The Politics Of Foreign Judges in The Geneva Process 

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,MORE OPINION,Opinion |

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The weekend after the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, I went to the public library to exchange books. While standing in line to return the borrowed books, I was approached by one of the other library members standing in line. He had seen me on television at the opening session in Geneva where I was part of the government delegation but representing a civil society perspective. This event had received wide coverage in the Tamil media in particular. He urged me to ensure that the victim survivors of the war should be compensated by the government without delay. He said they needed jobs and money to look after their children and the disabled needed to be provided with artificial limbs in addition.

Those who have been victims of the war have yet to find redress. Those who have had their loved ones go missing, who have had their ancestral lands taken over, who languish in poverty without breadwinners and also those who want justice are all looking to Geneva to find redress that they are not receiving at home. The hopes they were given in October 2015, when the Sri Lankan government co-sponsored a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council that called for these to be done, have not been realized so far. In relation to the vast needs of the people, relatively little has been done by the government in all of these areas. In one area, however, there has been a significant impact. This is in the lifting of fear of a government that no longer violates laws with impunity.

The international human rights groups and Tamil Diaspora members who gathered on the sidelines of official events did not wish the Sri Lankan government to be given extra time to implement the promises it had made. Most of them were opposed to the government’s bid to obtain a “rollover” of the October 2015 resolution that the government is seeking with an extension of the time frame by a further two years. Those who work on behalf of victims of violations know that victims do not wish to wait long for justice and also need to be compensated quickly in order to get on with their lives. Those who are victims do not wish to wait for years for justice to be done.

Time Extension

However, the reality is that Sri Lanka is almost certain to get the extension it wants. Indeed, it is reported that Sri Lanka will co-sponsor a resolution led by the US and the core group once again at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms Mano Tittawela has said that the Government would submit a resolution together with the US, UK and Montenegro that it hopes would give Sri Lanka a two year extended time-frame to implement the 2015 resolution. There is unlikely to be any country today that would wish to impose political or economic sanctions on Sri Lanka which is one of the brighter spots in the world today in terms of human rights and the quality of life of most of its people.

During their stay in Geneva, the Sri Lankan delegation was able to meet with most important parties at the side events to the official conference. This included meetings with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and with UN Human Rights Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein and with the ambassadors to the UN of various powerful countries. Some of those who are currently playing a decisionmaking role in UN processes have had previous engagements with Sri Lanka and are in a position to make a comparative analysis of the situation in Sri Lanka as against other countries. They tend to be impressed at the overall developments in Sri Lanka which they can compare with the deterioration to be found in many parts of the world. Government leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is being viewed with considerable disappointment, despite being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the pastg, due to the mass atrocities reported from there which show no sign of diminishing.

The Sri Lankan government delegation led by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera were able to impress most of those they met with their commitment to improving inter-ethnic relations within the country and improving the lives of the people in general. The Sri Lankan delegation together with the Sri Lankan embassy in Geneva were able to host a side event which was attended by over a hundred persons drawn from the international human rights community, media, Tamil Diaspora and diplomats. They gave every person who wished to speak an opportunity to have their say, and answered every question that was asked without bluff or bluster. As a result the meeting that was scheduled to be for an hour was extended to nearly double that time.

Hybrid Mechanism 

The issue on which there remains a measure of uncertainty is that of foreign judges in a hybrid court to look into war crimes. Accountability and the punishment of those who have committed grave violations of human rights are an integral part of the UN mandated system of transitional justice. The question is how best this can be obtained. Hybrid courts are not necessarily the answer. The hybrid court system established in Cambodia in 2003 has delivered only three convictions after 14 years of effort and the cost has exceeded USD 200 million. In addition, there were instances of the foreign judges and prosecutors publicly disagreeing with each other and resigning from their posts along with allegations of government pressure on them.

Where countries have judicial systems that have not completely collapsed, there is strong resistance to brining in foreign judges to be in decisionmaking positions. Colombia, which is the most recent success story in transitional justice, has chosen the path of having national judges only with foreign expertise in an advisory role. In Sri Lanka, both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have said that they are not in favour of foreign judges, as it is not politically possible given the resistance to it from within the national system. The person who appealed to me in the public library said that he wanted war victims to be looked after better by the government and that it was more important to sustain the living than to avenge the dead. This does not mean that victims do not want justice, but that they need sustenance now.

