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We Will Not Have To Fear “ Rajitha Senaratne

2014 Mar 24

By Waruni Karunarathne

As the Sri Lankan government has openly rejected the amended US draft resolution, there is a general fear that it might damage Sri Lanka’s diplomatic relationship with other countries. At the same time, the recent arrests of the human rights activists in the North have raised concerns that the government is developing a “no care” attitude towards the international community. When The Sunday Leader contacted Minister Rajitha Senaratne regarding these matters, he assured that there would be no further threats from the international community or any damage to the diplomatic relationships with other countries due to human right issues of the country.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q. Is the amended US draft resolution a threat to Sri Lanka?
A. No. We do not think that there is a possibility for the UN to take any more actions against Sri Lanka. If they need to take any more actions they will have to refer it to the UN Security Council. China and Russia have veto power at the UN Security Council.

Q. Will the government face more pressure internationally by arresting human rights activists while the UN Human Rights Council is in session?
A. That is why they have taken measures to release those activists who were arrested. Those activists were arrested under suspicion as the military had found a large number of arms in the North.

Q. There is a feeling that the government is adopting a “no care” attitude towards the international community on the human rights issues. Is that the case?
A. We have presented our case and submitted all the documents to the UNHRC, including reports related to actual implementations of the LLRC recommendations and actions taken to address the issues of the people.

Q. There has been some criticism on the role of the military in civil administration, especially in the North. What is your response?
A. The government has started to reduce army personnel in the North. The number of military personnel has reduced drastically. The military will be taken out of the area.

Q. Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem has been openly criticizing the government on human rights issues. Does the government condone criticism from within?
A. He has not criticized human rights issues. He has only taken up the issue of attacks on mosques, and it was his party that submitted the report to Navi Pillai. This issue is being brought up in Pillai’s final report to the UNHRC. The members of the Muslim community have the right to raise such matters.

Q. In the post Geneva context, will the government look at rebuilding its relationship with countries that vote against Sri Lanka on the resolution?
A. That we will not have to fear. Even America is only against Sri Lanka on certain issues, but they have declared that they would continue to support Sri Lanka with reference to all the other matters. The British Ambassador’s statement shows that they also maintain a similar stand.  They have said that they would not impose economic sanctions or anything of that nature on Sri Lanka.

Q. The defence authorities have raised concerns of LTTE elements regrouping within Sri Lanka. Are these concerns genuine or are they aimed at getting political mileage?
A. Nobody can say that the concerns are not genuine. There is a need to curtail the activities of unidentified and radical groups if there is a threat to the security of the country. In the past, there were youth insurrections in the country that resurfaced. There is a possibility that people might regroup in the North. Any government can have suspicions of the security situation in the country and they should stay alert.

Q. Is the government using the Geneva human rights issue as a carrot before the public ahead of the provincial election?
A. The opposition has been making allegations that the US would bring down economic sanctions due to the actions taken by the government and that the government is responsible for all the problems brought upon the country. The same opposition has been making claims that the government is taking advantage of the UNHRC in Geneva ahead of the election. If the government fails in the face of the international community, it would actually benefit the opposition to get the people to their side.

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