By Colombo Telegraph –
Acting Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs and former Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Kshenuka Senewiratne yesterday hit back hard at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay saying her remarks at a recent briefing were biased and erroneous and amounted to interference in the internal matters of a sovereign country.
In a hard-hitting letter to High Commissioner Pillay, the Acting Foreign Secretary Pillay’s comments were indicative of “unequal and invidious treatment of Sri Lanka”, the Ministry official said.
Last Friday, the UN Human Rights Commissioner charged that the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was a calamitous setback for the rule of law in Sri Lanka and criticized the appointment of Mohan Peiris as Bandaranayake’s successor.
Seneviratne said the UN High Commissioner’s remarks “sadly demonstrates that neither you nor your office has the understanding of the provisions of Sri Lanka’s Constitution, and the related procedures for the removal of judges of the superior courts.”
The letter warned that Pillay’s statement could damage engagement between the UN and Sri Lanka. It comes just over a month before Sri Lanka is back in the hotseat at the UNHRC in Geneva, when the resolution adopted by the Council against Sri Lanka is reviewed. Pillay is also expected to submit a report on Sri Lanka to the UNHRC, regarding Sri Lanka’s progress on reconciliation and accountability issues.
“The Government of Sri Lanka as a sovereign country has followed the due procedure that is set out in the Constitution of our country. This procedure is indeed in conformity with principles which govern disciplinary proceedings against judges contained in the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary endorsed by the UNGA in 1985,” Seneviratne’s letter to Pillay stated.
Pillay’s concerns about the independence and impartiality of the new Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was “reflective of the complete bias and negative mindset manifested and nurtured by parties inimical to Sri Lanka and with vested interests,” the Acting Secretary of the MEA said.
Seneviratne said Pillay had adopted a sustained practice of prejudgment in matters relating to Sri Lanka and said the High Commissioner’s statements sought to undermine the office of Chief Justice.
“With regard to your reference to the new Chief Justice Hon Mohan Peiris, you are undoubtedly aware that he has been a member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the Human Rights Council sessions, originally in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the country, to handle legal issues required for our engagement in Geneva, which is not an uncommon practice amongst States. Subsequent to Hon Peiris relinquishing the office of Attorney General, based on his experience and expertise in the field, he was appointed Legal Adviser to the Cabinet of Ministers and therefore continued to serve in the Sri Lanka delegations to Geneva. It was by virtue of the offices he held at the time, which has direct relevance to the issues at hand, that Hon. Peiris served on the Sri Lankan delegation to the Human Rights Council Sessions,” the letter states.
According to Seneviratne said that Pillay’s remarks on Friday were reminiscent of the action taken by Mr Hanny Megally following the visit of the OHCHR team to Sri Lanka in September 2012, when he deviated from the accepted practice, by de-briefing third parties, even before briefing the High Commisioner for Human Rights. “It may also be recalled that when the latter pointed out the impropriety of this unacceptable conduct of Mr. Megally at that juncture, you accepted our Representative’s submission. However, your action in resorting to unwarranted comments with a series of innuendos on an issue which is entirely a domestic matter for Sri Lanka, and that too without first engaging with our Permanent Representative or the delegation of Sri Lanka in Geneva, demonstrates yet again the deviation from established procedure, amounting to blatant interference in an issue of a sovereign country,” the letter said.
Read the letter here