However, the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into Sri Lanka’s implementation of the October 2015 resolution has a critical tone and refers to the “slow pace of transitional justice in Sri Lanka and the lack of a comprehensive strategy to address accountability for past crimes risk derailing the momentum towards lasting peace, reconciliation and stability.” The UN recommendation is that the Sri Lankan government should establish a hybrid mechanism for purposes of war crimes trials. Those who are champions of human rights will necessarily stand for the ideal. But politics is the art of the possible. The final decision on which way the UN Human Rights Council will go will be decided by the representatives of governments of the 47 countries that are its members. It is unlikely that they will decide to force upon the Sri Lankan government what it does not consider to be politically possible.

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37 Responses to The Politics Of Foreign Judges in The Geneva Process 

  1. 2
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    Dr. Jehan Perera Sri Lanka and particularly Tamil people in northeast need ECONOMIC JUSTICE now, first! Firs, t the Financial Criminal politicians need to be locked up and their assets taken and used to re-build the North and east livelihoods that were destroyed by war. Then we shall deal with the Jarapassa war criminals properly!

    S.Modaya
    March 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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      He doesn’t have a PhD. A US JD is the law degree juris doctor you need to practice law and it’s not a terminal degree. Calling him Doctor is incorrect nomenclature.

      SinnaDorai
      March 6, 2017 at 9:37 pm
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  2. 4
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    Yahapalana President said he didn’t want to even touch the clauses which need a referendum. Did Dr Jehan have a side Talk in Geneva with Dr Paksothy who is the chief advisor to Dr Ranil on how to change the Constitution?. Wonder who were in the delegation to show case Yahapalana Economic Development in the north and the East?. Dr Mahendran and SIL Aloysious would have been fantastic exhibits to show how the War Victims Diaspora have done in just two years. Even if Dr Pajsothy find a way, for Dr Ranil, wonder which countries can provide these eminent judges to try Our Armed Forces?. Because they have to be from countries which haven’t done war Crimes Or helped the Tamil terrorists Right?.

    K A Sumanasekera
    March 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm
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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera “Even if Dr Pajsothy find a way, for Dr Ranil, wonder which countries can provide these eminent judges to try Our Armed Forces?.” The way things are unfolding from the past you may have to hire foreign forces or mercenaries (like good old days when your ancestors were imported from various Erivirapattinams in South India) to protect courts, prisons, transfer of prisoners to and from courts, judges, victims, ….. Read the stories: The investigations into the detection of weapons at the Mount Lavinia Courts had revealed that the pistol and revolver had been smuggled into the premises by an underworld gangster known as Vidanagamage Rangana allias Maiya to kill underworld gangster ‘Gona Kovile Roha’. Police arrested ‘Maiya’ in Wellawatta a couple of days after the dailymirror.lk Gunmen kill seven in Sri Lanka prison bus shooting Gunmen opened fire on a prison bus near Colombo on Monday, killing five prisoners and two warders on their way to court in what was believed to be a gangland dispute, officials said. telegraph.co.uk There are many.

      Native Vedda
      March 6, 2017 at 12:54 pm
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        Dear Native Please …get up to speed mate. This is old news, I am sure you put in something here about the future Eelaam in the East, when I commented about how quickly the UNP has resurrected Pathalaya under Yahapalanaya. I even heard that your No 1 Yahapalanaya enforcer Alsatian Rajitha promising compo to the Pathalaya who perished in Welikada. Hope Rajitha wouldn’t pinch any from the cash which has been allocated for the War Victims in the Diaspora and their relos in Lanka.

        K A Sumanasekera
        March 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm
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          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera Where is Gota keeping his loot from Vanni?

          Native Vedda
          March 6, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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            Dumb Native Veddo: You talk about a loot, but you don’t know where it is. Why you are so dumb ?

            jim softy
            March 6, 2017 at 11:34 pm
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              Ouch Native touched your nerve. Did it hurt so much ? Can’t be worse than your experience of being gang raped by group of old monks when you were 8

              AJ
              March 7, 2017 at 12:35 am
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              jim softy dimwit “You talk about a loot, but you don’t know where it is.” I meant precisely that. “Why you are so dumb?” All my teachers were either Sinhalese or Tamils. Is your son a teacher somewhere in the deep south?

