Minister of External Affairs briefs diplomatic community on Darusman Report
The Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris addressed the Colombo-based diplomatic corps at the Ministry of External Affairs in Colombo today to convey the response of the Government of Sri Lanka on the substantive aspects of the Darusman Report. The Minister stated that the Government of Sri Lanka was no longer constrained to comment substantively as the Report is now in the public domain.
The Minister went on to highlight some of the fundamental deficiencies, inherent prejudices and malicious intentions that characterize the Darusman Report. These flaws pertain not only to the contents of the Report, but also to the methodology followed in arriving at its conclusions. The Minister stated categorically that the Report is legally, morally and substantively flawed.
The Minister of External Affairs made the following points during his briefing :
The Government of Sri Lanka does not consider the Darusman Report as a UN document, as it has not been mandated by any inter-governmental or multilateral forum. The document is the product of a personal initiative taken by the Secretary-General. Furthermore, the mandate of the Panel is purely advisory in nature, as stated in its Terms of Reference.
The Minister explained that since the end of conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka is engaged in the delicate task of forging national unity and progress through reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. After almost three decades, the Government has been successful in restoring peace, stability and security in all parts of the country. The Government is dealing with critical post-conflict issues, with a view to erasing the pain and anguish of the past, while at the same time consolidating national unity and future progress. We have made significant progress relating to resettlement of internally displaced persons, restoring livelihood in conflict- affected areas, reintegration of former child soldiers as productive citizens, rehabilitation of detainees, de-mining, restoring democratic processes in the North and East as well as reconstruction of housing and infrastructure. We are moving gradually and confidently forward. The Minister noted that none of these positive developments have been reflected in the Report.
Furthermore, the controversial contents of the Darusman Report and its public release at this stage obstruct and retard this positive momentum, and it creates divisions. At the same time, the Report will feed into the political agendas of those who wish to destabilize the country.
The Minister stated that the Government questions the fundamental legal basis of the conclusions arrived at by the Panel. The Report itself states that it is not a fact-finding or an investigative body. Notwithstanding this, the Panel comes to the preposterous conclusion that violations of international humanitarian law have occurred in Sri Lanka, and that “credible” evidence of violations is available to them. The Panel has also decided that these “sources” and the “Panel’s substantive records will be classified as strictly confidential…..”. In other words, Minister Peiris pointed out that none of the so-called sources and material according to which the Panel claims to substantiate their conclusions, can be examined or verified by the public at large, or the Government of Sri Lanka. This is in flagrant violation of procedural fairness and principles of natural justice known to all civilized society. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka seriously questions the credibility and basic fairness of the so-called “process” outlined by the Panel, which has led to its conclusions. Consequently, the Minister emphasized that the Government is strongly opposed to any recommendations for further action arising from such a flawed basis.
Minister Peiris noted that the Darusman Panel on its own accord, expands its mandate to compile what amounts to their unique and flawed version of the contemporary socio-political history of Sri Lanka. The entire conflict with the LTTE is erroneously and dangerously characterized as a “struggle for the existence of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples”. This creates no doubt as to the Panel’s ultimate intentions, particularly when the Panel proceeds to characterize the LTTE as “the most disciplined and most nationalist of the Tamil militant groups”. This is despite the reality that the LTTE killed more Tamil leaders than Sinhalese leaders, and perpetrated the worst imaginable atrocities on the Tamil people for almost thirty years. The bias of the experts is also evidenced when they state that the conflict ended “tragically”. The end of terrorism was a moment of great joy for the people of Sri Lanka, while it no doubt ended “tragically” for the LTTE’s ambitions to impose their rule by force over the people of the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Such inherent prejudices and ethnically contrived language is further evidenced in the Report’s account of “individual soldiers” helping Tamil civilians escape the clutches of the LTTE at the end of the conflict. The Sri Lanka Government had very explicitly instructed its military to provide all possible assistance to the people crossing over to the cleared areas.
