Amid vigorous lobbying against the proposed United States sponsored resolution, Sri Lanka informed the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) yesterday that the remaining LTTE rump in some countries was a major challenge confronting the country today.
Sri Lanka said it categorically rejected such undue pressure from sections of the international community which had succumbed to the propaganda, coercive tactics and electoral pressure by these elements.
The UNHRC session began in Geneva yesterday, with the High Level Segment to continue till tomorrow. The normal programmes will then start and continue till March 23. The Sri Lankan issue will be taken up for discussion under Item 2 on March 2. The resolution is expected to be moved by the US against Sri Lanka on March 23.
The conference hall was packed with delegates from different countries, NGOs and international organisations, and the seating capacity was not suffecient to accommodate them all.
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who is the presidential envoy on Human Rights, said the rest of the terrorist organisation identified as the world’s most ruthless, proscribed by 32 countries including the US, Canada and European Union member states were still active in some countries and were engaged in clandestine activities, including fund raising, money laundering, drug trafficking and human smuggling.
He said these activists wield considerable electoral and political influence in their host countries due to the concentration of large numbers in key population centres.
“They continue to advocate mono-ethnic separatism in Sri Lanka, while espousing a separatist ideology of the terrorist group, using the latter’s resources and being manipulated by its surviving leadership. They also resort to exploiting the electoral influence of the expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil community living in these countries. It is unfortunate that this group of the defeated terrorists, by attempting to pursue punitive action at the Human Rights Council through some of their host governments, should actually be resorting to undermining the genuine reconciliation process underway in Sri Lanka,” the minister said.
He said the Sri Lankan government categorically rejected such undue pressure from sections of the international community which had fallen prey to the propaganda, coercive tactics and electoral pressures of these elements. We are conscious of their need to portray a negative picture of Sri Lanka and unreasoning pessimism to justify their continued presence in these host countries.
“Instead of accepting our President’s invitation to become constructive partners in development and building a renewed Sri Lanka, it is most regrettable that these elements devote their time, effort and resources in defaming their motherland and denigrating the genuine efforts of the Government to consolidate peace, development and prosperity for all Sri Lankans,” he said.
The minister outlined the measures taken by the government to address the issues raised by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
Referring to the census conducted in the north and the east, he asked for help from the countries concerned to assist Sri Lankato ascertain how many people they have admitted as asylum seekers.
“As a further step, the government has decided to put in place a structure to further analyse and verify the data gathered in order to arrive at definite conclusions as to civilian mortalities and casualties. One thing is certain: the story of “tens of thousands” of civilian deaths that supposedly occurred during the final phase of the humanitarian operation is very clearly proved to be a gross exaggeration and a deliberate misrepresentation of fact,” he said.
The minister informed the Council that Sri Lanka would keep the Council informed of progress during the sessions in June, September and in the course of the Universal Periodic Review in October.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in her opening statement, said in the global context, human rights defenders and journalists had suffered reprisals for expressing their right to freedom of speech and association.
“We must increase our efforts so that those who seek to expose human rights violations are protected,” she said.