Statement of H.E. Mr. Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the EU at a discussion on Sri Lanka at the Session of the South Asia Delegation of the European Parliament – 7th October 2008
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for affording the Government of Sri Lanka an opportunity to be heard, as you exchange views on the 5th European Parliament/Sri Lanka Inter Parliamentary Meeting (IPM) which took place on 20 – 26 July, 2008. I do so in the context that Sri Lanka values the cordial relations it has with all European Institutions and, as you are aware, has in recent times intensified its engagement with the European Parliament.
Mr. Chairman, so much has been said about this visit, mainly by yourself, that I am not sure whether I should respond here to the press statement and comments you made in Colombo on 25th July, to your widely reported speech on 25th August 2008 at an event organized by the British Tamil Forum (BTF), a front organization it would seem of the proscribed LTTE, held in Harrow, South London, a part of your EU Parliamentary constituency, or to this draft report which has been placed before this body.
At the outset, I am instructed by my Government to place on record our strong protest about the damage which may have been done to the good relations between my country and the European Union through the aspersions cast on the Government of Sri Lanka through your statement issued and comments at the Colombo press conference, which I note is also part of this report. Among other matters, it stated in relation to the planned visit to the Eastern Province “the last minute cancellation and a catalogue of chaos and confusion meant that the delegation did not fly to Trincomalee. Despite repeated assurances; endless complications resulted in the party being turned back from Ratmalana Airport, destroying months of preparation, time and expense”. I note that your draft report itself, is less critical in explaining the reasons for the delegation aborting the scheduled two-day visit to the East in saying “when the authorization (for the UN plane) was eventually received, in a best case scenario, the field trip would have had to be shortened drastically”. These however do not correspond with your statement at the pro-LTTE rally in Harrow, where you gallantly explained amidst cheers it seems, that the EU delegation did not visit the East because “I refused to give only a photo opportunity of shaking hands with Pillayan, the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province”.
The Government of Sri Lanka sees these contradictory messages communicated to different audiences as an attempt to sully the good name of Sri Lanka in the European eye, and an exercise at scoring brownie points with a constituency due to vote in the upcoming European Parliamentary election.
Let me state categorically that the Government was very keen to ensure that the delegation had the opportunity to experience first-hand the transformation that had taken place in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka over the past year. As I stated even prior to your embarking on this visit, it was particularly keen that you did so, as it seemed that the EU had been reluctant to appreciate the ‘winds of change’ blowing through Eastern Sri Lanka in recent times and in June 2008 the European Commission (EC) office in Colombo, , had prevented a member of the EC delegation attending the Joint Commission from even interacting with the newly elected Chief Minister of the Eastern Province.
For your visit the Government had initially offered air-transportation but this was refused by you Mr. Chairman on the basis of wanting to “demonstrate impartiality” (although between whom it is unclear). Nevertheless the Government did everything within its power to make the journey possible to your satisfaction. What it did not know was that, instead of flying with a local company which had earlier been booked by the EC office in Colombo (to be cancelled with a ‘cancellation fee’ of US$ 2,500/-, paid by the European taxpayer doubtless), you decided to embark on a “UN plane” flown all the way from South Africa, arriving in Sri Lanka 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure to Trincomalee, which incidentally is only five hours by road.
You would understand that the Sri Lankan aviation authorities were obliged as per international civil aviation safety regulations to assess the air-worthiness of this rather old aircraft and familiarize a foreign crew that had never flown in Sri Lanka with the route to be taken. This they did in record time and, as your draft report now confirms, authorization for the flight was granted only 45 minutes later than your estimated departure time. You were assured of this, but you chose to leave the airport and return to the hotel. Why you chose to abort this journey, when you could still have had a clear day and a half in the East, and done all you wanted, will remain known only to you.
However, Mr. Chairman, to the Government of Sri Lanka it would seems obvious that by avoiding the visit to the East, members of the delegation were deprived of experiencing first-hand one of the proudest achievements of Sri Lanka in recent times. We have not only cleared the East of any significant terrorist presence, our forces did this without any civilian casualties during their operations, and our citizens who were displaced were almost all resettled to the satisfaction of UNHCR, followed by democratic elections and restoration of the provincial council– all within a year. Such a record is unparalleled, , in other theatres of the fight against terror and the Sri Lankan example has been commended not only as an instructive model in transmeag former terrorists to the democratic way of life, but also as a case study in post-conflict development.
Turning to your draft report, it is disappointing that, despite what you acknowledge to have been “a substantial and extensive program”, the report is replete with unsubstantiated allegations, deliberate distortions and blatant falsehoods and seeks merely to highlight negatives, ignore positives, and disregard the context and environment prevailing in Sri Lanka today - a country fighting one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world - the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This is terrorist group the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has described as “among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”. A truism once again demonstrated only yesterday in Anuradhapura, through the dastardly LTTE terrorist attack on the Opposition Leader of the North Central Provincial Council who belonged to the United National Party (UNP) Major General Janaka Perera and several others. Despite these challenges we have maintained a resilient economy in an inhospitable international climate and above all ensured levels of socio-economic development akin to developed nations, keeping apace in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) towards which development partners, including the EU have made significant contribution.
I will address the report section by section.
