Exerting pressure on time bound benchmarks set to fail | Daily News


FM Marapana rejects opening of OhCHR office in Colombo:

Exerting pressure on time bound benchmarks set to fail

The Sri Lankan delegation at the UNHRC in Geneva. (Picture courtesy Foreign Affairs Ministry)
The Sri Lankan delegation at the UNHRC in Geneva. (Picture courtesy Foreign Affairs Ministry)

Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana PC yesterday told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva that exerting pressure on time bound benchmarks to show quick results on decades old sensitive and complex issues is bound to be a failure.

The Foreign Affairs Minister stressed that the country should be encouraged and assisted in finding innovative and viable local mechanisms and processes which incorporates international best practices.

Marapana who led the Sri Lankan delegation at the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva said that Sri Lanka must set its priorities in addressing the well-being and sustainable peace for her people as a sovereign state.

The Minister emphasised that his country does not believe that there is justification for setting up of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Sri Lanka in developing transitional justice mechanisms.

However, the Minister said Sri Lanka welcomes the benefit extended by the expertise and support of the UN and OHCHR, and in particular technical assistance from the technical advisors of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non recurrence. Marapana was addressing the 40th session of UNHRC in Geneva on Agenda item 2, Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.

He said that Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving reconciliation and has made steady progress in pursuit of that objective.

“We have reported to this Council at consecutive sessions on the substantial progress made among others with regard civil and political rights, including advances with respect to freedom of expression and assembly, civil society consultation, establishment of a robust right to information framework, the strengthening of independence commissions etc,” he said.

Marapana added that Sri Lanka succeeded in establishing an Office of Missing Persons by law and the OMP is now fully operational.

“The Cabinet of Ministers is currently considering draft legislation to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commisison. In the area of justice, review of cases under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) have taken place and trials under the PTA have been expedited”, the Minister said.

He also apprised the council on Government’s efforts to replace PTA with proposed legislation for Counter Terrorism.The Minister said the Office for Reparation Act passed by parliament in October 2018, has provided for the establishment of an Office of Reparation.

“Sri Lanka believes that this council knows only too well the comparative experiences of countries which have traversed the pat of post conflict transition and reconciliation.These countries have often made deliberate efforts to maintain a careful balance between the speed of the transitional justice process and the desired quality, inclusiveness, comprehensiveness and sustainability of the outcomes.

“This is particularly true for countries like Sri Lanka where unlike in certain other post conflict situations, the challenge is not one of State building but of peace building.The Government of Sri Lanka is committed to finding effective and culturally sensitive and viable practices of healing and social coexistence. He said 66.100 houses have been constructed and handed over to the civilians in the North in the aftermath of the conflict to up to 2018.

“In 2019 work commenced on the construction of 4,750 houses on an owner driven model and it is anticipated that this programme would be completed by June, 2019”, he said.

“With reference to the concern on the alleged destruction of property before return, it needs to be categorically stated that there is no such government policy. On the contrary the security forces have dismantled military infrastructure before the handover in the interest of the safety and facilitation for civilians”, he said

Minister Marapana referring to the Carbon dating findings on the skeleton remains found at the Mannar mass grave site said that demonstrates that allegations and mere collection of data should not be prejudged to cast unjustified aspersions.

“Having been facilitated through the OMP, the test results obtained from a USA laboratory have revealed that the skeletal remains date back to 1499-1719 AD, a period when Sri Lanka was largely under European colonial rule,”he said.

“It also amply demonstrates the need for allegations to always be subject to the due process of investigation in accordance with established legal procedures and not be hastily credited to support unfounded assumptions”, he said. Sri Lankan delegation included MP Dr.Sarath Amunugama and Northern Province Governor Dr.Suren Raghavan and Foreign Secretary Ravinath Aryasinhe.

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