Two new members - Avdash Kaushal and Ahmer Bilal Soofie - have been appointed to the Advisory Committee to the Commission on Disappearances raising its membership to five. Disclosing this to Foreign Correspondents based in Sri Lanka at the Temple Trees today (August 19), President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the appointments were made on the request of the Chairman of the Commission Maxwell Paranagama who said it would be useful to have the advice of international experts for the proper functioning of the Commission.
President Rajapakas said that the Commission has already received nearly 20,000 complaints and it is looking into them.
President clarified it is a domestic inquiry and the mandate of the Advisory Committee is to provide advise as and when requested by the Commission.
He said that Sri Lanka did not recognize the OHCHR Investigations panel and the government would not cooperate with the panel as the ‘probe is unacceptable’.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa extended the term of the commission investigating disappearances in the North and East until February 15th, 2015.
Last month, President named a three-member international advisory panel comprising Sir Desmond de Silva, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Professor David Crane to advise the Disappearances Commission. The members of the panel Desmonde Silva and Nice are from Britain while David Crane is a US national.
“The Advisory Committee has been broadened as it is useful to get legal advice from the region. This is another step to strengthen the domestic inquiry machinery,” President Rajapaksa said.
Asked about certain criticism leveled against some Committee members, President pointed out that there were many serious allegations against some members of the investigations panel appointed by UNHRC. He said the fact that the UNHRC panel is biased as evident from the recent statements made by the outgoing High Commissioner on Human Rights.
The decision not to disclose the names of persons who give evidence before the Panel is totally unfair as Sri Lanka will not get an opportunity to cross examine them, Minister of External Affairs Prof G L Peiris said.
“They are judges in their own cause. We do not recognize the jurisdiction or authority do this investigation in the first place,” he said. “Sri Lanka could not accept such a prejudiced investigation. The UNHRC has not been known for its consistency and they changed decisions due to political reasons. Many member countries are disillusioned over this,” Minister said.
When a mediaperson pointed out that the OHCHR Panel would hold investigations outside Sri Lanka and produce a report, President said that the intention of those who wanted such an investigations is to get such a one-sided report.
“However, we continue to engage with the UN system. We have not walked out like some other countries,” President Rajapaksa said.