Openly contradicting President Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera declared on Friday 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 on Friday.
“Frankly, we too admit for the need of an international participation in the process, and even some nationalist parties in Parliament agree,” he said.
Samaraweera however went on to add that the current administration will look into all options and come up with a Special Court that is not only credible but also acceptable to all victims of the war. He said that the court will be architected within the next 5 to 6 months.
“There is a general agreement across the board that a Special Court will have to be set up in Sri Lanka if the process is to have any credibility, as the judiciary has lost its credibility over the past 10 years due to the politicization of the judicial process by the previous government,” he said.
Samaraweera added that there is a consultation process ongoing; to decide at what level the international participation ought to be in the investigations process.
“The victims of the war would want some form of guarantee that the new courts will deliver justice and accountability in a fair manner and for that we are willing to consider the participation of international actors. They could be judges, forensic experts, investigators and prosecutors. We are looking at all these options,” he said.
Meanwhile, Samaraweera also emphasized upon the need for the demilitarization of the North and East provinces which is an important factor in the reconciliation process.
“We are working on releasing the lands that have been held by the military. So far we have released over 3000 acres of land and given these back to the civilians, and a further 600 across will be released in the next few weeks,” he said.
The foreign minister added that steps have also been taken to curtail the Army from carrying out commercial activities in the North and East. Further, Army run hotels in the two provinces is expected to be handed back to civilians by June this year.
“So most certainly demilitarization is an important factor in the reconciliation process and to develop the North and East,” he added. ( By Munza Mushtaq © Colombo Telegraph)