Ministers urged to address ‘Geneva issue’ meaningfully

State minister’s assertion disputed

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Global Sri Lankan Forum (GSLF) has requested Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and State Minister for Foreign Affairs attorney-at-law Susil Premajayantha to take tangible measures to neutralise the growing threat posed by accountability resolution adopted at the Geneva Human Rights Council in 2015.

A senior spokesperson for the grouping said that the ministers were urged not to be lulled into a false sense of security. “With the next Geneva sessions scheduled for March 2020, the new administration should move fast,” the spokesperson said.

The GSLF, in a letter dated Nov 29, 2019, informed ministers, Gunawardena and Premajayantha that a statement attributed to the latter in the front-page news story headlined ‘Geneva Resolution not relevant in current context,” in the Nov 29, 2019 edition of The Island did not reflect the actual situation.

State Minister Premajayantha said that despite of the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by the previous administration, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government couldn’t be expected to follow such dictates against the backdrop of its newly won mandate from the people. The GSLF also challenged State Minister Premajantha’s declaration that the resolution automatically lost its relevance due to vastly changed global political environment regarding Sri Lanka.

The GSLF emphasized that the Geneva resolution remained operative in spite of the change of government in Nov 2019.

Acknowledging that the new government could build up a strong case against the Geneva resolution on the basis that the previous Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera hadn’t received the required approval, the GSLF alleged that neither the then President Maithripala Sirisena, nor parliament nor cabinet had approved the Minister Samaraweera’s move.

The GSLF alleged that the war winning military had been deprived of an opportunity to answer accusations before strictures were passed on officers and men.

Underscoring the responsibility on the part of the new government to take remedial measures, the GSLF explained actions taken by the organization during the yahapalana administration to counter the Geneva threat. The GSLF said that the new government could take meaningful measures to protect Sri Lanka’s interests. The grouping suggested that the government secured the support of Lord Naseby whose Oct 12, 2017 disclosure in the House of Lords disputed unsubstantiated UN accusations – the basis for 2015 Geneva resolution.

The letter signed by Yasas Dharmadasa, Senaka Rajapaksa (Poland), Lalith Premalal (Ireland), Erik Makewita (Switzerland), Harsha Perera (Australia), Prasanga Jayamanne (UK), Jagath Chandrawansa (Russia)and Nuwan Ballanthudawa on behalf of the executive committee of the GSLF sought an opportunity to discuss the developments with the ministers.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, a leading member of the nationalist movement told The Island that the crisis caused by Western powers by way of Swiss intervention on behalf of Inspector Nishantha de Silva of the CID, his wife and three children highlighted fresh dangers posed in the run up to the next Geneva sessions.

The GSLF has urged the government to (1) seek an opportunity to respond to war crimes allegations (2) establish a coordinating committee, including attorney-at-law Dharshan Weerasekera, who played a significant role in preparing the Geneva defence (3) withdraw co-sponsorship of the Geneva resolution and (4) review measures taken against those accused of war crimes/crimes and re-examine of administrative measures for abolition of instruments set up by parliament during the previous administration.

Dr. Wasantha Bandara said that in spite of the change of government, the new regime couldn’t delay in reviewing the whole post-Geneva process, both in and outside parliament. The civil society activist said that they were quite surprised by the mistaken notion that Geneva resolution could be simply done away with. “That is certainly not the reality. If one cares to study the way the defeated lot addressed the Geneva issue, the new government cannot be unaware of the dangers faced.”

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