by Ravi Ladduwahetty
The question of publishing the panel report authorized by the United Nations Secretary General does not arise since the UNSG, in appointing the panel, 'was motivated exclusively by a desire to gather information, and insights for his own views', External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.
'Sri Lanka cannot be singled out for discriminatory treatment because this would be tantamount to cynical violation of the doctrine of sovereign equality of states, which is one of the core values embedded in the UN Charter. If this is allowed to happen, it would have distressing implications for the UN as well', the External Affairs Minister said.
The observations of the Minister:
The position of the Government of Sri Lanka on matters connected with the report submitted by the United Nations Secretary General's panel is very clear. This position has been articulated to the diplomatic corps in Colombo as well as to the local and international media.
We believe strongly that the publication of the report is basically wrong and contrary to the principles underpinning the United Nations Charter.
It must be remembered that the panel comprising three persons - Marzuki Dharusman, Yasmin Sooka and Stephen Ratner was never appointed by any United Nations organ, such as the United Nations Security Council.
The Secretary- General repeatedly assured the Government of Sri Lanka, both orally and in writing, that the panel that he was appointing was entirely of an advisory character. This was stated to us both orally and in writing.
The Secretary-General maintained consistently that the sole purpose for which the panel which was appointed was to advise him on international best practices and process related issues.
He further stated categorically that the panel was not a fact finding body and not invested with an investigative role, specifically, he insisted that the panel will not have authority to probe allegations against any persons at all.
These assurances were given in explicit terms not only to the government of Sri Lanka but to other governments as well. It is therefore wrong for the panel to unilaterally convert it self from an advisory role to an investigative body. This is a total distortion of its mandate derived from the United Nations Secretary General.
It follows that the panel had no authority whatsoever to examine the allegations made in respect of the conduct of the war, or indeed in regard to any other matter, credible or not.
If the panel was to examine the evidence with the view to determining the credibility of the allegations, it is perfectly clear that it is performing an investigative function.
What is more, grave potential consequences could follow from findings of this nature which the panel purports to arrive at. This is entirely contrary to the principle and altogether unacceptable.
Two things are clear from what I have said so far:
The United Nations Secretary General, in appointing the panel, was motivated exclusively by a desire to gather further information and insights for his own views from a panel of persons in whom he reposed confidence. Since that is the case, the question of the publication of the report, does not arise.
The panel has clearly acted in ways beyond its mandate by refusing to confine itself to offering advise to the United Nations Secretary General and assuming for itself a function which involves the adjudication of a kind, suggestive of a quasi-judicial role. This was never contemplated as a part of its mandate.
It is indeed astonishing that the panel thought that it was deemed fit and proper to reach conclusions on a wide range of matters currently being examined by the Lessons Leant and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed under the provisions of Sri Lankan Statue Law.
The appointment of the committee was universally acclaimed. Foreign governments expressed confidence in the Commission and conferred their good wishes and felicitations on the Commission's good work.
The Commission had held its sittings in not only in Colombo, but in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces and has already submitted a series of interim recommendations of the LLRC.
This committee is headed by the Attorney General and comprises Secretaries to seven ministries which are actively involved in the implementation of the recommendations.
In these circumstances, it is quite bizarre that the Secretary General's panel should take upon itself to treat the Sri Lankan statutory body as through it did not exist, to dismiss it in the most cavalier fashion imaginable and to formulate its won recommendations while the Sri Lankan Commission is continuing its work.
Representatives of western governments have had no difficulty in accepting that the position of the Government of Sri Lanka that they should await the publication of the report of the Sri Lankan Commission and assess it objectively and dispassionately.
When I recently visited a western capital, the representatives of the Government in question, clearly articulated this position and that no prejudgment was permissible.
However, the attitude of the panel has been the opposite. There has been absolutely no justification for the insensitivity and arrogance with which the Sri Lankan Commission has been ignored.
It is indeed our view that this approach is totally indefensible.
International mechanisms are no means a substitute of local justifications which are engaged in deriving solutions in keeping with national culture, values and traditions.
It is indeed most distressing that the work of the panel, and the manner in which it has approached the task allotted to it present great obstacles to the central objectives of the Government of Sri Lanka in working towards national reconciliation in the post conflict phase. This is, without, question, the need of the hour.
The Government is trying with all its energy to engender an environment in which all communities who regard Sri Lanka as their home, are able to develop a concept of mature nationhood irrespective of any distinctions as to language, religion and cultural background.
It is much to be regretted that the panel, far from helping to accomplish this aim, has chosen to hinder the progress towards this goal by aggregating the tensions and accentuating divisions.
It is also unacceptable that the panel should take the liberty of traveling far beyond the mandate by seeking to offer the gratuitous advice to the Government of Sri Lanka on a cluster of issues relating to its internal, constitutional, legal and administrative structures
The functions attached to certain public offices, including that of the Attorney General and other matters, which are indisputably the matters of domestic policy to be determined by the Government and the people of Sri Lanka.
It is for these reasons that the Government has declared its opposition to the publication of this report and to any form of action intended to give effect to the findings and recommendations contained in the report.
This report consists of advise given to the Secretary General by his nominees. This is a matter between the Secretary General and his advisors.
If this document is published, it would constitute a very unsound and indeed dangerous precedent.
United Nations system
It would also mean that any advise given to the Secretary General of any other official within the United Nations system in the contexts of the fiduciary relationships can be published as a result of the pressures exerted by third parties.
This represents nothing less than a complete subversion of the proper procedures within the United Nations system.
What is sought to be done in respect of Sri Lanka, on this occasion, will have to be done in future in other situations as well.
Sri Lanka cannot be singled out for discriminatory treatment because this would tantamount to cynical violation of the doctrine of sovereign equality of states, which is one of the core values embedded in the United Nations Charter.
If this is allowed to happen, it would have distressing implications for the United Nations as well. ~ courtesy: Daily News ~