Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, yesterday, hit back at former president Mahinda Rajapaksa over the statement issued by him with regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of October 2015, which was co-sponsored by the government.
Responding to the statement, Mr. Samaraweera said the decision to co-sponsor resolution 30/1 was not imposed on Sri Lanka, and an extension of the timeline of this resolution by two years would be co-sponsored during the present 34th session of the Human Rights Council.
“Why do we choose to do this? Because we believe in enhancing, not restricting, the fundamental rights of all our citizens. We believe that we will overcome a painful past by examining it, not by hiding it. We are convinced that we need to put a stop to the cycles of recurring violence that have hitherto hindered our progress as a proud, united country and a united people.
"We know that truth, reparation and justice are essential and further that international jurisdiction over serious crimes only applies when national jurisdiction fails. We are declaring our vision in a resolution before the world to demonstrate that, as an independent, sovereign, and responsible nation, we are fully able to pursue accountability, with our national capacities, and in cooperation with our friends and partners in the international community, thus restoring credibility to our judicial processes,” he said in a statement.
He said the transitional justice mechanisms to be implemented would not benefit one group or community above others and would certainly not single out and target the armed forces.
“The former president manipulates the respect that the Sri Lankan people have for the armed forces to hide his own responsibilities. This is opportunistic, and especially ironic, coming from the person who imprisoned the commander who led the armed forces to victory,” he said.
Mr. Samaraweera said it must be stressed that this first-ever National Unity Government in Sri Lankan history makes no apology for its noble attempts to take all possible action to bring Sri Lankans of all communities together.
“We make no apology for listening to all in our country, including our political opponents, and for engaging them in debate and discussion, rather than intimidating, isolating and persecuting them. We make no apology for restoring our country’s good name on the international stage to foster trade and prosperity for all in our country, rather than antagonizing our existing and potential partners.
"We make no apology for our policy of taking steps to combat corruption and root out the decay that has devoured precious state resources for far too long. We make no apology for considering a reform agenda to contribute to long-term peace and stability, because we know that Sri Lankans of all backgrounds desire reform, and yearn for durable peace, prosperity and stability,” he said.
He said former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, especially as a lawyer, was very well aware that the issue of foreign judges was mere exaggeration on his part, and he did this on purpose to mislead the public.
“Let us not forget that it was under his leadership that multiple transitional justice processes were initiated, and international prosecutors were engaged. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) established by him engaged foreigners invited by him, and also nominated by Australia, Canada, the European Commission, UK, Japan, the Netherlands, USA, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and a Cypriot nominated by the Government of Sri Lanka. International prosecutors were also engaged in connection with the Paranagama Commission,” he added in the statement.
He said the National Unity Government, under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was determined to recover the favourable trade status Sri Lanka enjoyed before the government led by President Rajapaksa squandered it.
Referring to the allegation on replacing the PTA with a new counterterrorism law, he said the PTA was an anachronistic piece of legislation from a conflict plagued past, which was misused by some to commit abuses for narrow political advantages.
“To suggest that replacing it with a modern law is unpatriotic is baseless. The security of all Sri Lankans including those who criticise the Government is something that the Government takes seriously,” he said.
Former president Rajapaksa had alleged that even though a radical regime change had taken place in the USA, the yahapalana government had not taken any steps to hold talks with the new US administration and to get the resolution against Sri Lanka amended, and that the yahapalakaya co-sponsored this dangerous resolution in 2015 not only due to pressure from foreign parties but also because of their intrinsic anti-national leanings.