Sri Lanka hopes for India’s assist at UNHRC session in Geneva

Colombo, March 2

Sri Lanka on Tuesday hoped that India would stand by it when the UNHRC moves its latest accountability and reconciliation resolution on the island nation this month, days after a UN report called for drastic measures against those allegedly responsible for rights violations during last phase of the armed conflict with the LTTE.

Government spokesman and minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the Lankan Government was hopeful of Indian support at the UN Human Rights Council sessions to defeat what is expected to be a drastic resolution on the island’s accountability process.

The resolution accuses the country of war crimes with threats to take those responsible to the International Courts and impose targeted sanctions against officials allegedly responsible for human rights violations.

In a statement on the UN rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s report on Sri Lanka during the 46th session of the UNHRC last week, India said the assessment of the High Commissioner regarding developments nearly 12 years from the end of the conflict raises important concerns.

“The Sri Lankan Government has articulated its position on these issues as well, in evaluation of these, we should be guided by a commitment to find a lasting and effective solution to this issue,” read the statement.

Articulating New Delhi’s stand, Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Permanent Representative of India in Geneva, said it rests on two pillars: Support for Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity, and abiding commitment to aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, peace and dignity.

“These are not either-or choices. We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.

“Therefore, we advocate that delivering on the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community is in the best interests of Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We call upon Sri Lanka to take necessary steps for addressing such aspirations, including through the process of reconciliation and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka,” read the statement delivered by Pandey.

Referring to the Indian envoy’s statement on Sri Lanka in Geneva, Rambukwella said the Indian Government had only made the point on the need to preserve the 13th Amendment which India had initiated. India had expressed its desire to see the issues of the Tamil minority addressed by using the 13A to make provincial councils more meaningful.

Meanwhile, Rambukwella thanked countries like China and Russia for backing Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.

“We are grateful to China, Russia and other countries for speaking on behalf of us after realising the reality. We think that our neighbouring friend India will not be a part of that injustice, because we have presented many facts about it,” said Rambukwella.

China on Friday expressed support to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC as it faced a resolution expressing serious concern over the rights situation in the island nation, saying Beijing was opposed to the use of human rights issues to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Bachelet’s report had called for drastic measures such as targeted sanctions and international criminal court procedure against those allegedly responsible for rights violations during the last phase of the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

Bachelet said the report indicated that nearly 12 years after the end of the armed conflict, domestic initiatives had repeatedly failed to ensure justice for victims and promote reconciliation.

Sri Lanka has already rejected the Bachelet’s report presented at the ongoing sessions.

“We have expressed our displeasure with the way in which the Human Rights Commissioner reported about Sri Lanka because it is completely false,” Rambukwella stressed.

Rambukwella was critical of the action by the Sri Lankan government in 2015 to co-sponsor the UNHRC resolution thereby committing to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan troops.

“I suppose that’s the worst thing that happened in international relations so far as the Human Rights Commission is concerned. So we are undoing that,” Rambukwella said.

Asked if the recent fissures with India over Sri Lanka’s rejection to honour an MoU on the development of the Colombo Port’s East Container Terminal would influence India to act against Sri Lanka in Geneva, Rambukwella said, “we don’t think that they will take up these commercial issues when it comes to international relations”.

Earlier this month, India stressed the importance of Sri Lanka adhering to its international commitments relating to development of the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port, days after the island nation cancelled a trilateral agreement for the project.

India, Japan and Sri Lanka had inked an agreement in 2019 on development of the terminal project. The Sri Lankan government decided to hand over the project to a state-run company following an agitation against the venture involving India and Japan. PTI

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