POSTED AT 09:12 AM 14-03-2019
Marapana to head UNHRC delegation to Geneva
Image Courtesy: Onlanka News
Foreign Minister Thilak Marapana will head the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva and the group will also include UPFA MP Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghavan.
UPFA MP Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the above agreement was reached during a meeting chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena and attended by Foreign Minister Marapana on Tuesday.
Samarasinghe further said that a ‘joint text’ would be agreed with inputs from the President’s representatives to be delivered by Minister Marapana on behalf of the country at the UNHRC session in Geneva on March 20.
“The final draft of the statement will be shown to the President and the Prime Minister. You cannot side-line the President when it comes to the UNHRC affairs. The President previously said that he would send a separate delegation because the Government had not then decided to send Minister Marapana. It was stated that the Sri Lankan mission in Geneva was given the task to handle the UNHRC session.
The UNHRC report on Sri Lanka will be out on March 20 and we cannot agree with all its content. We have to raise concerns where necessary,”MP Samarasinghe said.
The MP further said that there would be no change in the decision to co-sponsor the Resolution before the UNHRC on March 21. “The Foreign Ministry has stated that it will co-sponsor the new Resolution. The resolution’s content has no harm to Sri Lanka, but it connects to 30/1 Resolution passed in 2015 and 34/1 Resolution passed in 2017. We will have to state what we can do and what we cannot do out of the recommendations given in these resolutions. Therefore, Minister Marapana will also address the UNHRC on March 21,” the MP said.
MP Samarasinghe, observing that he headed the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNHRC for ten years, said that he told the President that he would not go there again. “For 10 years, I faced the UNHRC and defended the country and the war heroes. I did not say that there were zero casualties, but I said that the tri-forces did not target civilians. I told the truth. It was because I told the truth that I was not given the Foreign Ministry portfolio which I deserved,” the MP said.
Samarasinghe also stressed the need to keep Sri Lanka’s commitments at the UNHRC and pursue them vigorously even after the sessions. “It is with my experience that I state that we must not forget what we undertook at the UNHRC when the session is over. There will be a review in another two years and we will have to go through all this again. Our undertakings at the UNHRC must be pursued with strong political will. I recommend the President for appointing a committee to continuously work on that regard as soon as the Geneva session is over,” he added.
Former Minister Samarasinghe also admitted that the country lost the confidence of the international community and UNHRC resolutions in 2012, 2013 and 2014 due to the failure to show progress on the promises undertaken. “In 2009, we could win the support of two thirds of the Council, but this gradually dropped to 12 votes out of 47. The report which was to come in 2015 was critical and the country was on the verge of sanctions,” he said.
Samarasinghe said the UK, Canada and Germany, the three key sponsors of the new Resolution, showed keen interest on Sri Lanka’s affairs due to the Tamil diaspora community.
A heated argument ensued between Leader of the House and Minister Lakshman Kiriella and UPFA MP Mahinda Samarasinghe over the delegation to represent Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva.
Minister Kiriella, while noting that MP Samarasinghe could freely express himself because of the Yahapalana Government’s commitment to freedom of expression, requested Samarasinghe to tell the President not to meddle with the Resolution before the UNHRC. He also urged the President to be extra cautious in picking individuals he sends to the UNHRC.
“When 11 youth were murdered in Trincomalee, a powerful minister of the then Government spoke to the parents of the victims and offered vehicles and property in Colombo if they agree not to give evidence. Can you deny that? Dr.Manoharan, whose son was killed, got such calls.You are making a big mistake if you try to revise this resolution. Our journey in the past four years has been constructive. There are problems, but we are going step by step,” Kiriella said.
“The top authorities of the UNHRC have expressed their willingness to relax the clauses in the resolution if we bring in a new Constitution that is accepted by all communities of the country. All are in agreement that there must be meaningful power sharing and that Provincial Councils must be strengthened,” Kiriella added.