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We will counter with incontrovertible facts - Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

Minister and President’s Sepcial Envoy on Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe who is heading the Sri Lankan delegation in Geneva at the 19th UN Human Rights Council sessions in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer yesterday said the Channel Four documentary will serve no purpose but help those who despise seeing stability, peace and harmony returning to Sri Lanka.

On the proposed resolution led by US, Minister Samarasinghe said, “As far as the draft Resolution on Sri Lanka is concerned, we are taking a principled stand that it is misplaced, unwarranted and unnecessary, given all that we have done to implement the recommendations of the LLRC in a short space of time. We have made a persuasive argument based on a principled position.”

Commenting on Marsuki Darusman’s presence in Geneva and his support to the US led resolution, the Minister said, “It just shows that these persons were predisposed towards taking anti-Sri Lanka positions and their current conduct shows that they are players contributing to a larger agenda.”

The excerpts from the interview:

Q: What is your take on the latest channel four video released simultaneously at a crucial time of voting on a resolution against SL at the UN HRC?

A: Well, we feel that there is nothing very different in the content of the video from the anti-Sri Lanka propaganda and sentiments that have been continuously emanating from quarters who do not have Sri Lanka’s best interests at heart. Channel 4 is just one outlet that has been used by these elements to spread misinformation. What is important is the timing of the release of the video.

The fact that it has been released to coincide with the current (19th) Sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC), demonstrates that is part of a larger, orchestrated effort to garner support for a resolution on Sri Lanka that is before the Council at present. We are studying the video and will respond to it at an appropriate time in the very near future in a clear and comprehensive manner. We are confident this will offset any impact that the promoters of this video hoped that it would have. Don’t forget that most of the speculations in the video are mere repeats of allegations made in the previous Channel 4 video and these allegations are being gone into by military Courts of Inquiry. We believe that the truth will eventually be established once those investigations and inquiries are concluded.

This was a recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and those recommendations are being followed up assiduously and systematically by the Government.

Q: Has it made a significant impact on Sri Lanka’s accountability case/ change mind set of member States?

A: As I said, the impact (if any) that it seeks to make will be addressed and countered by our delegation in a timely manner. The parties who do not wish to see stability, peace and harmony in Sri Lanka have had their say, courtesy of Channel 4. Now we will state our case and express our opinion on the allegations made. As a responsible Government we will not make wild accusations and allegations. Our interventions will be based on demonstrable fact and sound evidence. Our request – no, our legitimate demand – is that the issues and allegations be viewed objectively in light of what all parties say.

Q: What is the Agenda of HRC next week as far as SL is concerned?

A: As far the draft Resolution on Sri Lanka is concerned, we are taking a principled stand that it is misplaced, unwarranted and unnecessary, given all that we have done to implement the recommendations of the LLRC in a short space of time.

We have also taken many other measures to win the peace in Sri Lanka. In short, the Resolution calls on Sri Lanka to do what it is already doing. This is why it is redundant. We have made a persuasive argument based on a principled position.

Q: When will the vote on the resolution be taken?

A: Council Sessions conclude on 23 March 2012. The vote will take place just prior to the end of the Sessions.

Q: Will there be continued interest in the Sri Lankan situation in the HRC?

A: We welcome well-intentioned interest and inquiry relating to our progress in addressing challenges in the sphere of human rights promotion and protection.

We will of course inform the Members of the Council and other interested parties of progress we make. We have done so in the past and will continue to do so in June and September Sessions of the HRC, and during the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka in October.

Q: What sort of support do you anticipate if the vote is taken and how do you think the member states will react?

A: We have placed the Sri Lankan position fairly and squarely before the HRC and it Members. The Ministry of External Affairs has been reaching out to national capitals and canvassing our case effectively.

We have outlined the astounding progress we have made in consolidating peace, renewing lives and livelihoods, restoring social and physical infrastructure, restoring institutions and administrative agencies, improving service provision and delivery – just about everything that we could do to restore normality to conflict affected areas. Misdirected initiatives such as this resolution could only impede the rapidity of this process.

We are doing our best – in fact, better than our best – for all the people of Sri Lanka and we expect that all right thinking people will acknowledge this.

Q: We heard Mr. Darusman is in Geneva canvassing support for US backed resolution, how ethical is this? and isn’t it against UN norms? (Note- the three members of the panel issued an op-ed article criticising SL’s record recently to Western media while the sessions were on).

A: It just shows that these persons were predisposed towards taking anti-Sri Lanka positions and their current conduct shows that they are players contributing to a larger agenda. There is nothing surprising about this.

The Secretary-General is able to advise himself on any issue that is within his purview. The conduct of these Advisory Panelists indicates that they were not and are not objective, independent nor are they impartial.

This buttresses Sri Lanka’s position and conclusions about their Report. This is why it is important to place reliance on a credible, transparent and objective assessment carried out by a domestic process. We Sri Lankans – more than anyone else - have a greater interest in achieving genuine reconciliation and this is why we need time and space to realize our goals.

Q: Have Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and his team been able to cause any damage? How many of them got access to the NGO forum? It was told they teamed up in Geneva with Gary Anandasangaree who is an LTTE advocate?

A: Anyone who is accredited to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from among non-governmental and civil society organisations (NGOs/CSOs) is able to attend the HRC and to engage with anyone they wish. Some have pro-Sri Lanka positions and others take the opposite view.

We hope that everyone does what they do to achieve the best results for Sri Lanka and her people.

However, if anyone is compromising the chance that the Sri Lankan people have – a people who suffered nearly three decades of terrorism – of a renewal of normal, productive and peaceful lives, we will vigorously counter their arguments with incontrovertible fact and proof of our progress.

We have done this before and will continue to address these challenges.

As ever, any objective, fair-minded and impartial observer will accept that the Sri Lankan Government has done more in the post armed-conflict era to achieve reconciliation, renewal and reconstruction, than in any other comparable situation the world over. Now we need the time and space to complete the job.

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