Govt. to hire PR team
The government is planning to spend whopping millions to hire reputed Public Relations agencies, to counter the charges levelled against Sri Lanka by the Western powers, at the upcoming sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. A team of professionals and several reputed overseas PR agencies, backed by Sri Lanka's missions abroad, will face the challenges posed by the resolution to be brought against Sri Lanka by the United States at the UNHRC sessions, Ceylon Today learns.
"Sri Lanka is pretty much on track to face outside challenges having prepared the groundwork, come what may be the situation in Geneva," said Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs, K. Amunugama.
He said, "The US resolution on Sri Lanka would be as tough as last year, but we have done the groundwork, however challenging it would be. A smaller team of professionals, compared to last year, will be present in Geneva. Also, several reputed overseas PR agencies will be present there to campaign for Sri Lanka, backed by our foreign missions. "We are working on the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) constantly and have made substantial progress with the support of the committee chief, President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and we are set for a strong argument in Geneva," he said.
"We knew something would come up in Geneva, but what we did not know was what sort of thing it would be.
"The last review was about the implementation of the LLRC recommendations and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay wanted us to report back on the LLRC progress, which we did. We were expecting a reply from her and we do not know what is in there. But we sensed that anyhow it would be negative and nothing positive in it," he added.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
U.S. sure India will go with it again in new Sri Lanka resolution
The United States is sure that India will support a country-specific resolution sponsored by it in the coming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The U.S. representatives revealed here that it had “decided to sponsor a procedural resolution at the March 2013 session of the U.N. Human Rights Council along with international partners”.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore told select media here that “the resolution will be straightforward; it will be a procedural resolution, and it will build on the 2012 resolution which called on Sri Lanka to do more to promote reconciliation and accountability. The resolution will ask the government of Sri Lanka to follow through on its own commitments to its people, including the implementation of the LLRC [Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission] recommendations.” Responding to a question, a transcript of which has been posted on the U.S. Embassy website, Mr. Moore said he was sure that India and all the countries that voted with the U.S. last year would follow the same lead this year: “And the reason there would be another resolution this coming March is because we and the other 23 members of the Human Rights Council who voted for the resolution in 2012 believe that the government of Sri Lanka needs to fulfil the commitment that it’s already made through the LLRC to its people,” he said.
“So this new resolution would reflect our support for those commitments, our continued support. And for the people of Sri Lanka as they continue to face these important issues,” he said.
Official confirmation of the Indian stand was not available. But it is reliably learnt that the issue did figure in all the recent high-level engagements. Sri Lanka has responded to the U.S. announcement, saying that it will defend its rights record. Significant progress has been made, it contended, in implementing the recommendations of the LLRC, which went into the causes of the war with the Tamil Tigers.
R. K. Radhakrishnan
Sri Lanka feels India will support it at UNHCR
Colombo, Jan 31 (IANS) Sri Lanka is confident that India will support it in the face of a US-backed resolution on human rights issues at the UNHRC meet in Geneva this year.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella was insistent that India would side with Sri Lanka despite Indian media reports to the contrary.
"Our position is that India is our greatest friend and closest neighbour and they have been extremely supportive in many issues and they have been a friend indeed. So we believe that stand," he told the media.
"Of course last time they had to opt out, they had given certain reasons, all this we discuss at a diplomatic level.
"From time to time international relations change for a variety of reasons. But we still believe they are our greatest friend and we have had that cordiality right throughout," he added.
In 2012 India voted for a US-backed resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva pulling up Colombo over widespread rights abuses during the war and seeking reconciliation measures.
The Indian vote tipped the balance against Sri Lanka, leading to Colombo's defeat.
After the Indian vote, bilateral relations between the two countries chilled to the point of President Mahinda Rajapaksa openly criticizing the Indian government. The issue was later smoothed over.
On Thursday, an Indian newspaper quoted US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore as telling Sri Lankan journalists that he was confident India would back the new resolution.
Rambukwella was adamant that the US resolution would not have a negative impact on the economy and insisted that foreign direct investment (FDI) would not be affected.
"As far as FDI is concerned, I don't think human rights are the reason because there are people investing in countries with wars. There are other reasons as well like infrastructure, which we are doing...
"So there are much bigger reasons or more concerns which have to be addressed," he said. "Human rights are part of it but it's not the one and only reason."
The minister said Sri Lanka was confident could lobby enough votes from member countries to defeat the US-backed resolution.
"There is no guilty conscience... We are very confident. In the event that something happens, we feel it is an (US) agenda they are working on.
"And these agendas have been there, and we are very mindful of it," he said. "We are content with what we have been doing, and we shall continue to meet the challenge as it arises."
Why a different set of rules for Sri Lanka? asks GL
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said that the visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore had an excellent opportunity to compare the situation in Sri Lanka as he was based in Colombo during eelam war IV.
Moore was Deputy Chief of Mission from 2006 to 2009 and headed the mission during the absence of the then Ambassador Patricia Butenis.
Prof. Peiris was addressing the visiting delegates, Moore and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jane Zimmerman and Ambassador Michele J. Sison, who succeeded Butenis.
However, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia Vikram Singh wasn’t present, though he was a member of the delegation.
The minister pointed out that since the conclusion of the conflict there had been a tremendous change, with the country making rapid progress in the resettlement of internally displaced persons, reintegration of the ex-combatants, de-mining and reviving the northern economy.
Yesterday’s meeting at the External Affairs Ministry took place in the wake of Moore announcing the US decision to sponsor a ‘procedural resolution’ on accountability issues in Sri Lanka at the March UN Human Rights Council sessions, which would be based on the resolution passed by the UNHRC in March 2012 on this country on the same set of questions. The announcement was made at a round table discussion with the media at the US embassy on Monday.
Having met the delegation, Prof. Peiris told The Island that the visiting delegation had acknowledged the significant progress made since the end of the conflict. The minister said that economic wellbeing of the north would be of pivotal importance in ongoing reconciliation efforts. The government had focused its attention on the economic revival of the northern region, with substantial investment made on the infrastructure development.
Prof. Peiris reiterated the government’s commitment for an early resumption of talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), while highlight the importance of the TNA joining proposed parliamentary select committee on constitutional reforms. Prof. Peiris said that it had to be an all-inclusive process. The minister pointed out that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), too, had recommended the PSC on constitutional reforms.
Responding to a section of the international community targeting the GoSL, Prof. Peiris asserted that excessive pressure would be counterproductive. The minister said that the success of the domestic healing process would depend on the country being given time and space to continue the ongoing domestic process.
The minister reiterated the call for a level playing field while pointing out that all countries should be treated with dignity.
The minister explained that the GoSL had always engaged the UN and cooperated fully with the world body, hence there was no need to apply pressure. Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga had briefed the Colombo based diplomatic representatives about three weeks ago and another briefing was scheduled for third week of February, the minister said.
by Shamindra Ferdinando