Even as Sri Lanka prepares to co-sponsor a UN resolution at the ongoing Human Rights Council session, seeking more time to fulfil its obligations, the country’s Tamil leadership has called for a time-table and strict monitoring of government initiatives.
Currently working on a draft with the U.S., the U.K. and Montenegro, Sri Lanka will soon submit a resolution that, it hopes, will give an extended deadline for the war-battered country to implement promises it made in 2015, the Colombo-based Daily FT reported on Thursday.
According to Mano Tittawela, Secretary General of the government-appointed Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms, Sri Lanka has sought a two-year time frame to implement the 2015 resolution. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister assured the Council in Geneva that Sri Lanka would go the distance, and urged the people and civil society to be patient.
However, the country’s main Tamil political alliance has expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations in the last 18 months.
Addressing Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Tuesday, Tamil legislator and TNA spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran said the extension should be subject to a clear time-table provided by the Sri Lankan government on “what it would accomplish when”.
Emphasising that every one of the commitments given by Sri Lanka “must be necessarily implemented”, Mr. Sumanthiran said that while UNHRC resolutions were not binding, they had a great moral force.
“If Sri Lanka is to be counted among countries that carry out their undertakings, then surely it must do what it undertook to do,” he said.
It is in that context, Mr. Sumanthiran explained, that Sri Lanka must be given a time extension. “Those who say Sri Lanka should not be allowed more time are playing straight into the hands of those who want to avoid accomplishing the undertakings.”
In October 2015, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that Sri Lanka co-sponsored, calling for a credible judicial process to probe the island’s civil war excesses. Sri Lanka assured the international community of a “four-pillar approach” to address truth, reconciliation, accountability and non-recurrence. While the government’s apparently slow-paced efforts have made minority Tamils anxious, its attempt to draft a new Constitution has hit a roadblock without adequate consensus among various political actors.
Pointing to questions on the disappeared persons, land and political prisoners as “pressing concerns” that merit urgent action, Mr. Sumanthiran said other matters relating to accountability might take time, as the government needed to enact legislation and set up special courts. “But meanwhile, we would like the [new] Constitution done and dusted as soon as possible. We have a national unity government in power for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history. We must seize the moment,” he said.