Sri Lanka will request more time at the UN Human Rights Council Session that convenes later this month, to implement the October 2015 resolution calling on the Government to establish mechanisms to deal with post-war reconciliation and justice for major rights abuses during the war.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said he would travel to Geneva on 27 February to address the UNHRC, to tell the Council that the Government needed more time to make good on its transitional justice commitments as outlined in the resolution it co-sponsored in 2015.
“Obviously we need more time,” the Foreign Minister told Foreign Correspondents in Colombo on Tuesday night, adding that the extended timeline would not be “forever”.
Minister Samaraweera pledged that there would not be a U-turn on the Government’s reconciliation and justice commitments but sticking to the same metaphor he admitted that there could be “detours” from time to time.
“But the destination remains the same,” he asserted during the meeting.
The Foreign Minister admitted that progress on reconciliation and accountability had not proceeded as fast as it should have.
“Some Sinhalese nationalists think we are moving too fast, some Tamil nationalists believe we are moving too slow, but we are trying to adopt the policy of festina lente – to make haste slowly,” Minister Samaraweera said, adopting a favourite Latin phrase he has used previously when addressing the UNHRC in Geneva.
The Minister, who has consistently championed human rights and reconciliation issues despite waning support for the moves within his own Government, vowed that Sri Lanka’s post-conflict truth-seeking and justice efforts were not motivated by international pressure but by a duty towards its own citizens.
Responding to questions about whether the Government would proceed with transitional justice efforts even when positions on human rights and international intervention may have shifted in the US and Britain – countries that were the main architects of resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, Samaraweera responded: “Even if they don’t insist, we insist.”
“While what we have left to do is daunting, what we have already achieved is remarkable, against all odds,” he said.
A progress report on the UNHRC resolution adopted by consensus in October 2015 is due at the Council’s March 2017 session. A report by the High Commissioner of Human Rights, who has been tasked by the Council to support, monitor and assist reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka, is also due this month.
Courtesy: Daily FT