              Native Vedda
              March 7, 2017 at 12:39 am
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        Native Vedda, You forgot the deaths of two motorcycling undergraduates shot dead by five policemen. No case yet.

        justice
        March 6, 2017 at 3:34 pm
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          They were terrorists. No human rights for terrorists!

          Eusense
          March 6, 2017 at 8:57 pm
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            Do you have an proof those undergraduates were terrorists? The government inelegance says they are just students, they didt say they were terrorists.

            AJ
            March 7, 2017 at 2:48 am
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              The fact that they did not stop when ordered to say that they had something to hide. What do Tamils have to hide other than terrorism? That proof is enough to me.

              Eusense
              March 7, 2017 at 6:57 am
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                1) Do you have any proof that they didn’t stop when ordered to stop? 2) Ok you say Tamils ONLY have to hide from terrorism. Sinhalese have t hide from BBS terrorism, state terrorism, rape, murder, pedophilia, war crimes, genocide, 3) You have a very low standard of proof. With the same standard proof, I have proof that you are a BBS terrorists.

                AJ
                March 8, 2017 at 2:09 am
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            Nonsense If they were terrorists then you are a worse terrorist

            Shrikharan
            March 7, 2017 at 5:50 am
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              shrik Poor response!

              Eusense
              March 7, 2017 at 9:31 pm
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          justice I am sure you too understand that one cannot every related incident in one comment. My above comment is about foreign judges. Please reread my comment.

          Native Vedda
          March 7, 2017 at 12:35 am
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  3. 2
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    The International agenda is part of the problem and NOT the solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict and post-conflict reconciliation problems. In Sri Lanka, the War Criminals need to be prosecuted for their Financial Crimes first, and the stage set for War Crimes investigations. Sri Lanka needs to prioritize and sequence and OWN its own justice and reconciliation process, which is right now directed by UN and Geneva. Sad thing is that international system works AGAINST Economic Justice and rights by distracting local people. UN International Ethnic conflict Entrepreneurs collude with the local Ethnic Entrepreneurs to keep racial and .ethnic conflicts going – part of the UN/ INGO HR circus to avoid the question of ECONOMIC RIGHTS AND JUSTICE for the Wretched of the Earth.

    Dodo
    March 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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    Jehan Perera is probably right. The ‘international’ community has bigger fish to fry these days, and the UN is on ‘best behaviour notice’ lest it annoys Trump further. All this mean that Sri Lanka’s luck will hold out, once again. A bit of restitution to the suffering in the north and east, some increase in economic activity too, and justice can, and will, once again, be shelved. In this way the GOSL will claim success at keeping out the foreigner, and we all go back to ‘business as usual’. And one day, a new generation will rise, to ask our children the same questions that we have postponed answering. As always, the children will suffer for the failings of their parents.

    Spring Koha
    March 6, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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  5. 3
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    “This is in the lifting of fear of a government which no lomger violates laws with impunity” What do you call keeping those arrested under the PTA in prison, for many years without filing charges in a court of law. Why are local state employees in the east being continuously ordered to report on the responses of the people about/against human rights violations? http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=38599 Why is the Prime Minister trying to erase records of Military Intelligence which may amount to war crimes? http://www.tamilnet.com/ “…………………………national judges with foreign expertise………………………….” This has been tried out earlier, and was sabotaged by the Attorney General’s department. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Independent_Group_of_Eminent_Persons What is the gurantee that this wont happen again ? What happened in Cambodia need not happen in Sri Lanka.

    justice
    March 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm
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      just ask the US gov. why they are still holding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Their answer is the same to your question on arrested under the PTA in prison in SL. Next, no body believes in what is reported in Tamilnet, which is the terrorist LTTE mouth piece. If it happens it is due to fake stories about human rights that are circulated by some separatist Tamils.

