Gota denies Paranagama Commission findings of ‘missing’ persons | Daily News


 

Dodges key questions in first press conference :
Acknowledges military leadership of Sarath Fonseka :

Gota denies Paranagama Commission findings of ‘missing’ persons

SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader and SLPP Chairman Mahinda Rajapaksa at the press conference yesterday. Picture by Wasitha Patabendige.
SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader and SLPP Chairman Mahinda Rajapaksa at the press conference yesterday. Picture by Wasitha Patabendige.

Even as he dodged questions about enforced disappearances and missing surrendees at the end of the war, SLPP presidential candidate and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday for the first time acknowledged that the military leadership for the victory over the LTTE was given by Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. At his first press conference since the nomination for presidency, Rajapaksa struggled to answer tough questions by the large number of journalists at the venue in the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo.

Challenged repeatedly about the large number of missing persons during the final stages of the war and about accountability for the LTTE cadre surrendees, the former Defence Secretary who had previously claimed credit for the military victory, denied any role in the management of the victory and its outcome and appeared to be trying to pass the blame on to the Army’s high command.

When pressed further about the administration of the aftermath of the war and the large number of detainees and missing persons, Rajapaksa claimed credit for the rehabilitation of the 13,000 plus rehabilitated LTTE cadres but could not reply questions about the missing persons.

When journalists pointed out that the Paranagama Commission, appointed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government had itself listed the missing persons, the former Defence Secretary firmly denied the Commission findings.

Q: What happened to the people who surrendered to the security forces since you were leading the military at that time? Could you please tell us what happened to the people who surrendered? Where are they?

A: You are mistaken I think, I was not leading the Army.

Q: Your brother was?

A: No! No! The Army was led by the Army commander

Q: You were the defence secretary, what will you tell the people who ask that question?

A: About 13,784 surrendered and they were rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. They were given employment in the Civil Security Force and some of them were recruited in the military as well. We had one of the most successful rehabilitation programmes. Even foreign observers commended our programmes.

Q: Does that mean that there are no missing persons?

A: Even in the military, over 4,000 officers and soldiers went missing during the war in the battlefield. Once, I went to Jaffna Fort and even we couldn’t recover the bodies of the military personnel. People are missing. Similarly a number of soldiers are missing.

Q: Some say those who surrendered did not return? So are they lying?

A: No! Somebody can say that but that is an allegation. We had a commission on this. There were no cases like that.

Q: Even the Paranagama Commission of your time said there were such cases

A: I don’t think so.

Q: It was said that various census and statistics surveys were conducted which came out with numbers. What was the process that you had in mind to carry this forward?

A: You are talking all the time about the past. Ask about the future. If you concentrate on the future, it is better I think.

Q: But can you move on without addressing the past?

A: Yeah sure, can move on.

Asked about the UN Human Rights Council resolutions currently being implemented by the Government, Gotabaya Rajapaksa repeatedly described the UNHCR resolutions as “illegal”, but said that if elected to power he would work with the UN and human rights organisations in resolving contentious issues.

The 30/1 UN resolution titled, ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ was co-sponsored by the present Sri Lankan government and adopted in 2015

“We will work with UN and Human Rights organisations as well in solving issues but the resolution is not something we signed,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.

Rajapaksa said they had a system to promote accountability during the previous Rajapaksa government’s tenure but it was replaced by the incumbent government.

“We took many measures to promote accountability. We did a survey to record the number of people missing including the LTTErs. Correct numbers were produced but unfortunately, without even coming here, some produced their own numbers. There are ambiguous documents in this area. We will follow up and discuss,” Rajapaksa said.

When asked about the burden of foreign debt, Rajapaksa turned to his brother. Former President and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa for the response. Former President Rajapaksa as well Opposition political ally parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa both replied the question stating that the country’s economy would be strengthened to provide the growth needed to meet the external financial burden.

The SLPP candidate however spoke at length about his plans to boost agriculture and the rural economy and also stressed the importance of technology and education to enable the economy to meet global market challenges.

When asked about the rights of ethnic minorities, however, the presidential candidate emphasised the need for economic upliftment of minority areas.

 

 

 


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