Ban Ki-Moon To Be Updated With Post-War Developments
Opposition Extends Support For Strong Rebuttal Of Panel Report Findings
Making a statement on behalf of the government on the report of the panel appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the relationship between Sri Lanka and the United Nations system, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris assured that Ban Ki-moon will be updated with the accomplishments and other related developments in post-war Sri Lanka in due course.
This happens to be the first time that the government declared its position after the publishing of the panel report.
“This not a report of the United Nations and to call it a UN document or a UN Panel is a basic misnomer. This is only a private initiative on the part of the Secretary-General, who has selected three persons in whom he has confidence and asked them to advise him on certain matters: international best practice, comparative experience and process-related issues. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has repeatedly emphasised that this is only an Advisory Panel — it has no investigative power; it is not a fact-finding body. This panel has now submitted its report to Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. I would also like to say that this report has been carefully studied by us and we find ourselves unfortunately not able to agree with the report with regard to any of the matters discussed in it,” said Minister Peiris.
He explained that the report does the gravest possible damage to the very delicate reconciliation process that the government has put in motion to put behind the pain and the anguish of the past. “The wounds are now healing. We do not want to exacerbate tensions. Unfortunately the report accentuates the dividing lines between the Sinhala and the Tamil communities. It revisits certain incidents in a spirit of rancour and acrimony. It does not help the healing process. This is a time of rapprochement. Regrettably, the report sets about its task in a manner that is detrimental to this sensitive reconciliation process that is now underway in our country with a dawn of stable peace,” he added.
“It was also pointed out that the process followed by the panel is fundamentally flawed. In as many as five places in the report, they state categorically that they have not embarked on any investigation nor do they have the authority to investigate. Having insisted on that, they then come to the conclusion that there are credible allegations against the Government of Sri Lanka. How can you come to the conclusion that there are credible allegations without investigating? How have they investigated? In a grossly unfair manner, in a manner that does violence to basic norms of procedural fairness and basic justice, they tell us that they have spoken to people that they consider trustworthy. There have been consultations within the UN system. Some of the people who made these representations have asked that the representations be treated with utmost confidence. The panel then tells us that they consulted the office of Legal Affairs in the United Nations system and they have now decided to characterise almost all the representations, which they received as strictly confidential, with the result that nobody in the world can have access to this material for a period of 20 long years.
“I spoke to the Secretary-General by telephone last Sunday from Oman. We had a very cordial conversation. Now, the report was submitted to the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General in due course published the report. At the time of publication, the Secretary-General made a very important statement. He said, ‘This report has been submitted to me. I am not proposing at this time any further action in the absence of any request by the Government of Sri Lanka and in the absence of any authority conferred upon me by the Member States of the United Nations through the proper organs of the UN system,’ by which he means principally, the Security Council. So, that is a public statement by the Secretary-General. He has said that very clearly, ‘Sri Lanka has not approached me; the Member States have not made any request on me.’ And, there the matter rests. That was the clearly articulated position of the Secretary-General at the time he brought the report into the public domain.
“We are a member of the world community; far be it from us to entertain any thought of living in isolation in the contemporary world. Therefore, we will, of course, work with the UN system; we will share information with them; we will communicate with them; that is our duty and that is very much in the interest of the people of Sri Lanka. For that reason, I will write to the Secretary-General giving him some information that he requires at this moment. We are communicating with the Secretary-General of the UN system. In my communication, on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka with the Secretary-General of the UN system, I will indicate what we have done up to now since the cessation of hostilities; what do we propose to do in the future; what is the trajectory that we envision. In that regard, I would like to emphasise to this House that the accomplishments of the President and the Government of Sri Lanka during the last few months go far beyond the national situation,” added Minister Peiris.
In response the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe said: “The United National Party issued a statement on 20th April 2011 before the Panel Report was published on 26th April 2011. We made it clear that we will whole-heartedly extend our cooperation to the government in respect of all genuine efforts to uphold our sovereignty and democracy. The present situation is perhaps the single most difficult position we have faced externally since the airdrops of 1987. In whatever we do, we, as a responsible party in the Opposition are committed to putting the country first. I do not intend to make political debating points on a partisan basis. The stakes are too high for this. We need to be unified and dignified in our response to what is a major challenge to our nation. That is why I appointed a Study Group of balanced and competent professionals to evaluate the findings of the panel and give me their considered views on the Advisory Report.”
“It is also necessary for Sri Lanka to respond, where appropriate with strong rebuttal to the Panel Report. Remaining silent is no longer an option; the Secretary General’s statement has left room for that. The UN Secretary General and the Sri Lanka Government have divergent views on the Panel Report. Therefore the Secretary General must ensure that appropriate weightage is given to Sri Lanka Government’s response during this dialogue. The Government of India has issued a statement that they will engage with the Government of Sri Lanka on the issues contained in this report. This is welcome. We must maintain good relations with our neighbours. I also wish to go on record here that Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Convention of the International Criminal Court. During my tenure as Prime Minister I declined to sign this Convention. Therefore, citizens of this country cannot be prosecuted for war crimes in the International Criminal Court,” added the Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe.