Australian1. How do you respond to the ICG report allegations that the impeachment and removal from office last month of the country’s chief justice constituted the completion of a “constitutional coup” which began in 2010 when parliament passed the eighteenth amendment, removing presidential term limits and handing the president responsibility for appointing judges, senior police and human rights officials?

As always, the ICG confuses various issues in its relentless campaign to denigrate Sri Lanka as a whole. The 18th amendment, while not ideal, was an improvement on the 17th, which confused two different constitutional dispensations. In any Presidential system the President does have responsibility to appoint, but ensuring consultation is vital. Unfortunately the consultation mechanism enjoined by the 18th amendment has been nullified by the decision of the 2 opposition members on the 5 member Council to boycott its proceedings after accepting appointment, thus permitting anyone the President suggests for any position to be appointed without question.

I thought the manner in which the Chief Justice was removed was regrettable, but she was certainly flawed, and I hope now I will get better cooperation in areas in the National Human Rights Action Plan in which she was not interested..

2. Has the government shown sufficient commitment to fulfill the recommendations of the LLRC, particularly in relation to investigating disappearances and evidence of child conscription, demilitarising the north  and reaching a political settlement that devolves some power to provinces? Could it do more?

The government has done a lot, and I attach the latest report, which is also available on www.priu.gov.lk. Unfortunately the Task Force was headed by someone who did not devote enough time to monitoring and promoting action, though the Civil Servant involved did his best. Now the most senior Civil Servant in the country has been appointed to run things, and there has been a marked difference already in responsiveness to issues that those who want to see quicker action, including myself, have raised. It must though be understood that we have moved much more quickly in some areas than any other countries which suffered similar tragedies.

3. What do you say to the report’s claims that progress by the government on investigations into, and accountability for, violations of the laws of war is “next to impossible” and an international investigation remains the only plausible process for learning the truth, holding perpetrators to account and defending the laws of war?

An absurd claim from an institution that has prejudged the issues as I have repeatedly pointed out. My first refutation was not responded to by Gareth Evans, then the ICG head, who told me he had heard I was a dangerous person to deal with. If a former Australian Foreign Minister is nervous of a junior government official, that makes clear the difficulties he has with regard to the truth. He suggested I send my objections to Alan Keenan, who had in fact written the first report and admitted to some twisting of facts (ethnic cleansing, which he granted was done by the LTTE though the report suggested it was government) and of course Alan also failed to reply. I do not think proven liars should be taken seriously with regard to opinions, though of course any facts they purport to put forward should be investigated.

4.  Do serious human rights abuses continue to occur in sri lanka, as the  ICG claims?

As in any other country, there are abuses by individuals, and our record of investigation should improve, as is the case with several other countries, but – as with Britain and the Bloody Sunday case – though there are delays in some instances, we should keep striving for improvement. Certainly the recent readiness of the police to have training programmes, with regard to professional capacity as well as human rights issues, is a step in the right direction.

Any general comments on recent UNHRC claims and upcoming HRC session next  month would also be welcomed.

As I have said repeatedly, the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs is incapable, as now led, of handling problems at the UNHRC. It dismissed the two best envoys we had, who looked on criticism objectively, and tired to improve matters where we had problems while firmly refuting unfair criticism. While the present ambassador will do his best, guidance is given from Colombo by the worst diplomats we ever had, who do not engage but simply ask for votes, as a distinguished Indian journalist once put it to me. I predict more problems, but I hope these will read to a change in the Ministry so we can be more effective in the future.

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