Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts appeared to face more setbacks, with former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga dropping a bombshell and ruling out the involvement of courts to probe war crimes committing during the final stages of the war in 2009.
Kumaratunga, who is also the head of the Office for the National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) said that what is urgent now is to bring in a new Constitution and to establish the Office of the Missing Persons, and therefore due to these initiatives there won’t be a necessity to have courts to probe war crimes.
She made this statement in an interview published in the Daily Mirror today while answering to a question about the present position with regard to the government entrusting her with building national reconciliation. “It is successfully carried out, in the face of opposition and a handful of extremists, activities are continuing with the blessings of the majority. Reconciliation means a lengthy activity. What is urgent now is to bring in a new Constitution and then comes the establishment of the Office of the Missing Persons. With these in place, there would not be any necessity to have courts to probe war crimes.”
She also criticized the recent report released by Attorney At Law Manori Muththettuwegama which reportedly stated that foreign judges must be included to probe the issues during the final stages of the war. “They have no right to comment in that manner. The committee was entrusted to obtain the views of the public and submit its report to the government. That was the responsibility of the committee. Their own ideas too had been incorporated in the report,” Kumaratunga said.
Last year, the government appointed a 11 member Special Task Force consisting of representatives of civil organizations to get the views of the public on the Geneva Human Rights proposal. The task force was headed by Muththettuwegama. The Task Force was tasked to work under two phases. Under the first Phase, views was obtained through all languages using websites. Then the task force met with the public to obtain their views in the second phase. The views were obtained from children, members of the security forces and the public who suffered from the war.
The former President however heavily praised incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena in her interview saying he has good knowledge, he reads well, explains well and is also a good listener.
The office headed by Kumaratunga is mandated to lead, facilitate and support initiatives related to national unity and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The ONUR mandate broadly covers the 8 focus areas we have listed in our website and all initiatives related to Accountability mechanisms are coordinated by Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry in consultation with the offices of His Excellency the President and Hon. Prime Minister. The ONUR will be assisting if any request for assistance is made in such initiative from the respective ministries.
The coalition government has been giving out varying views over the involvement of foreign judges to probe war crimes. In February last year, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera contradicted a statement by President Sirisena and said that international participation was necessary in bringing justice to the victims of war crimes. “What the President has expressed is his own opinion, and in Sri Lanka there are various thoughts on how this matter should be handled,” Samaraweera said, when questioned on Sirisena’s rejection of an international investigation to probe alleged war crimes committed during the final stages of the war against the LTTE during a Q & A session at US Institute of Peace, Washington DC.