The Sunday Leader

Govt. Not Taken Decision On UNHRC Resolution – Thilak Janaka Marapona

Several opposition members in parliament last week called for a referendum to decide on the judiciary mechanism proposed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution.  Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Minister of Law and Order and Prison Reforms Thilak Janaka Marapona said the government has not yet taken a firm decision as to how they would implement the UN resolution and whether a referendum is necessary.

Following are excerpts of the interview:


by Waruni Karunarathne

Q:Some opposition parties have called for a referendum to get the people’s mandate on the UNHRC resolution which according to them has called for a ‘hybrid court’. How does the government expect to go about this?

A: During the parliamentary debate we could get to know various ideas. The government has not yet taken a firm decision as to how we are going to proceed. There is no decision taken to hold a referendum on this matter.


Q: Some opposition parties continue to rally against the UNHRC resolution. Does the government have to be concerned about their stance?

A: No. This is not the first time we have faced situations of this nature. During the JVP insurgencies in 1990’s, the JVP rebellions were crushed and the police had to take actions against them. Then there was a big noise in the country. The former president and several others also faced human rights questions, questions about missing people, police abductions and extra judicial killings. All these gamut of allegations made today were made against Sri Lanka in 1990’s. The Geneva threatened with resolutions, sanctions and various other things. Then what happened was that we had to take some meaningful actions with regard to those concerns raised.

Whatever said and done, we cannot run away from our international responsibilities. It is not about punishing but about investigating. Not only the UN report and the Darusman report but also the reports of the commissions appointed by the former president himself have stated that there were serious violations. We cannot just ignore these things. We will have to take some meaningful actions which will satisfy everyone concerned. That does not mean that we are going to blindly betray our forces. In 1990’s also same pressure was there. We didn t just wait. A missing persons commission was then set up to satisfy the international community.  Then the evidence was gathered. Mothers came and gave evidence etc. Ultimately several police officers were persecuted. Even today some of their appeal cases are pending.

May be about 100 to 200 police officers were persecuted in our courts. And that is what satisfied the international community. It showed that we were taking some meaningful actions. We cannot just ignore those. That is the problem. How we are going to tackle it is another problem. How we face this problem is another issue. But this is the reality.


Q:  The government is now looking at formulating a new Constitution. What is the progress made?

A: For that I think we will appoint a committee and take recommendations. We cannot just take ad hock measures.  It is a new constitution. It will have to be a proper exercise. The whole problem is that in 1990 s there was some confidence in the judiciary but today due to various incidents including the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake and all the mad things that happened during the last 10 years, the international community has no faith in our judiciary. They think that our judiciary can be manipulated. That is why they are proposing things like hybrid courts and things of that nature.  In the 90’s that situation was not there. At that point they were fully satisfied that our courts were competent to deal with those issues raised at that time and then we prosecuted those people. If you remember the Embilipitiya case, they were all convicted. There are so many cases where police officers have been prosecuted on various abductions and killings. Today what they are saying is that the local courts have lost their credibility. We have to face that allegation. That is why they are taking about a hybrid court. At a point we are doing our constitutional changes, we have to take all these things also into account.


Q:       There is still a huge question about the devolution of power. The UNHRC report has also stressed on implementation of the 13th Amendment in a manner that would help meaningful power sharing. How does the government expect to go ahead with power devolution?

A: They have only said to make the 13 Amendment meaningfully workable. I cannot say anything off the cuff like that as to how we are going to go ahead with power sharing. We have to look into these very carefully and see how it can be meaningfully done – so that Tamil people’s grievances are also satisfied whilst looking after the majority’s interests. You have to balance the two and get consensus among our own people and see how it will be done. Now that the LTTE has been crushed, the demand for a separate state does not exist. Now it is easier to work with these moderate Tamil leaders who are there. We can do it in a way by looking at what the shortcoming are in the present system. Then rectify those shortcomings.


Q:What is the solution the government has for the Tamil political prisoners?

A: We are currently looking into it. We need to flush out as many as possible. There are people who have been there for a long time in custody without charges. We are having a series of discussions with the Attorney General Department officers to see where it has got stuck. There are so many cases pending in the courts as well. There will be a solution for this before the end of next month. But that does not mean we are going to release everyone who are in custody.


Q:Aren’t you considering giving a general amnesty?

A: No. There is nothing called amnesty. We will look at case by case and if we see that they have been held in custody for a long time without proper evidence or a case, then those people will be released. If we are to give a general pardon like that, then they have to pardon our forces also without directing any allegation at them. In the Geneva report that has been published, they blame the LTTE equally for committing various serious crimes. For instance they accuse the LTTE for using human shields and for extra judicial killings etc. The report has confined only to the period during the war. What about the period before? How many thousands of people have the LTTE killed by bombings since 1982 and 1983? Since then they had been committing various form of crimes. Those are all applicable to those people.


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