The Sunday Leader

Lots Of Lapses In Missing Person’s Commission Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

By Waruni Karunarathne

Many civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the country have been pushing for a credible investigation to probe into alleged war crimes and human rights issues in order to move towards a meaningful reconciliation. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives said that civil society organizations as well as the international community are waiting to see how the government will respond to the content of the report that is to be 

presented at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
sessions in September.

Following are excerpts of the interview:


Q: How would you describe the current state of human rights in Sri Lanka?

A: The current state of human rights in the country requires a lot of steps to redress the culture of impunity. However, implementation of law with regard to human rights is a lot better than it was before the 8th of January. But a number of important steps has to be taken to ensure that the culture of impunity is reversed and there is accountability in respect of violations and to ensure there are correcting measures to prevent further violations of human rights.


Q: As a civil society member, do you see adequate measures taken to address the concerns ahead of the Human Rights Council report on Sri Lanka that is to be tabled in September?

A: Well, I think they are considering as to what measures to be taken to address those concerns. First of all they have to know what is in the report. I am sure they are considering steps to be taken but in terms of making actual decisions with regard to responding to that report, they need to know what is in the report in the first place.


Q: Do you still see a necessity for an international investigation into alleged war crimes and human rights violations in the country?

A: An international investigation or any kind of investigation is to look into what happened in the last phase of the war. That is the reference for the investigation under the auspices of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. That investigation is not what is currently going on. This particular investigation should be with reference to a specific time period and specific alleged violations and this investigation is yet to take place.


Q: Some groups have raised concerns that an international investigation will scuttle the peace pro   cess in Sri Lanka. What is your opinion about that?  

A: The government and all the main parties in Sri Lanka except one major Tamil political party have come out and said that there would be a credible domestic mechanism – and there will not be an international mechanism. No doubt that we as well as the international community are waiting to see what they mean by a credible domestic mechanism.


Q: During the past few months, do you think there has been an improvement in the freedom enjoyed by the civil society organizations and human rights defenders?

A: Definitely, there has been some improvement. Even when you look at the election campaign, you can see that the political environment is a lot freer than it used to be. People are able to come out and discuss issues of political nature – they are able to reject – they are able to criticize the government – even the state media is not operating openly as part of the government and acts biased as they did in the past.


Q: Despite the concerns on its operation, the Presidential Commission appointed to investigate into complaints on missing persons has been allowed to continue its investigations. What is your opinion about the function of the commission?

A: There are lots of shortcomings with regard to the commission. Civil society organizations have monitored the proceedings of the Missing Person’s Commission and have come up with a number of reports as to how it functions. There is a lot that has to be desired from the way it has functioned. As far as I know, its mandate expires in August. And we need to look at establishing a much more credible institution to look into these issues in this country.


Q: They have been extending their mandate from time to time whereas a lot more is yet to be done. Do you see any hope in its continuation?

A: The government has also talked about establishing a permanent office of the disappeared.  We wait to see as to what is the exact function of that permanent office is going to be. However, it is very clear that there has to be some kind of institutional mechanism in place to look into the cases of disappeared.


Q: Sometime back, several concerned individuals and civil society members compiled the shortcomings of the Missing Persons Commission and submitted their concerns and recommendations to the Commission. Recently, the commissioner claims to have taken some measures to address certain concerns. Have you observed any improvement?

A: They may have taken certain steps but overall I do not think that it is satisfactory in terms of the type of concerns raised. We cannot be satisfied with reference to the type of questions asked from the people who come before the commission and in terms of interpretations and translations. So there are definite shortcomings even though some steps have been taken to address certain issues. The government really needs to look in terms of what they really want to do in the long term with regard to the question of disappeared.


Q: How happy are you about the current state of witness protection in Sri Lanka?

A: There was a bill that was passed but the provision of the bill is yet to be implemented in terms of taking the specific measures in the legislation to deal with witness protection. All what we have at present is that the bill has been passed yet it needs to be properly implemented.


Q: As a civil society organization, what other concerns do you have at present?

A: We have concerns especially with reference to what the government is going to do in response to the human rights report in Geneva? What is going to happen with regard to accountability? What is going to happen with regard to any kind of platform for future investigations? Whether it is just going to be a platform for memorialisers? What is the office of disappeared look like? As far as the council is concerned, will there be special cost features and a special council office? Who is going to decide on what cases to be taken up? Is there going to be a panel of judges entirely domestic? Is there any kind of international technical assistance that the government will seek in respect of transitional justice? Those are the concerns that we need answers for.


3 Comments for “Lots Of Lapses In Missing Person’s Commission Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu”

  1. The domestic panel with Mohan Pieris and kohila silva will give any verdict the govt wants.Sarath Abrew can rape and assault the living victims, unfortunately that is the level of the Rajapakse appointees to the supreme court.Raj Rajaratnam after his sentence when asked whether the sentence of 10 years for insider trading was fair said it was and also said that in Srilanka he could have bribed the judge with 50,000 Rupees and have him over for dinner the same night.

  2. daggy

    Other matters to this reply apart, such is the arrogance of Raj Rajaratnam. His activities too to be the same along with his accomplices whether political or otherwise in Sri Lanka.

    No wonder Rajapakshe thinks the threats to Sri Lanka sovereignity yet remains.

  3. Human right business is better thean other business in the country . Paikiasothy is getting very good money from the Norway as a Human right trader. His business not end . He is an trouble maker diploma holder,Great

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