Sri Lanka would have faced economic sanctions from the US and EU countries if the Rajapaksa regime had been in power today, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said addressing both foreign and local media in Colombo yesterday.
Speaking for the first time after the release of the much anticipated report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Sri Lankan war, Samaraweera said that broken promises by the former Rajapaksa regime had led to a possible international intervention on issues which otherwise could have been solved locally.
The 300-page OHCHR report, among other things, called on the Sri Lankan government to set up a “hybrid special court” with international judges and investigators to investigate the crimes against humanity committed during the war and bring the perpetrators to the justice.
Blaming the Rajapaksa regime for the present imbroglio Samaraweera said soon after the war ended in 2009 the government made a Joint Statement with the UN at the conclusion of the UN Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka, promising to take certain steps including on accountability.
Soon after Samaraweera said that Sri Lanka proposed a Resolution in the UN Human Rights Council containing a series of measures to be taken by Sri Lanka including investigating war crimes charges and punishing those responsible.
Samaraweera said that the resolution which also included the endorsement of the Joint Statement between the Government and the UN was hailed by the rulers at the time as a great victory achieved by the government.
In the immediate aftermath of this so-called victory, the government appointed the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation which made a series of recommendations for implementation.
However Samaraweera said that the Previous Rajapaksa regime had failed to keep the promises it made and also in a childish attempt to cover up blunders and drag the issue the government had kept repeating one lie after the other, to both the locals as well as the international community.
He said that Coupled with the general breakdown of the rule of law and democracy in the country over the years led to the call by the Human Rights Council in March 2014, for an international investigation on Sri Lanka.
Samaraweera pointed out that the new government which came to office after the victory of President Sirisena on January 08 had been able to convince the UN to postpone the release of the report from March to September.
If Rajapaksa’s had been in power Samaraweera said that the report would have been released in March as scheduled and by now economic sanctions could have been in force against Sri Lanka.
While pointing out that the US and EU countries are the recipients of over 50% of Sri Lanka’s exports Samaraweera said that if sanctions had been imposed it would have severely affected the local economy.
As an overwhelming volume of Sri Lanka’s apparel exports are sent to these countries Samaraweera said that sanctions would have resulted in over 500,000 apparel workers losing their jobs.
Meanwhile speaking on actions that Sri Lanka will initiate Samaraweera said the government was planning to set up a domestic mechanism to probe the human right violations committed during the war by next month and finish within 18 months.
In a clear indication that the government would reject the UNHRC proposal to set up Hybrid courts with international judges and prosecutors Samaraweera said the government was confident of obtaining international support for a domestic inquiry.
He added that international experts could play a role in technical and advisory capacities in the domestic mechanism.
Minister Samaraweera noted that the report submitted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the 30th session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a well-balanced and unbiased document.