Remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva at Regional Consultations on Transitional Justice in Asia-Pacific


Remarks by Hon. Dr. Harsha de Silva. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

  Regional Consultations on Transitional Justice in Asia-Pacific

Hilton Colombo, 9 November 2016

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr. Pablo de Greiff,
Acting UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Alain Sibenaler,
Officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning, and I extend to all of you, a very warm welcome to Sri Lanka.

I understand that this meeting brings together State representatives, representatives of transitional justice mechanisms, national human rights institutions, NGOs, victims groups, UN officials, and representatives of regional organisations from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss and share experiences on transitional justice processes in the region.

I was informed that in accordance with the mandate given by the Human Rights Council to the Special Rapporteur, he was requested by the Council to gather relevant information on national situations, including on normative frameworks, national practices and experiences; identify, exchange and promote good practices and lessons learned; and recommend ways and means to improve and strengthen the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Accordingly, regional consultations have so far been held for the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe and North America. The region of the Asia-Pacific is the last on the list.

I feel that we are fortunate that by accident or by design, the consultations for the Asia-Pacific was kept to be done last, giving us this wonderful opportunity to welcome not only Mr. Pablo de Greiff, but all of you, to Sri Lanka.

As you all know, since the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in a historical Presidential election last January, Sri Lanka has embarked on a process of reconciliation. The two main political parties in Sri Lanka – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party led by President Sirisena and the United National Party led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have come together to forge a Government of National Unity. This is a step that is unprecedented in our nation’s history. In the words of President Sirisena in his inaugural address to Parliament following the General Election last August, this was a necessary step to obtain the bipartisan consensus that is required to face the important challenges before our nation, which include reconciliation and peacebuilding.

Therefore, Ladies and Genetlemen, this is an important moment in our history. We have acknowledged and recognised the need for reconciliation and the important contribution that transitional justice can make to this process of healing. Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1 titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ is a manifestation of our strong commitment to this process.

Several initial steps in this long journey that we have embarked upon have been taken already. This includes the setting up, through an Act of Parliament, an Office on Missing Persons which is a component of the truth-seeking process. The legislation for this was enacted in August and the procedural steps for its establishment including the nomination of members by the Constitutional Council are now underway. A Task Force was appointed early this year, by the Government, comprising members of civil society, to hold public consultations, involving all stakeholders, to seek their views on the mechanisms for truth-seeking, justice and reparations.

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