By Chandani Kirinde
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday hit out at the resolution pending before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Sri Lanka, calling it a political move by the core group of countries and not one put forward to assist the country in its efforts to address accountability and human rights-related issues.
“The resolution refers a great deal to the internal day-to-day affairs of the Government, such as running a department or a ministry, or appointments given to public officials, and ignores the progress Sri Lanka has made in the last few years on human rights and related issues. The core group of countries have been preoccupied since the election victory of the President and subsequently of the government. This is a political resolution,” Gunawardena told the Daily FT.
He said it was particularly unfortunate that the United Kingdom as a country that heads the Commonwealth is being unfriendly to Sri Lanka and sponsoring a resolution on another Commonwealth member nation.
The resolution on Sri Lanka sponsored by the group consisting of the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Canada, Malawi, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, will be taken up for voting on Monday (22 March) at the 47-member Council in Geneva. The Government has strongly opposed the move and is seeking support among member countries to stop it from being adopted.
Gunawardena said that the core group had been determined to bring a resolution on Sri Lanka from the beginning and are not concerned if it is right or wrong. “There is a pattern in the HRC of pitting the global south against the global north,” he said.
Gunawardena said the UNHRC is surpassing its mandate by trying to pass a country specific resolution. “This is a bad precedent. Today it will be Sri Lanka, next day it will be another country.”
The Minister said the Government has been speaking to different countries to explain its position. He said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has spoken with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where several topics including the UNHRC resolution was discussed.
“India will not do anything unjust towards Sri Lanka,” Gunawardena added. India is a member of the UNHRC but has remained non-committal so far on its position with regard to the resolution on Sri Lanka.
Gunawardena said Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who will leave for Bangladesh today to attend the country’s Independence Day celebrations, will also hold talks with leaders of several countries also in attendance and seek their support.
Gunawardena reiterated that even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of UN Resolution 30/1 last February, the country would continue to engage with UN agencies.
“Sri Lanka has always kept its doors open for visits by the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Special Rapporteurs and other officials. We work with almost all UN agencies and we have our troops serving with the UN Peacekeeping Force in several countries.”
Gunawardena added that the government remains committed to addressing accountability and human rights issues domestically. “We have made budgetary allowances to the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and the Office of Reparations, and the President has instructed that their work be expedited.”