Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka
32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 29 June 2016
High Commissioner for Human Rights
At the 30th Session of this Council last October, Sri Lanka, by co-sponsoring the Resolution 30/1, ‘Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’, broke away from the years of disengagement, self-isolation, and confrontation that preceded the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015.
Sri Lanka, hailed at Independence in 1948 as a potential “Switzerland of the east”, was now ready to come to terms with the many tragedies we have had to face as a nation in the past, and move forward as a brave new country in order to harness the peace and prosperity that our people truly deserve.
President Sirisena, in his Address to the Nation on the 68th Independence Day anniversary on 4th February this year, reiterated his commitment to fulfil the provisions of Resolution 30/1, in working out the contours of a new Sri Lanka.
He said that Sri Lanka is committed to implement the Resolution to protect the dignity of our State, our People and our Security Forces and that we will implement the proposals with patience, discipline and restraint. It will be freedom, democracy and reconciliation that will be reinforced by implementing the provisions of the resolution.
When Sri Lanka’s unity Government marks its first year in office in August this year, there will be many achievements to look back on, with a certain sense of satisfaction.
While consolidating many of the democratic changes achieved within the first 100 days, we have begun taking action on all fronts related to strengthening good governance and the rule of law; promoting and protecting human rights; fostering reconciliation; and achieving economic development; while engaging and working closely with the international community in a constructive manner that benefits the people of our country:
-In order to ensure that the setting up of the reconciliation mechanisms is done effectively, a Secretariat for Coordinating the Reconciliation Mechanisms has been set up under the Office of the Prime Minister;
The Government recognises that, in order for the transitional justice process to be effective in achieving the desired objectives, the necessary mechanisms should be properly sequenced, integrated and coordinated. Some have started raising alarm bells that sequencing of mechanisms is a delay tactic or means to omit the component of justice. This is incorrect. The Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms is already consulting experts and is working on obtaining the required training and capacity-building for the relevant mechanisms – investigating techniques, forensic expertise, prosecutorial strategies – so that when the designs are in place, following the Consultation Process, the required expertise for the mechanisms will also be in place;
-A Task Force consisting entirely of civil society representatives has been appointed to seek the views of the public that will inform the designing of the truth-seeking, justice, accountability and reparations mechanisms;
-The task of working on the wider issues of reconciliation aimed at achieving non-recurrence is being coordinated by the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation which comes under the purview of the President, and is led by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga;
-The draft Bill approved by Cabinet to establish a Permanent and Independent Office on Missing Persons, which is an essential component of the truth-seeking process and the first mechanism in the transitional justice programme, has already been gazetted and included in the order paper of Parliament. This, to us, is a milestone in Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process;
-A Bill to amend the Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act No 19 of 2010 to enable the issuance of Certificates of Absence in respect of Missing Persons was approved by Cabinet and gazetted earlier this month. This too will be tabled in Parliament to be taken up in July;
-The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was ratified and the draft legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention will be presented to the Cabinet in July, for gazetting and presentation to Parliament;
-A ‘National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict Affected Displacement’ has been evolved through wide consultations, and with technical support from the UN. The Policy is presently before Cabinet for approval, and has been released to the public as well;
-A Committee is now putting the final touches to the first draft of the new counter-terrorism legislation that will replace the much criticised and much abused Prevention of Terrorism Act, in keeping with Sri Lanka’s commitment and obligations to human rights and countering terrorism. Technical assistance for this purpose has been sought from the UN Counter-terrorism Committee Executive Directorate;