Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday said that his government will withdraw from co-sponsoring a UN Human Rights Council resolution on accountability for war crimes.
His statement came days after the US imposed travel restrictions on Army chief Lt Gen Shavendra Silva and his immediate family members over alleged gross violations of human rights during the final phase of the island nation''s Civil War in 2009.
"Our government has decided to withdraw from the process of co sponsorship in relation to resolution 30-/1," the Prime Minister said in a statement.
The resolution 30/1 was co-sponsored in 2015 by the then Sri Lankan government.
Rajapaksa accused his predecessor of betraying the island's security forces by co-sponsoring the resolution.
"It is because of the historic betrayal that other countries are able to name members of our armed forces as violators of human rights," said Rajapaksa, who was president and commander-in-chief when Sri Lanka launched the offensive to crush the LTTE in 2009.
The 2015 resolution was based on the UNHRC report which had accused the Lankan troops of violating human rights, Rajapaksa’s statement said.
Sri Lanka's ruling and opposition parties have strongly opposed the US move to impose the travel ban on Lt. Gen. Silva, saying America's decision was based on independently unverified information.
Minister of Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena last week said that Lt. Gen. Silva was only conducting a war against a designated terrorist group which was the LTTE.
He was appointed as the Sri Lankan Army Commander last year and previously headed the Army's 58th Division in the final battle against the LTTE in 2009.
The UN rights body resolution had blamed Lt. Gen. Silva’s brigade of committing rights abuses during the final phase of the battle which ended in May 2009. Both government troops and the LTTE were accused of rights violations. The Sri Lanka Army has denied the alleged rights abuses.
Full text of statement:
“The United States of America has prohibited the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva or members of his family from entering that country. Even though we are now in the 21st Century, even members of his family who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, have been subjected to a collective punishment reminiscent of the practice in medieval Europe. The people should be the judge of how fair this is. Even though this collective punishment has been meted out on the grounds that the Army Commander had committed violations of human rights, no one knows what these allegations are.
Our government has already conveyed our displeasure in this regard to the government of the United States in the strongest possible terms. It is because of the historic betrayal committed by the yahapalana government formed by the United National Party, the Tamil National Alliance and the JVP in co-sponsoring UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 in 2015 that other countries are able to name members of our armed forces as violators of human rights. The first operative paragraph of that Resolution had taken note ‘with appreciation’ the September 2015 Report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights which accused the Sri Lankan armed forces of human rights violations. This report was based on the previous 2011 unofficial report prepared by a three member committee appointed by the then UN Secretary General outside the established procedure of that organisation. In this manner, the UNP-TNA-JVP combine ended up accepting all the unfounded allegations made against our armed forces by various interested parties.
Even though the Army Commander of our country and his family have been subjected to a collective punishment reminiscent of medieval times, the yahapalana political parties have not condemned it. UNP Parliamentarian Lakshman Kiriella says that this travel ban imposed on the Army Commander and his family is the responsibility of the present government. The JVP says that the USA has imposed a travel ban on the Army Commander and his family at this particular moment due to a deal to ensure that the SLPP obtains a resounding victory at the forthcoming Parliamentary elections. For its part the Tamil National Alliance has welcomed the collective travel ban imposed on the Army Commander and his family. The people should take note of the fact that when the UNP government co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 in the UN Human Rights Council, the so called anti-imperialist JVP did not oppose it. From the discussion that has taken place with regard to the collective punishment imposed on the Army Commander and his family, it becomes clear that the political divide in this country is between the patriotic camp which puts the country first, on the one hand, and born traitors who are waiting for the first opportunity to betray the country, on the other hand."