Lanka PM Wickremesinghe, President Sirisena at loggerheads over war crime probes

The statement stands in contrast with President Sirisena's comments on Wednesday that he would send his own team to the UNHRC session later this month to seek a reprieve.

Published: 07th March 2019 04:25 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2019 04:25 PM   |  A+A-

Sri Lankan President Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe

By PTI

COLOMBO: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday appeared to be on collision course with President Maithripala Sirisena over Sri Lanka's commitment to the UNHRC on war-time atrocities against Tamils as he reiterated the government's commitment to implementing the UN resolution.

The Prime Minister's Office in a joint statement with the Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Sri Lanka will continue to demonstrate its commitment and determination towards a steady and long-lasting reconciliation process through a co-sponsored resolution.

It said the government will seek an extension of the timeline of the UHRC resolution 30/1 of October 01, 2015, through a co-sponsored roll-over resolution at the ongoing 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The statement stands in contrast with President Sirisena's comments on Wednesday that he would send his own team to the UNHRC session later this month to seek a reprieve.

He said the UN must allow Sri Lanka to resolve its own issues without digging into past.

The Foreign Ministry statement said that Sri Lanka's co sponsoring of the resolution had attested to the country's ownership of the implementation process and to its continued policy of constructive engagement and dialogue with the UN and bilateral partners.

The UNHRC resolutions since 2013 had censured Sri Lanka on its alleged human rights abuses.

They called for probing of rights abuses by both LTTE and the government troops by setting up an international investigation.

The current session is expected to review Sri Lanka's progress since the resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka along with the US in 2015.

Although Sri Lanka has taken some steps to implement the resolution, the Tamil community has complained about the slow speed and the inadequacy of the progress.

Taking a U-turn on Sri Lanka's pledges to the UNHRC over war-time atrocities against Tamils, Sirisena said the country needs "space" to settle its own problems "without interference" over the issue.

Sirisena, who after coming to power in January 2015 had pledged to ensure accountability for war-time abuses, said Sri Lanka had moved on after the end of the separatist war now for over 10 years.

"We need space to settle our own problems without interference," Sirisena said.

His team would be appealing on behalf of the government at the UN rights body.

Sirisena sending his own men, who are not ministers, adds an interesting dimension to the issue as he and his Prime Minister Wickremesinghe are clashing with each other over the issue of governance.

In October last year, Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe in a move seen as unconstitutional.

The prime minister was later restored after the Supreme Court intervened.

The government has come under fire from the main opposition for agreeing to co- sponsor the resolution.

The government's defense has been that this strategy will prevent international war crimes allegations being continuously levelled against Sri Lankans through strengthened ownership of the implementation process.

The Tamil groups, however, remain disgruntled that even after four years of the current government who pledged redress for Tamil grievances had achieved very little in its reconciliation agenda.

The Tamil parties have called for the setting up of a UN rights body office in Sri Lanka to monitor the progress.

They urge that the government should not be given any more time to implement the resolution.

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