The Sunday Leader

Govt Confident Of Facing Geneva Challenge – Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

By Rasika Jayakody

While some believe that the Government is heading towards the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva on a relatively rugged path, Chief Government Whip and senior Cabinet Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the Government is confident about successfully countering the Geneva challenge that would emerge in March.

“The Government has taken measures to follow up the resolutions that have already been passed at the UNHRC and is working towards improving our conditions. Therefore, the Government has no reason to panic about the outcome of the UNHRC session in March. We are confident that we can convince the international community of the progress we have made on many fronts in terms of the human rights situation and reconciliation,” the Minister said.

He also added that the Government is on a mission to raise awareness of the members of the international community on the ground reality of Sri Lanka. Minister Gunawardena said the government has embarked on this process in the face of strong lobbying carried out by pro-LTTE elements. Speaking on India’s stand, he said the Government was hopeful that India would support Sri Lanka at the next UNHRC session as nothing has marred the friendly relations between the two countries.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: What outcome do you foresee from the March UNHRC session in Geneva?
A: The Government has taken measures to follow up the resolutions that have already been passed at the UNHRC and working towards improving our conditions. Therefore, the Government has no reason to panic about the outcome of the UNHRC session in March. We are confident that we can convince the international community of the progress we have made on many fronts in terms of the human rights situation and reconciliation. If you take the Northern Province, the economy has been developed and democratic institutions have been established. The Northern Provincial Council election was held on time and the Tamil National Alliance is now running the provincial administration.

The Government, too, within its framework, is taking measures to improve the living standards of the people. In this context, I do not think anyone can point fingers at the Government saying Sri Lanka has gone slow on human rights and reconciliation.

Q: Do you think Sri Lanka’s endeavours to establish friendships among member nations will produce positive results at the UNHRC session?
A: In fact, Sri Lanka has been on a mission to raise awareness of the members of the international community whether or not they are member nations of the Human Rights Council. One should be mindful of the fact that this mission was carried out in a backdrop where pro-LTTE elements were lobbying strongly against Sri Lanka, cooking up various stories to tarnish the image of the country.

Q: It is a widely held perception that, without any substantial measures taken in the direction of reconciliation, the Government is facing the UNHRC session on a relatively bad wicket. What is your take on this?
A: I disagree with that statement. There are cynics and detractors who paint a wrong picture about the entire situation. They have a collateral agenda. As I said earlier, holding the Northern Provincial Council election alone is a significant achievement. In addition to that, measures have been taken to resolve matters with regard to land rights in the North. Normalcy has been restored in the former war-torn areas and people can now move about freely. The Government has also embarked on the implementation of LLRC recommendations.

Q: India voted against Sri Lanka at the last two resolutions. Is the Government in a position to expect India’s support this year?
A: We need to understand that there are strong lobby groups who want to drive India away from us. We hope that India would understand the real developments in Sri Lanka and stand by its closest neighbour.

Q: Do you think hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting would stand in favour of Sri Lanka at the UNHRC session?
A: CHOGM gave us the opportunity to interact with leaders of other nations and make them aware of the ground level developments in Sri Lanka. They themselves realized that the Government is committed to ensure freedom and democratic rights of all ethnicities. They travelled across the country and got to know the success story of Sri Lanka.

Q: Many are of the view that an international probe into human rights violation allegations against Sri Lanka will materialize following the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva. What do you think?
A: An international inquiry is necessary if the government is hiding information and keeping the international community in the dark about the situation in Sri Lanka.
The Government has been open and fully transparent from the very outset. We have created a situation where anyone can visit Sri Lanka and observe the developments on the ground. We have facilitated access to information and the world has not been kept in the dark on what is happening in Sri Lanka.

3 Comments for “Govt Confident Of Facing Geneva Challenge – Minister Dinesh Gunawardena”

  1. Malin

    Earlier Minister Keheliya R and now Minister Dinesh G who boast saying that they are ready to face the challenge at UNHRC in March. The GoSL ministers said the same thing in previous occasions and we lost the case except in 2009. So , can you guys stop boasting and be pro-active and do something constructive to meet the challenge, else the result will be as same as previous years.

  2. As Malin said govt: ministers think they can have a positive outcome, BUT countries like USA, Canada,UK & EU are not convinced.

    Further more all of the above countries have a substantial population of Tamils living there. Their VOTE is the deciding factor & UNLESS GOSL act with concrete proposals & do A VERY SMART selling job, the outcome may not what GOSL will receive.
    Thak you …….J

  3. Tomsamusa

    Ignorance is bliss.
    Pause mafia is exploiting the sinking island

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