Daily Archives: September 14, 2015

Sri Lanka probe findings of ‘serious nature’: U.N. rights chief

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The findings of the investigation into Sri Lanka’s alleged war crimes during the final phase of the country’s civil war are of the “most serious nature”, the chief of the UN rights body said here on Monday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the report on the UNHRC’s investigation would be released on September 16 along with his recommendations, while speaking at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which got underway here.

“Six years ago we were confronted with serious violations and loss of civilian life in the last month of Sri Lanka’s long civil war,” he said.

Mr. Zeid said the UNHRC was deeply engaged in the need for accountability as a necessary step towards reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

“On Wednesday, I will release the report of the comprehensive investigation as mandated by UNHRC resolution of March 2014. Its findings are of the most serious nature,” the UNHRC chief said.

Mr. Zeid said he welcomed the vision and the commitment shown by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to address rights concerns.

“But this council owes it to Sri Lankans and for its own credibility to ensure an accountability process that produces results and decisively moves beyond the failures of the past to bring in institutional needs to guarantee no recurrence,” Mr. Zeid said.

The UNHRC conducted its own international investigation on the alleged war crimes as then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government resisted it claiming the probe was an attack on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Rights groups claim that the Sri Lankan military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict with the LTTE that ended in 2009.

Sirisena’s government has shown an attitude of cooperation with the UN systems in contrast to Rajapaksa, seeking to address some of the concerns of the island’s Tamil minority.

This resulted in the investigation report being delayed six months by the UNHRC.

Sri Lanka has opted for a local mechanism for rights accountability which has now gained support from the US, the main sponsor of three successive anti-Sri Lanka resolutions in the U.N. rights body.

Infographic by Lankapage.wordpress.com

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‘India-Sri Lanka trade pact not on agenda’

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Even as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe begins his three-day visit to India on Monday, the Sri Lankan government on Sunday made it clear that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) would not be signed during the visit.

Malik Samarawickrama, United National Party chairman and Minister for International Trade, said the agreement would not come up for discussion even though issues concerning bilateral cooperation would be deliberated.

Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the talks would, however, be centred on improving trade and investment.

The CEPA had been talked about for long and there were expectations in 2012 that the pact would be signed soon. In mid-2013, the then Economic Development Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, went on record, stating that the agreement was no longer required for his country as India and Sri Lanka, according to him, “moved on.”

However, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Colombo six months ago, renewed the debate on the CEPA.

Addressing a gathering of Sri Lanka’s business community, Mr Modi had said: “We should ensure that Sri Lanka does not fall behind in the changing and competitive world. That is why India and Sri Lanka should move boldly to conclude a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.”

‘Optimising ties’
The Sri Lankan Deputy Minister pointed out that India and Sri Lanka have been friends for long and “both of us will continue to be friends.”

He said the focus of the visit would be more on optimising the ties between the two countries. Four memoranda of understanding (MoUs) pertaining to a SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] satellite; the launch of Emergency Ambulance Health Protection Service on the lines of the Indian model of “108 Emergency Response Services;” provision of medical equipment to 200-bedded hospital in Vavuniya and the execution of development projects concerning local bodies and non-governmental organisations, would be inked.

Mr. Silva declined to comment on whether Mr. Wickremesinghe was expected to take up with Mr. Modi the possible coordinated approach during the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, beginning Monday, to discuss a host of issues, including a probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

On the eve of his departure, the Prime Minister ordered the release of 16 fishermen from Tamil Nadu as a gesture of goodwill. The move was also in response to a representation from an association of fishermen of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.

Infographic by cepaepa

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