Sri Lanka taking steps to deal with troubled past: Foreign Minister

Chatham House 2

Jan 16, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka will deal with her troubled past honestly and truthfully, Foreign Minister Managala Samaraweera said, speaking at the Chatham House in London last week.

Sri Lanka is committed to the co-sponsored resolution worked out with the Human Rights Council in October 2015 to “deal with the past honestly and truthfully, accept that past, put it behind us, and then move forward to build our Sri Lankan nation anew,” he said.

Samaraweera made these comments at The Royal Institute of International Affairs, also called Chatham House.

Following the legislation to set up an Office on Missing Persons, the report presented by the Consultation Task Force on public views will be studied to finalize a Truth-Seeking Commission and a Reparations Office, he said.

“As some of you may be aware there are divergent views even within the government in respect of the participation of foreign judges in the proposed judicial mechanism.”

“However, despite this divergence of opinions, there is a clear consensus across the board on the need of an independent and credible domestic mechanism as promised by the manifesto of President Maithripala Sirisena.”

Sri Lanka will work out the architecture of such a mechanism in consultation with all the stake holders, he added.

Among steps to strengthen reconciliation, is the “drafting through a consultative and inclusive process, of a National Human Rights Action Plan for the next five years beginning from this year,” he said.

“This draft Action Plan is currently before Cabinet.”

Sri Lanka has also become party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The draft enabling legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention is presently before the Cabinet, he said.

Much of the preparatory work for the new constitution has now been completed, he added.

“Wide-ranging public consultations were conducted for the first time in Sri Lanka’s constitutional history; much study, reflection and negotiation was undertaken to arrive at consensus at the six sub-committees set up and final negotiations on a draft are currently underway.”

The President’s party, the SLFP, and the JVP have asked for time to present their respective final proposals. The Interim Report is expected to be tabled in the Constitutional Assembly in early February, for debate, he added.

In terms of the economy, the government’s plans of making Sri Lanka an Indian Ocean hub are beginning to bear fruit, Samaraweera said.

“The Colombo International Financial City; the Hambantota, Colombo East and Trincomalee Ports; and the Katunayake and Palali Airports are all hives of activity. By 2020, Sri Lanka will have the necessary infrastructure, regulations, and companies in place to achieve its hub ambitions.”