By Chandani Kirinde
All eyes will be on Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena as he addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council today(Feb 26), in a statement expected to announce Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from Resolution 30/1 and others presented after 2015, as well as outline the path ahead on engagement with the UN and other agencies to promote reconciliation and address accountability concerns.
Minister Gunawardena, who is leading Sri Lanka’s delegation to the 43rd session of the UNHRC, left for Geneva on Monday. He will address the UNHRC session today, where he will announce Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of Resolution 40/1 of March 2019, which also incorporates and builds on preceding resolutions 30/1, of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2014.
Minister Gunawardena will also meet with UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on Friday to brief her on Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of the UNHRC Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, official sources said yesterday.
The Government has said it will announce its intention to work towards the closure of the Resolution, in cooperation with members of the UN. Minister Gunawardena told Parliament last week that the Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will continue to work with the UN and its agencies, including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanism, and seek capacity building and technical assistance as required, in keeping with domestic properties and polices and work towards achieving sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically-designed and -executed reconciliation and accountability process.
Meanwhile, a review of the progress made on the Sri Lanka Resolution which the Government co-sponsored will be made at the Council’s meeting on Thursday.
In its resolution 30/1, the Human Rights Council requested Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, and in its resolution 40/1, the Council also requested OHCHR to present a written update to the Council, at its forty-third session. The Council will consider the written update of OHCHR on Thursday.
In an Advance Unedited Version of the OHCHR’s written update released last week , the Commissioner noted that some progress has been made by Sri Lanka in promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in line with resolution 30/1, but the inability of the Government to deal comprehensively with impunity and to reform institutions, may trigger the recurrence of human rights violations and urged the full implementation of resolution 30/1, considering that the commitments under it remain essential to achieve the peaceful society and sustainable development aspired to by people from all communities in Sri Lanka.
“Many of the commitments in resolution 30/1 originated in Sri Lanka’s domestic process, notably the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission established by the Government during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and elaborated further in a comprehensive civil society-led national consultation that involved all stakeholders, including the military . The commitments in resolution 30/1 reflect the aspirations of all communities seeking to overcome the legacy of decades of armed conflict, terrorism and authoritarianism,” the Commissioner’s report said.
The Sri Lanka Delegation to the current Session includes State Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Additional Secretary to the President Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage, Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, Director General of the UN and Human Rights Division of Ministry of Foreign Relations M.R.K. Lenagala, Senior State Counsel Kanishka Balapatabendi, Brigadier E.S. Jayasundara from the Ministry of Defence and Coordinating Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Relations Subash Sri Wijethunga.
Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva Dayani Mendis and relevant staff will join the delegation during the session and meetings.
During his stay in Geneva, Minister Gunawardena will also meet with the Director Generals of the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).