      Eusense
      March 6, 2017 at 10:03 pm
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        if you say nobody believes what is reported in Tamilnet, ow come Justice believes it then? I am not endorsing Tamilnet, just questioning your logic

        AJ
        March 7, 2017 at 2:50 am
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          aj Justice has Tiger spots.

          Eusense
          March 7, 2017 at 9:34 pm
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            If justice has it, how can you say nobody?

            AJ
            March 8, 2017 at 11:32 pm
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  6. 2
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    Did you enjoy the shopping expedition to Geneva and your Business class flights and your fancy hotels? Why are you still on the US Payroll? Why don’t you run for office as a UNPer to see if you can win first to make changes? You are just a derelict Colombo based windbag singing the US tune. Soon Eelam will happen because US will create it. They want bases in Ceylon

    Natasha
    March 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm
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  7. 4
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    Why DJ is boasting about Viyath Maga ? He wants MS to hood wink the UNHRC saying we have many professional judges who are members of the Viyath Maga and they are of the calibre of Sarath N Silva, Mohan Peries and few others ? RW, MS, DJ and number of thers wants to protect the Rajapakses and the armed forces at any cost. Victims have no recourse without Independent judges.

    Non PhD
    March 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm
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      Non PhD Victims have no recourse without Independent judges. Is there way, India helps Tamils to sue Sri lanka in Tamilnadu ?

      jim softy
      March 7, 2017 at 3:02 am
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    The sequence of events just to trigger ones memory is as follows. At first it was decided to have war crimes inquiry against Sri Lanka Military outside Sri Lanka with foreign judges During the election campaign for the past Presidential elections My3 assured the Tamil voters he does not want to harbor war criminals and if they are taken out for their part in crime during the war he will not protect them. They are the bad eggs who brought disrepute to the entire military and protecting these few criminalizes the entire military. The Rajapakse lost and My3 won the Presidential elections. It is because of the minority votes My3 won because of the such strong statements he had made against those who committed war crimes and many other attractive statements supporting the minorities. Then soon after coming to power My3 approached the UN or the like body and pleased not to have a totally International inquiry but to allow have a local inquiry into war crimes by military with the participation of foreign panel experts and judges. The buying that bait the UN accepted that compromise and went along with the request by Sri Lanka. After biting for time then Sri Lanka comes down strongly that there can be no way to have a (local) Inquiry with foreign judges and he would not allow his military to be prosecuted. He will only allow local judges without any foreign judges. He also goes on further mentioning Sri Lankan constitution doe not allow such a process. Exactly the only option quite clear now is cancel any local inquiry and have the entire inquiry and judgment and verdict outside Sri Lanka with totally foreign expert and judicial panel. Once again Sri Lanka is quite capable to try the same trick again pleading coming down on their knees and agreeing local inquiry mixed with local and foreign judges and again follow the same cycle to later deny it and waste everybody’s time as we have just experienced. The UN should not get duped again and stand rigidly behind only International inquiry with International judges outside Sri Lanka.

    Shrikharan
    March 6, 2017 at 10:26 pm
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      SL now saying that there is no way now to have a local inquiry after co-sponsoring a UN resolution in Geneva not long ago is exactly similar to the Navy spokesman denying that his Navy did not ” shoot to kill” the 22 year old Indian fisherman in the waters between India and Katchathivu last Friday. So from where did the fatal bullet injury to the fisherman’s neck come from to kill in mid ocean?

      Uthungan
      March 7, 2017 at 3:15 pm
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      Ranil signed for local inquiry in 2015 as it was the best way to buy time until he figure out a way in his China deals. After this, he is going to China to sign his deals. Ehelepola wanted to cheat the King’s judgments. He had acted against the King. So he sold the Kandy Kingdom to Whites and saved him only. Appe Aanuduwa’s past and present leaders are war criminals. Ranil wants to save the criminals by selling Hangbangtota and Lankawe to China. UNHRC was fooled buy these smart crooks.

      Mallaiyuran
      March 7, 2017 at 5:47 pm
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    [Edited out] Comments should not exceed 300 words.Please read our Comments Policy for further details.

