A proclamation issued by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gazetted on July 15, among other matters, calls for investigation into alleged war crimes. For this purpose, the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry probing disappearances has been expanded. Three international advisors, who have prosecuted at UN war crimes tribunals, have been appointed. More are to be added.
Since the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), over five years ago, the UPFA Government has consistently maintained that no war crime probes were necessary since Sri Lankan troops have not committed any of them. This position has been enunciated at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and locally at different occasions.
Addressing the nation on Victory Day, President Rajapaksa has repeatedly re-iterated that the troops fought with the UN Human Rights Charter on one hand and a gun on the other. At last year’s elections to Southern and Western Provincial Councils, he exhorted from public platforms that he would rather face the ‘electric chair’ than betray the troops of Sri Lanka. These remarks quoting the President were repeated by many UPFA speakers who also asserted that they would not allow any form of foreign interference, a position which two constituents of the UPFA have publicly taken.
In what is clearly a complete reversal, the Presidential proclamation now seeks a probe into such alleged war crimes. To say the least, the UPFA Government is now concurring with the views of the international community that alleged war crimes should be investigated. If such a position which the UNP repeatedly requested was taken years earlier, there is no gainsaying that colossal damage to the country would have been averted. It could have also brought to question the validity of the current international investigation.
The United National Party strongly believes that both President Rajapaksa and his UPFA Government should reveal to the public why a major policy change on such an important matter was made secretly. The UNP notes with serious concern that this course of action has been without any recourse to the Cabinet of Ministers. If indeed they were briefed, this has not been made public. Nor has the UPFA Government informed Parliament.
It is ironic that when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was tasked to conduct an international investigation into alleged war crimes, the UPFA Government moved a resolution in Parliament last month. The aim was to obtain the support of opposition political parties represented there.
The text of that resolution said “….. this Parliament resolves that the investigation to be conducted against Sri Lanka by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should not be carried out on the ground that such a course of action is detrimental to the process of reconciliation and peace and that it erodes the sovereignty, dignity and stature of Sri Lanka.” The UNP did not support this move since it was full aware of the UPFA Government’s duplicitous approach. This is why the Party moved amendments.
Having sought unsuccessfully to obtain the support of the opposition to stall an OHCHR investigation saying it was detrimental to peace and reconciliation, the UPFA Government has surreptitiously taken measures to conduct a domestic investigation. In doing so, it has chosen to ignore the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament and the people of Sri Lanka. Why are they hiding the truth from the public?
Worse enough the MP’s who voted in favour of the resolution now stand exposed.
They should be told why President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who boasted he would sit in an ‘electric chair’ than betray soldiers,has now done an about turn and that too quite secretly. The UNP strongly believes the public should also know whether the actions are in the best interests of Sri Lanka or are the outcome of ignorant, shady but powerful brokers who are on an adventure wrapping up secret diplomatic deals behind the backs of the people. This is whilst the country’s diplomatic missions have become havens for jobs to mostly unqualified friends and relatives of UPFA leaders. They owe it to the people to tell them the truth.
*Statement Issued by the United National Party