofthe main proponents of the Investigation on Sri Lanka by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the High Commissioner of Australia. The Deputy Country Director of the UNDP also participated representing the UN system.
Minister Peiris explained to these representatives, the details regarding the recent arrest of SinnathambyKrishnarasa, a non-rehabilitated LTTE cadre. This action led to the discovery in his possession of blank forms containing signatures of persons affected by the conflict. The Minister revealed how questioningKrishnarasa had led to the disclosure that he had been employed byAlva PulleVijendrakumar alias Sun Master, a close associate of the TNA, to obtain signatures of those affected by the conflict on blank forms on the assurance that this exercise was for obtaining monetary compensation from the UN. He had also received instructions from Sun Master to collect death certificates and National Identity Card details of persons who had lost their lives during the last phase of the conflict and personal data of war widows and photographs of disabled persons. Minister Peirisexplained that Krishnarasahad revealed that the forms with signatures were to be completed with fabricated “eye witness” reports to be submitted to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL). He observed that these revelations point to several others having been employed and tasked with the collection of similar information to be presented to the OISL, particularly as Krishnarasa was in possession of a diary containing details of 400 persons who were missing, had died or been injured.
The External Affairs Minister expressed concern that there is evidence which indicates association between prominent personalities of the Tamil National Alliance and Sun Master. Further, he said that there are moves by Sun Master to seek asylum abroad. Investigations in this connection are continuing. The Minister observed that although the TNA, in a statement, has denied that Vijendrakumar alias Sun Master is a TNA official, his prominent role in the activities of that political party is apparent from evidence including photographs taken at public functions and on other public occasions.
There is, moreover, clear evidence of a very large number of telephone communications between Krishnarasa and Sun Master during the last two months. These conversations have taken place on an almost daily basis; Sun Master telephoned Krishnarasaeven while the latter was being interrogated.
The discoveries that resulted from Krishnarasa’s arrest, the Minister emphasised, revealthe manner in which interested parties are manipulating the OHCHR Investigation to deceive those affected by the conflict through luring them with false promises of compensation, and by taking advantage of their suffering to present distorted evidence to the OISL.
Minister Peiriselaborated on a series of concerns pertaining to the questionable process of the OISL and matters relating to its integrity and transparency.He stated that on 1st August 2014, the OISL had made a formal public announcement,including on its website, that submissions by individuals, organisations and governments must be made by midnight Geneva time on 30thOctober 2014 and had given explicit reasons for the imposition of such a deadline. However, to his surprise, on 2nd November 2014, the OHCHR Spokesperson, in response to a question raised by a Sri Lankan newspaper, had stated that while officially, the deadline for submissions was 30thOctober, which will not be extended, since they are aware that some material may take time to arrive, late submissions would not necessarilybe refused. He commented that it is interesting to note that such a position was revealed unofficially soon after the request from AnanthiSasitharan, a member of the Northern Provincial Council, addressed to the three experts of the OISL,for an extension of the period for submissions. While stating that it is perfectly acceptable to extend a deadlineopenly, to do so in a clandestine manner, so as to benefit selectively a group of persons expressing a particular point of view, the Minister stressed, is unacceptable and expressed shock at the unprofessional conduct demonstrated by these developments.
Minister Peiris further explained that althoughthe Programme Budget Implications of the Resolution 25/1 make provision for staff of the OISL to travel to Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and North America to access allegedvictims and witnesses living outside the country, the OISL has not revealed details of dates and venues where such hearings are to take place. The Minister disclosed that the OHCHR has indicated that such information is confidential and regretted that this process is shrouded in impenetrable secrecy. The failure to share such information makes it evident that the investigation is not freely accessible to the public, he said. The Minister added that the impression created by such action is that the OISL will make arrangements to only interact with persons of their choosingwhich will provide them access to information of the nature that they wish to receive.
External Affairs Minister Peirisexpressed strong displeasure at the selective and biased approachfollowed where the investigation determines the nature of the information they wish to receive, for a specific outcome. Prof. Peiris stressed that this flawed procedure infringes on the basic norms of justice and fairplay. He said that though Sri Lanka has rejected the UNHRC Resolution establishing an international investigation, it was only reasonable for the international community to expect, as the minimum requirement,that the investigation would follow certain fundamental principles relating to objectivity and fairness.
Professor Peiris observed, in conclusion, that the Government of Sri Lanka will do everything in its power to protect the national interest in this situation.