The credibility of Sri Lanka in relation to the settlement of the 60 year old ethnic problem of Tamils can be judged from the fate of several pacts, agreements and undertakings which were made from 1956 to 2009 and the Sri Lankan Governments unwillingness to comply with the implementation of its own undertakings:- LLRC [Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission] recommendations: The August 1 2015 UNHRC Resolution 30/1 and its delaying tactics in implementing the recent similar Resolution in March 2017.
This article tries to detail the failing credibility of Sri Lanka since then particularly after the Human Rights Resolution on October 1st 2015. This was a resolution adopted with the blessings of United Nations Human Rights Council and sponsored by USA with Sri Lanka being a co-sponsor. By co-sponsoring the resolution Sri Lanka unequivocally and fully committed itself to implement all the recommendations mentioned in the Resolution. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe defended the Resolution and even vigorously justified the “establishment of a Sri Lankan Judicial Mechanism including the Special Counsel’s Office of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorised prosecutors and investigators.”
These recommendations can be described as the corner stone of this resolution aimed to fulfill the targeted commitments of “accountability, justice and reconciliation”. Earlier Sri Lanka successfully killed the proposal mooted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who recommended a “Hybrid court integrating foreign judges etc” and get the international mechanism with foreign jurist’s participation.
Having fully committed to implement this Resolution Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena defended all the recommendations and PM Ranil even stated that there have been instances where foreign lawyers have participated and contributed their skills and knowledge in the legal proceedings in Sri Lanka like the appearance of Mr. Quass, QC in the former Prime Minister Bandaranaike assassination case in 1960. There were instances when eminent Sri Lankan lawyers have served as judges in foreign countries particularly in Africa. It is to be stated that the Sri Lankan constitution does not in any of its section prohibit the participation of any foreign judges. What is not prohibited can be allowed provided the modalities of appointments are followed involving the President and/or Judicial Service Commission as required.
It is relevant to quote the confusing and conflicting statements made by Government Ministers including the Prime Minister and the President in relation to the judicial mechanism and investigation.
On January 11th 2015: Rajitha Senevaratne – The Government Spokesperson stated: “That Sri Lanka’s new Government will not hand over anyone to an international inquiry investigating allegation of war crimes”.
On February rd3, 2015: Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera- In an interview to ‘Swarajya’ said “We hope to have technical assistance from United Nations even perhaps judges from Commonwealth”.
On June 7th 2015: Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe – Vowed to set up a credible domestic mechanism.
On August 24th 2015: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – In an interview with Hindu stated that “There is no legal basis for international investigation within Sri Lanka adding that any accountability mechanism has to be domestic in nature.”
On January 29th 2016: President Sirisena – In an interview with Al-Jazeera stated that “We definitely do not need outsiders. He also insisted that Sri Lanka was not being investigated for war crimes, but rather allegations of human rights”.
On January 31st: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said: If we are to permit foreign judges to sit in judgement then our constitution has to be amended with the consent of the people at a referendum” [News Radio US]
On February 20th 2016: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – While in India at Guruvayur stated that “We may not have the full expertise to identify the exact factors that led to the casualties, so international participation is welcome for determining such cases”.
On February 2016: foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera – In an event at US Institute of Peace in Washington said that “The previous statements of the Prime Minister Ranil and the President Sirisena was their opinion and the final decision would be taken after wide consultation with all stake holders”
On July 8th 2016: President Sirisena – Stated that “As long as I am the President; I will not allow foreigners or organizations to interfere in the internal affairs”. [Ceylon News]
On July 15th 2016: General Sarath Fonseka – said that “Government had agreed to allow foreign monitors and obtain international technical assistance and the government was not in favour of including foreign judges”. [Daily Mirror]
On January 6th 2017: Minister of Justice – said that “He had no confidence in the Consultation Task Force [CTF] which called for a judicial mechanism with foreign involvement”. [Daily Mirror]
On January 7th 2017: State Minister Laxman Yapa – said “Only logistical and technical assistance would be obtained.” [Daily Mirror]
President Sirisena commenting on Consultation Task Force [CTF] expressed his disapproval of most of its recommendations including hybrid court and independent investigations into war Crimes.