Sri Lanka to brief global leaders on what’s done, what’s left to do and how to do | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka to brief global leaders on what’s done, what’s left to do and how to do

The week beginning tomorrow is of utmost importance to Sri Lanka’s international relations as President Maithripala Sirisena, in his address at the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday (25) is expected to tell fellow leaders about the significant progress achieved on many fronts, especially, with regard to sustainable peace, reconciliation and communal harmony and outline the government’s plans to tackle the remaining issues.

President Sirisena, in his media briefing earlier this month said, he would announce a set of new proposals for consideration at the March 2019 session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). He will also submit these proposals to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as well as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The President is scheduled to meet them in New York later this week.

It is interesting to note the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet’s statement after she assumed office. “Good governance is based on identifying and amending the gaps in access to justice, dignity and equality – so that all can live in more respectful and harmonious societies, and enjoy development that is more dynamic and sustainable.”

President Sirisena, who has been hailed as the ‘Champion of Good Governance’ will be able to establish a good rapport with the new Head of UNHRC.

In her report to UNHRC, High Commissioner Bachelet said, “In Sri Lanka, although the authorities have moved too slowly towards meaningful implementation of the transitional justice agenda, the Office of Missing Persons has now begun consultations and institutional capacity-building to fulfil its mandate. We look to that Office to work quickly, to begin to provide answers to the families of the disappeared. Legislation establishing an Office for Reparations is also underway. More progress in advancing accountability and truth-seeking could have great weight in the long-term stability and prosperity of the nation. Recurrent incidents of racist and inter-communal violence are disturbing, as are announced plans to resume the use of the death penalty.”

The 73rd UNGA will provide a good platform for President Sirisena to tell the world about the progress made in many fronts.

Since assuming office in January 2015, President Sirisena, has taken thoughtful steps to strengthen and speed up the reconciliation process. Despite various factors trying to slow down the progress of the post-conflict reconciliation activities based on the transitional justice approach, numerous constructive developments ensure that Sri Lanka is a nation, where people of all origins can live happily and peacefully.

More than 90% of the land that had been occupied in the North and East by the security forces during the armed conflict against the dreaded terrorist outfit LTTE, has now been released to their rightful owners. Today, only a small extent of the total land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces remains to be released. Sri Lanka showed its commitment to protecting human rights by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. An Office of Missing Persons was established to inquire about and report on people who have disappeared during uprisings in the North and the South of the country.

Despite these achievements, there are charges that the progress towards reconciliation is slow. The President, in his media briefing, admitted that the process was slow, but emphasized that it was steady. He pointed out that such vexed issues cannot be tackled quickly as many sensitivities had to be balanced. In any country that faced prolonged conflicts, the solutions took a very long time and Sri Lanka is no exception.

The international community should also take notice of agendas of those who level allegations against Sri Lanka. President Sirisena further said, certain pro-LTTE non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were making various allegations regarding human rights violations. He said, the incumbent Government was able to avoid Sri Lanka’s isolation in the UN Human Rights Council, which had prevailed before this government came to power and succeeded in fostering friendship.

The President said, the proposals he will submit to the UN will be aimed at solving issues and provide relief without causing harm to the pride of the security forces and safeguard independence, sovereignty and national security. Furthermore, these proposals would facilitate harmonious solutions to remaining issues with regard to the alleged acts of both sides during the conflict.

There is a positive recognition for the Sri Lankan armed forces internationally as a disciplined army and that is evident from the fact that United Nations Peace Keeping recruit increased the number of army personnel from Sri Lanka.

In New York this week, President Sirisena will be one of the prominent speakers at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, the most important global peace event organized on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Summit to be held tomorrow (24) is scheduled to adopt the Nelson Mandela Political Declaration. The draft has already been submitted to the Heads of Delegates. Its preamble stated, “We salute Nelson Mandela’s qualities of humility, forgiveness and compassion, his values and his dedication to the service of humanity, as a humanitarian, in the fields of conflict resolution, disarmament, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups as well as the uplift of poor and underdeveloped communities. We acknowledge his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of the culture of peace throughout the world.”

The following day (25) the President will attend the 73rd United Nations General Assembly to deliver his much-anticipated speech, where he will outline the achievements so far and the plans for future action.

[The writer is the Director - Research & International Media at the Presidential Secretariat]