Lanka’s message to Geneva: Issues will be settled within local framework | Sunday Observer

Lanka’s message to Geneva: Issues will be settled within local framework

19 September, 2021

Sri Lanka will take steps to implement every possible proposal, whether made internationally or locally to solve post-conflict residual issues not due to international pressure, but the Government’s absolute commitment to ensure peace, harmony and coexistence of the different communities as they all are equal citizens of the country. This is the message Sri Lanka wished to convey to the international community at the 48th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.


The bias and foregone conclusions by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet became quite evident when she delivered her oral update on Sri Lanka last Monday (Sept 13). However, in fairness to Bachelet, it must be acknowledged that she listed several positive developments in Sri Lanka. But she gave only left-handed complements as she added reservations and reprimands after many of those positive utterances.

Those who carefully examined the progress report made by Sri Lanka, however, understood the need for fair play and urged the UNHRC to give Sri Lanka space to solve residual issues using available local mechanisms and not to interfere in domestic issues.

Speaking at a virtual media briefing organised by the Presidential Media Centre, Foreign Secretary Prof Jayanath Colombage said that only four Western countries spoke against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC this time, while as many as 15 countries urged the international community to allow Sri Lanka to solve its own internal issues without external interventions.

They include China, Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Iraq and Venezuela. Furthermore, Azerbaijan, representing 23 nonaligned countries, Egypt, representing five nations and Cameron, representing 13 African countries spoke in support of Sri Lanka.


Expressing happiness over the massive support received at UNHRC Session, Colombage said Sri Lanka is absolutely committed to find solutions under local mechanisms to all the residual issues, not because of outside pressures, but we owe it to our people.

The Foreign Secretary categorically stated that Sri Lanka would not accept any external initiatives as the domestic mechanisms were sufficient to deal with all the issues. Already domestic processes are vigorously addressing questions of accountability and justice lingering from the 3-decade-long conflict.

He also said that the UN Human Rights Council has not been given the power to set up such a mechanism, adding that solutions are available for all the problems of the country within the domestic legal system.

Colombage thanked the UNHRC chief for acknowledging certain steps taken by Sri Lanka including the work carried on for reparation to victims, progress on issues concerning missing persons, release of 16 (LTTE) prisoners and the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

However, he said that international organisations were biased against some countries as the top officials of such organisations have to appease the powerful and affluent nations that fund them.

It is true that UN High Commissioner on HR started in a positive note saying, “I acknowledge the inputs sent by the Government in preparation for this update, and I note the President’s statement in June that the Government is committed to work with the UN to ensure accountability and will implement necessary institutional reforms.”

However she added that she wanted to see “concrete actions in line with the recommendations that have been made in UNHRC reports and by various human rights mechanisms – and my office stands ready to engage.”


After expressing her encouragement over the swift and public release of the reports of the National Commission of Inquiry that was appointed in January 2021 she stressed the need to complete its mandate by the end of this year, so that its work and recommendations can be assessed.

Then she embarked into an issue, though purely a domestic governing measure and forecast that would lead to militarisation. “Current social, economic and governance challenges faced by Sri Lanka indicate the corrosive impact that militarisation and the lack of accountability continue to have on fundamental rights, civic space, democratic institutions, social cohesion and sustainable development,” she said.

Bachelet has ignored the explanation that there is no militarisation and what the Government did was to amend just two clauses in the emergency regulations to ensure food security.

There will only be a limited role for the military in the issue of food security. The emergency action is aimed at preventing hoarding of essential items.

The Government has appointed a commissioner of essential services, who will have the power to seize food stocks held by traders and retailers and regulate their prices.

The military will oversee the action which gives power to officials to ensure that essential items, including rice and sugar, are sold at Government-guaranteed prices or prices based on import costs at customs and prevent hiding of stocks.


The High Commissioner also referred to positive progress on reparation. A National Policy for Reparations was approved in August, and reparation payments and reconciliation programs have continued. The Office of Missing Persons has also continued to operate – with a sixth regional office opened in Kilinochchi, she acknowledged and unnecessarily added that “it needs to inspire confidence among victims.”

She did not say the reasons for so-called lack of confidence. “I stress again the importance of transparent, victim-centred and gender sensitive approaches, and that reparations programs must be accompanied by broader truth and justice measures,” Bachlet said.

She added that on June, 16 prisoners who had been convicted under the problematic Prevention of Terrorism Act, and who were nearing the end of their sentences, were pardoned.

An Advisory Board has been established to which detainees under the Act can apply for their cases to be reviewed, and I urge a speedy resolution to these long-standing cases, she said. However, Bachelet refrained from stating that the suspects were cadres of ruthless terror outfit, the LTTE.

The Government has reaffirmed its intention to revisit the PTA and established a Cabinet sub-committee for this purpose. However, I am deeply concerned about the continued use of the Act to arrest and detain people, she said.

“I note with interest the President’s recent meeting with some civil society leaders, and I encourage broader dialogue and steps to open Sri Lanka’s civic space,” said the UNHRC chief, but then expressed regret over alleged plans to control civil society organisations.

As the Foreign Secretary said Bachelet has clearly gone beyond the UNHRC mandate when she commented on many internal governing issues and made a vain attempt to link them to the so-called human rights violations.

She referred to the Easter Sunday massacre and questioned as to why the prosecution of culprits had not commenced. She was misinformed on that issue as the cases were already filed and the three-member tribunal has already announced the dates for trial. This was done within two years of the dastardly terrorist attack.

The UNHRC chief has not made any comment when there was a long delay in prosecuting the terrorists who killed 130 civilians in France in 2015. The cases were filed by the French Police last week, after six years of investigations.

However, Colombage thanked the High Commissioner for acknowledging positive steps taken by Sri Lanka. As assured to UNHRC, Sri Lanka is committed to achieving tangible progress on the entire range of issues relating to accountability, reconciliation, human rights, peace and sustainable development. While rejecting unacceptable conditions, Sri Lanka however assured its strong and continued cooperation with this Council and the United Nations mandated human rights system, in keeping with the Constitution and the international obligations voluntarily undertaken.