No hybrid courts, No foreign judges - PM | Sunday Observer

No hybrid courts, No foreign judges - PM

Categorically denying the speculations, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responding to a statement by Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament, the Government will not agree to any international court and will put in place an autochthonous mechanism within the existing provisions of the Constitution to probe the alleged war crimes. The Premier, outlining the Government’s stance said, neither hybrid courts nor foreign judges will be brought in causing harm whatsoever, to the sovereignty or unitary status of the country.

MP Gunawardena in his statement demanded to know whether the Government had acceded to a proposal to set up a hybrid court comprising foreign judges to probe alleged war crimes, violating the Constitution. The Premier clarifying the Government’s position said, the Government will not agree to an international court and it will only bring about a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism as per the provisions of the Constitution, and that is the position of all South Asian nations as well. According to the Constitution, Sri Lankan judges will have to be appointed to implement this domestic mechanism. However, the Premier told the House that they are not against obtaining the services of observers or experts. The Premier also recalled that it was not the incumbent Government which appointed the Darusman Committee or entered into agreements in New York against the interests of the country. He assured the House that the Government will never violate the Constitution.

The Premier recalled on how former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2009 issuing a joint statement with the then UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon agreed to act on the proposals made by the UNHRC and other nations with regard to accountability issues. That statement has made clear references that the alleged human rights violations that took place during the war should be investigated, and also mentioned that the Sri Lankan Government had agreed to investigate them. The Prime Minister said, that was the first reference to an agreement between the Sri Lankan Government and a foreign agency on an alleged war crimes probe.

Citing an example, the Premier pointed out, after 2009, representatives of the former Government agreed in New York to initiate legal action against those who had led the war. As part of that agreement, they dragged Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka out of his office and put him behind bars. Thereafter, in 2014 the then External Affairs Minister Prof.G.L. Peiris said, the Government was ready to initiate legal action to prosecute those who are responsible for the Muttur and Trincomalee killings. The Premier also said, the UNHRC has appreciated the action initiated by the Government to achieve reconciliation and pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution besides the measures it has adopted to strengthen democratic institutions.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who joined the debate on Order under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and the Order under the Criminal Procedure Code (Special Provisions) Act said, the UNHRC and EU insisted on foreign judges in the proposed mechanism for truth seeking, knowing very well that there is no provision for it in the Sri Lankan Constitution so that such demands amounted to a threat to independence and the sovereignty of the country.” Are all these international bodies asking us to violate our own Constitution?, the Minister questioned”

Minister Rajapakshe who was critical of the conduct of these international bodies said, while asking us to set up a mechanism and take legal action and punish those found guilty, they also ask us to work towards reconciliation. The Minister said these two positions cannot be reconciled. He added that when one gives evidence about a past incident and says this or that person is responsible for the alleged war crime, the three Armed Forces and the Police personnel who risked their lives to protect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty would be antagonised. It would lead to yet another dispute between the Sinhala and Tamil communities. The Minister was of the view that reconciliation cannot be achieved in this manner.

Minister Rajapakshe in his speech also found fault with the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) for using the Right to Information laws to call for the details of assets and liabilities of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He said, the motive of TISL had been to ridicule the two leaders who made immense sacrifices to usher in good governance to the country. He alleged, the TISL showing itself as the paragon of virtue attempts to capitalize on the provisions of the RTI. The Media Minister on the midnight of February 3 issued a gazette to enforce the RTI Act. Around 9 am the following day came the first two RTI applications from TISL asking the assets and liabilities of the President and Prime Minister. Is this the respect the TISL shows for these two leaders? He said, certain NGO activists resort to such acts depending on the size of the stacks of greenbacks they receive. Does the TISL or other NGOs reveal the amounts of funds they receive?, the Minister questioned.

Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena raising a point of order told the House, continuously keeping some of the JO politicians in remand custody has deprived them of the opportunity of fulfilling their obligations to the people. MP Gunawardena said one of the Joint Opposition MPs, whose name he didn’t mention, has been kept in remand custody for a long time without granting bail. The MP said it is only the suspects who committed murder or any other serious offences who are kept in remand custody in this manner. However, Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella told MP Gunawardena that Parliament is not a place to grant bail to Parliamentarians. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said, he would take necessary steps regarding the issue after looking into the matter.

Matara District UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana on Thursday (March 23) set a record for the highest number of public petitions presented to the House in a day by a Parliamentarian. MP Pathirana presented 33 public petitions, and told the House that he might enter the Guinness World Record as the legislator who presented the highest number of public petitions in a day.