The Sunday Leader

“We Need The Support Of The International Community,” Neomal Perera

  • Sri Lanka’s Deputy External Affairs Minister

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Neomal Perara

The Sri Lankan government has agreed with India to implement the 13th Amendment according to the wishes and aspirations of the people in the country, Deputy External Affairs Minister Neomal Perera said. In a telephone interview with The Sunday Leader, Minister Perera observed that it was important to have a good dialogue when re-building relations with the international community, which the government has now commenced.
According to Minister Perera, the diplomatic community and the Sri Lankan government are now looking positively at the future and the country ‘needs’ the support of the international community.

Excerpts:

Q: How effective has Sri Lanka been in its campaign to garner support from foreign countries against the UN advisory panel report?
A:
The Sri Lankan government has responded to questions posed by the international community. The government formed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to respond to the concerns raised by the international community while also initiating the process of reconciliation. We now have regular briefings with the diplomatic community in the country. These briefings are attended by key state officials who could respond to all the questions posed by the heads of foreign missions in the country. We keep the international community informed and therefore most of their doubts have been addressed. The diplomatic community and the Sri Lankan government are now looking positively to the future. Foreign missions were not properly briefed by the government due to elections and various other reasons. However, the situation has now changed.

Q: The role of the External Affairs Ministry has been subjected to much scrutiny over the report with claims made that the country’s foreign service and level of diplomacy has been ineffective. How do you respond?
A:
There have been short comings. They are now being addressed. New ambassadors have been appointed to some of the main missions overseas. The new appointees include Foreign Service members and prominent politicians and businessmen. These new appointments would help address the shortcomings.

Q: Has External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris agreed with the Indian government that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution would be fully implemented as the first step towards a political solution?
A:
The Indian government wants to see a solution to the ethnic issue soon. The implementation of the 13th Amendment has been discussion for a long time. The amendment was suitable to the country, at the time it was agreed upon by the governments of Sri Lanka and India. The Minister has agreed to implement the 13th Amendment according to the wishes and aspirations of the people in the country at present. The areas that have not been implemented like land and police powers and the formation of a senate are currently under discussion. What is important is that the amendment would be implemented in a manner that would suit all citizens in the country.

Q: Nevertheless, India has still not made a clear statement on the advisory panel report on Sri Lanka?
A:
India believes that it is an internal issue. They are supportive of Sri Lanka. As has been stated, most of the content in the report is biased. However, some recommendations made by the report have also been recommended by the LLRC in its interim report.

Q: What are the powerful countries that have so far extended their support to Sri Lanka?
A:
When you say ‘powerful’, all countries have a vote. Therefore, every country is powerful. However, only five countries have the power to veto a motion in the Security Council and two of the countries – Russia and China – have said Sri Lanka needs to deal with the matters internally without any external forces. According to the UN system, if one country vetoes, there cannot be an international inquiry against the respective country.

Q: The UN has agreed to view footage by Channel 4 that show war crimes alleged to have been committed in Sri Lanka. Has the Sri Lankan government objected to the move?
A:
We have objected saying there is no evidence to prove the allegations. The faces of the people who are allegedly involved in committing the war crimes during the final stages of the war as shown in the video are not visible. The clarity of the footage is questionable and it is obvious that the incidents have been filmed with an ulterior motive. Otherwise, there is no reason as to why the faces of the persons allegedly committing the crimes are not visible in the footage. The footage that is being shown could have been filmed any where. These are all media reports that need to be investigated.

Q: But why has the UN not paid attention to the objections raised by the Sri Lankan government?
A:
A complaint can be lodged with the UN and the organization would then look into the matter and investigate.

Q: What progress has the country made in re-building relations with the international community?
A:
It is important to have a good dialogue when re-building relations with the international community. We have started that process and going ahead with it. The government is committed to continue with the process of maintaining a good dialogue with the foreign missions in Sri Lanka and keeping them informed of the developments in the country. Through this dialogue we hope to also get the international community involved in the development of the country’s economy.

Q: How confident is Sri Lanka when facing accusations on human rights violations or war crimes before the international community?
A:
If there was evidence of any crimes, the government would definitely take action against them. During the humanitarian operation, the government and military were focused on targeting zero casualties. However, there are casualties in a war. But if there are any issues, the government is definitely prepared to face them.

Q: Would it not be wise for the government to hold an inquiry into these allegations without waiting for the international community to level accusations?
A:
Following the end of the war in 2009, the Sri Lankan government commenced a mechanism to investigate the happenings during the war and to work towards a path to reconciliation. The LLRC was appointed for the purpose. Therefore the process is taking place and is on-going. The international community needs to be a little patient until the process is concluded. We need the support of the international community and don’t want to be isolated.

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