The Minister stated that in this regard the Government of Sri Lanka is concerned about current developments arising from the Panel Report. Inflamed by the biased contents of the Report, some Tamil groups have expressed the view that given the treatment described in the Report, there is no alternative to a separate State of Tamil Eelam. It is also most regrettable that a respected personality such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillai has questioned the very nature of the conflict in Sri Lanka by stating that violations have occurred “under the guise of combating terrorism”. Minister Peiris recalled that over thirty democracies worldwide have designated the LTTE as a “terrorist” group.
The Minister noted that the allegations in the Darusman Report are presented as a narrative account of events during the last stages of the humanitarian operation, instead of under their legal classification. The events are therefore recounted as a true “horror story” aimed at arousing emotion and causing revulsion and contempt. Strangely, it is also stated that “this account should not be taken as proven fact”. This begs the question as to whether the account is fact or fiction, Minister Peiris stated.
Minister Peiris noted that the political motivations of the Panel are further reflected in their comments on the family of H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Panel makes allegations of nepotism against the President of Sri Lanka, citing as examples that Hon. Basil Rajapaksa is the Minister of Economic Development and Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa is the Speaker of Parliament. Minister Peiris highlighted to the diplomatic community that Hon. Basil Rajapaksa had been elected with the highest number of preferential votes from the District of Gampaha, and was therefore a democratically elected representative of the people. Minister Peiris pointed out that Hon. Chamal Rajapaksa, the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, has been an elected Member of Parliament for over twenty years and furthermore, his appointment in the capacity of the Speaker of the Parliament was seconded by the Chief Opposition Whip of Parliament, reflecting bipartisan consensus.
Minister Peiris also regretted that the Panel demonstrates their pre-determined bias against the domestically constituted mechanism to deal with a range of issues relevant to the conflict with a view to promoting reconciliation and confidence among people – the LLRC. The LLRC consists of persons of high integrity and independence and with significant experience. In the process of their work, the LLRC had obtained testimony from civilians affected by the conflict in all parts of the country, including in the North and the East. With a view to providing urgent relief, the LLRC submitted their interim recommendations to the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka has already commenced implementation of the LLRC recommendations through the Inter-Agency Administrative Committee (IAAC). While the Government is awaiting the outcome of the LLRC, the Panel has arrived at the conclusion that the LLRC lacks credibility even before its work has been completed. This exposes the fact that the ultimate pre-determined motive of the Panel is to hasten their objective of establishing an “international mechanism”. This is in blatant violation of all accepted legal norms that domestic processes need to be exhausted prior to resorting to external judicial proceedings.
In summary, the Government of Sri Lanka finds that the processes adopted by the Darusman Report and the conclusions arrived at are biased and fundamentally flawed from every conceivable point of view. The Report is divisive and unhelpful at a time when Sri Lanka is engaged in the delicate task of dealing with post-conflict issues, reconciliation and progress.
Nevertheless, Minister Peiris reiterated that the Government of Sri Lanka is clearly resolved to continue its cooperation with the United Nations. As correctly pointed out by the UN Secretary-General, primacy should be accorded to the domestic process underway. The Darusman Report refers to many issues which are alleged to have occurred in Sri Lanka and which are currently subject to a domestic process. The conclusions of the externally constituted Darusman Panel working from New York should not take precedence over the conclusions, still awaited, of the domestic process.
In a parallel process, Minister Peiris said that the Government has also initiated discussions with elected representatives of the Tamil community with a view to arriving at a long-term political solution. The fifth round of these talks is scheduled this week. This process will address both the immediate post-conflict humanitarian issues, as well as the need to evolve appropriate political and constitutional arrangements.
Minister Peiris requested Sri Lanka’s friends in the international community to assess these facts fairly and in a balanced manner and to give the people of Sri Lanka the opportunity to reach their full potential in a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united country. Based on the mandate of the people at local, provincial, national and Presidential levels, the Government is working confidently towards achieving these objectives.
Minister Peiris concluded by stating that it is not the Government’s intention to create any “mass protests” and agitation relating to the Darusman Report as alleged by some. We are not instigating hysteria nor violence or embarrassment to the UN community and to foreign Missions. Such allegations have been levelled by those with political agendas to blacken the image of the country at this sensitive moment.
Ministry of External Affairs
28th April 2011