There is a time, a place and a method for intervention by the Human Rights Council in the affairs of individual states. What is distressing about the current initiative in respect of Sri Lanka is its highly selective and discriminating character, External Affairs Minister Professor G L Peiris said in Gabarone on Friday.
He made these comments at a meeting with Botswana’s Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Minister Phandu T. C. Skelemani.
“Sri Lanka’s policy of bringing to her people the full benefits of peace and stability consists of a combination of several elements - development, reconciliation and accountability,” he said.
The minister said that these are interlocking strands, each complementing and reinforcing the others. Prof Peiris explained in detail to Botswana’s Foreign Minister the nature and effect of Sri Lanka’s initiatives in each of these areas.
He illustrated the practical success of the government’s overall strategy by describing the results achieved within two years in such fields as demining, resettlement, housing, the creation of livelihoods through employment generation, especially in the Northern province, the establishment of structures for resolving land issues, elevating income thresholds by means of viable partnerships between the public and private sectors, and the revival of electoral mechanisms.
The cumulative thrust of these efforts, Prof Peiris pointed out to his colleague, has been commended by representatives of many countries.
He said that visiting legislators from a number of foreign countries including the United States had been encouraged by the government in a spirit of total openness to visit the North, and many of these delegations had commented favourably on the substantial progress on the ground.
Explaining the steps taken by the government during the last eight weeks towards systematic implementation of the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, Minister Peiris remarked that criticisms in some quarters relating to alleged delay are entirely at variance with the demonstrable reality and, regrettably, indicate significant bias and pre-judgment.
On the issues relating to accountability, the minister said that the Commission, far from being evasive, had brought its mind to bear directly on the issues and made a series of practical proposals for upholding the values enshrined in accountability through recourse to a structured domestic process.
The Attorney-General, naturally the central authority for dealing with these aspects of the Commission’s recommendations, is in Geneva right now to engage candidly with delegations there with regard to ongoing work in this field, the minister told his counterpart.
Prof Peiris identified inclusivity as the core element of the government’s approach to reconciliation. He added that Sri Lankan government was overwhelmingly supported by the public at successive elections at all levels during the last seven years, is acutely conscious of the imperative requirement of inclusivity - straddling language, religion and cultural background -as the essential basis for giving the country the benefit of the progress of which it had been deprived by terrorism for more than a quarter of a century.
Foreign prodding in this regard is both unnecessary and offensive to the natural pride and dignity of the people of Sri Lanka, the minister said.
Prof Peiris commented on a range of circumstances which strongly suggest that the current initiatives against Sri Lanka, because of their strikingly divisive and polarizing impact, are certain to harm the ongoing domestic process. Assistance, he insisted, must be spontaneously requested if its effect is to be beneficial; it is certainly a misnomer to characterize as “assistance” measures which are sought to be thrust upon a country against its will.
During the first visit by a Sri Lankan Foreign Minister to the Republic of Botswana, Professor Peiris had the opportunity of interacting informally with several senior officials including Attorney-General of Botswana, Dr Athaliah Molokomme and Botswana Central Bank Governor Linah Mohohlo.