President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, at a meeting with editors of newspapers and heads of media institutions on Friday, stressed that contrary to speculation, the nature of the investigative mechanism regarding alleged human rights violations and war crimes during the country’s civil war, had not been decided yet.
Speaking on the release of the report by the office of the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the government was attempting to keep the Sri Lankan issue out of the agenda of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He said the nature of the investigative mechanism had not been decided, but the government was working on the contours of a domestic mechanism. He insisted that the recommendations of the Commission on Missing Persons, better known as the Paranagama Commission, and the Udalagama Commission will be considered in particular, along with those included in the UN report.
Wickremesinghe said that it will have to be a domestic arrangement since all judges have to be appointed by the President except for those of the Supreme Court where there Constitutional Council comes into play.
However, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe pointed out that there have been cases of Sri Lankan judges sitting in tribunals set up overseas, while in the assassination case of former Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, two of the judges were from overseas.
Regarding the ‘hybrid model’ proposed in the UN report, Wickremesinghe said that the word has no meaning unless it is clearly defined.
He also said the government ‘had been given a drum, which it must now beat’ noting that in May 2009, the then government had assured the UN that a formal investigation would be conducted into alleged atrocities.
President Sirisena, cited the measures taken to improve the welfare of Tamil civilians in the North and East since he took over as President. He pointed to the return of lands previously occupied by the army and plans to establish an office of reconciliation under former President Chandrika Kumaratunga among others.
Stressing that the government had been put into a very difficult position, the President however, noted that it could have been far worse for the country had the former regime been allowed to handle matters.
Both the President and Prime Minister also assured that there were no discussions at any point with India regarding the controversial Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Justice Minister Wijeyedasa Rajapakshe and Minister of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Gayantha Karunatileka were also present at the discussion.