    Richard
    March 7, 2017 at 12:14 am
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  10. 0
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    Jehan PhD has a witness with him, this time. He could not eat a mouth of food because Northerners are hungry. But, the diaspora is crying for Foreign Judges and lawyers! What are these Diaspora crowd are? “Aathai Padukira Paddukkai Kutthiyan Paalukkazhuthaanaam”. (In all the trouble the mom is having, the spoiled brat cried for milk) And, he says Sinhalese Don’t worry, we have the extension without Foreign Judges. What is the change here is, to substantiate Appe Anduwa, it seems Jehans PhD went, not Hakeem. 2009 May, Sampanthar said “we need solution right now, our people are devastated, we have to move forward, we are not interested in war crime inquiry at this juncture.”. Ambassador Blake reflected or echoed it. Where we now? No Land release, No prisoners release, No Army withdrawal, police brutality and murders continues, No solution, no development, no housing for IDPs, No jobs for IDP and rehabilitated youths. First of all NO Inquiry at all! So what did Sampanthar achieved? He got together with CBK and brought a government for Sinhalese that they don’t like! Why couldn’t Sampanthar talk about war crime inquiry from the begging? From it, by now, a solution would have come and IDP could have been resettled. Isn’t all the troubles are because Sampanthar agreed to put the Cart before the Horse? In the South Ranil is building highways and megalopolis. To pay the debt of, from DS’s Galoya Project to, through JR’s Mahaweli project up to Chinese Colombo Ping Cing, Tamil women’s’ Thalikodis were looted from 1958 by the Lankawe’s Anduwa. The poor upcountry Tamil women have been bringing the foreign exchange. For the first time “Koolukkum Paadi Kanchikkum Paadi” Jehan PhD is crying for Northerners’ food. What tricky of saving his master from the UN electric Chair.

    Mallaiyuran
    March 7, 2017 at 7:22 am
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  11. 1
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    “Those who have been victims of the war have yet to find redress. Those who have had their loved ones go missing, who have had their ancestral lands taken over, who languish in poverty without breadwinners and also those who want justice are all looking to Geneva to find redress that they are not receiving at home.” I am pretty sure Jehan talking ONLY about ONE particular group, the name of which he has INTENTIONALLY not mentioned in that paragraph, i.e. TAMIL. Even in Geneva he would have only talked about that group and no one else. Because for this bunch of NGO kaakkas, there are NO other victims (again because they don’t receive dollars talking about any other victim group). Even the high and mighty in Geneva wouldn’t have discussed about ANY other victim group An occupational necessity for these blood suckers………….

    Hela
    March 7, 2017 at 8:17 am
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    The question of involving foreign judges came in for various reasons of ground reality. When Prez. won the election, in his euphoria of victory and at the same time acceeding credit for the war victory, he assured to MR&Co as well as to the Military and the Sinhala masses who were still in victory mood, that he will not hand over the victorious leaders or the military to wheelchair or criminal court. He was not aware of the coming events! Later came in the cries of the Tamils for int.investigation for war crimes and the subsequent recommendation by the HC of UNHRC for a hybrid court followed by joint agreement of a local mechanism with foreign participation. Not only the victimized Tamils but also the whole country questions the credibility and independence of SL judicial system It is in this context transitional justice requires an int. component. Further the only way to make the military respectable is to weed out the few bad ones not by blankt-coring f the ol army with imunity!

    Father S.J:Emmanuel
    March 7, 2017 at 3:03 pm
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      “Father” SJ In the name of the holy spirit stay away from terrorism. There are Catholics who need spiritual help. You were ordained to be a spiritual leader not a terrorist leader for god’s sake! If you are going to be a terrorist or a terror supporter of suicide murderers give up you robe and stop using “Father” in front of your name.

      Eusense
      March 7, 2017 at 9:40 pm
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        Nonsense I am not sure of Father S.J:Emmanuel But same applies to most Buddhist monk wearing the robes they are up to all the mischief. We know what they did in Rajapkse’s time against the Muslims and even now. You tell these monks to be de-robed if not the entire Buddhist people have to take the blame.

        Shrikharan
        March 8, 2017 at 6:03 am
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        Can you tell Cardinal Malcolm to stay away from you, Butiqueen who leases ICRC trucks for murders and the other accused of war criminals? Were you in Weliweriya too?

        Mallaiyuran
        March 8, 2017 at 6:05 am
        Reply

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