With reference to Section A – “the peace process collapses…”, Let me make very clear that, contrary to your report, the Government of Sri Lanka has not chosen an “all – war strategy” nor “abandoned any idea of peace talks before a complete military victory”. As President, Mahinda Rajapaksa stated at the 63rd session of the UNGA on 24th September 2008 “our Government has always been ready to address the causes of these issues and effectively implement political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities. What the Government would not, and could not do is to let an illegal and armed terrorist group, the LTTE, to hold a fraction of our population, a part of the Tamil community, hostage to such terror in the Northern part of Sri Lanka and deny those people their democratic rights and free elections…’’ The problem is that some people still believe that peace talks can only be with terrorists, forgetting that in Sri Lanka there are several pluralist democratic Tamil forces which are happy, and infact now emboldened, to discuss with us the political reforms that are essential. We will not let them be intimidated again by the forces you addressed in London, we will not let them be killed by the LTTE as so many Tamil political leaders have been over the last several decades.
With reference to Section B – “….. followed by a clear deterioration of the humanitarian situation”, the unsourced assertion in the report that “in July 2008 there were approximately 610,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Sri Lanka” is an exaggeration. The correct current figure of IDPs- which accounts for those displaced and living in Welfare Centres or with family and friends, is far less, and includes approximately 300,000 displaced before 2006. When the Eastern Province was cleared of the LTTE in 2006/2007, it is true that the IDPs in the East came to over 200,000 but, following prompt action by the Government, certified by the UNHCR as having satisfied international standards, today only 28,000 remain as IDPs this too is because their places of residence are yet to be cleared of the landmines laid by the LTTE. All others have been re-settled in their original homes or in alternate dwellings. With regard to IDPs in LTTE dominated areas in the Killinochchi and Mullativu districts, the current estimate is around 250,000, of which there are 110,000 pre- 2006 IDPs brought to the Vanni by the LTTE at the time they fled the Jaffna peninsula, another 90,000 who were displaced between 2006 and June 2008 and the rest displaced due to the on-going operations.
There are about 200,000 IDP’s in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar districts, two thirds of them of the pre-2006 category. There is also a significant number of pre-2006 IDPs in the Puttalam District, resulting from the deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing by the LTTE in 1990 when some 75,000 Muslims were overnight driven out of Jaffna by the LTTE. The process of finding durable solutions for them was begun by this government, assisted by the World Bank with a housing project, and most recently by the Prof. Walter Kalin, the Representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human Rights of IDPs, who contributed to a national consultation on the subject. Merely citing figures does not do justice to the fact that, in the midst of dealing with our terrorist problem, the current government has shown itself determined to deal with these tragic victims of LTTE atrocities. Whatever your constituents in Harrow might say, Mr Chairman, we will care for these are our citizens.
In discussing IDPs in the present context, it is important that we bear in mind that those displaced due to the on-going military operations in the Vanni are, as previously in the case of the East, merely a temporary dislocation. They are being encouraged to move out of these areas through “humanitarian corridors” created in order that the security forces can put an end to terrorism in Sri Lanka and in order that they avoid being used by the LTTE as “human shields”. If the authors of this report had any genuine concern for those people who have for decades been exploited in the clutches of the LTTE, It remains a question why they have not, either in this report or in their many public utterances, joined the chorus of international opinion including British Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch Brown and International Development Minister, Shahid Malik, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and even organizations including Amnesty International, that has called upon the LTTE to take urgent action “to allow free movement of civilians” and “not to hold them as human shields”. Instead of joining in our plea to let our people go, the import of the draft report in this section is tantamount to putting pressure on the Government to stop its military operations against the LTTE terrorists – effectively throwing a lifeline to the terrorists.
The draft report goes on to describe as “an extremely disturbing move”, the Government’s instruction to NGOs and the UN to relocate their staff and equipment from the Vanni (where military operations are on-going, development work is not possible and the LTTE was known to be conscripting staff of these organizations and forcefully taking over their assets) to Vavuniya, where a new Humanitarian hub has been established and they can continue their work. It fails to acknowledge that the ICRC continues to remain in the operational area playing an important role, and that the UNHCR and WFP, though they too were initially meant to remain, chose to leave the area on the grounds that other UN agencies were not permitted to remain. However, at their request, their staff will be permitted to go into the Vanni with convoys transporting supplies to the displaced. The Vanni continues to be looked after by our government, also provides free education health and other social services to all our people.
Naturally, we are deeply troubled by the fact that, , a section of our people have had their lives for many decades disrupted by the continuing conflict situation, and that this will persist only for a little while longer. But I want to allay the fear raised in the draft report, about the “conditions” of the IDPs presently in the Vanni, held by force by the LTTE.
It was former UNICEF Executive Director James Grant who described the Sri Lankan example as "uniquely humanitarian in a conflict situation", while Dr. Francis Deng, former UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on IDPs who noted that “Sri Lanka represents the unusual situation of a central government providing relief aid to persons under the control of the main opposition group. In a world replete with examples of Governments and rebel groups using food as a weapon against civilian populations, the situation in Sri Lanka is one that deserves closer attention if not more publicity as an important precedent”. Sri Lanka is proud that, not withstanding the on-going intensive military operations in the North against the LTTE, it continues to live up to these cherished values. This was re-confirmed in comments made during a visit to Colombo on 26 September 2008 by Prof. Walter Kalin, who commended the “political will” at various levels of Government in Sri Lanka to find durable solutions to the concerns of IDPs, and that “despite facing many challenges”, Sri Lanka “is heading in the right direction overall”. Obviously, the authors of this report didn’t want to see it that way.
I am glad to report to you that on 2 October 2008, 07 UN staffers and 3 persons from the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) accompanied a convoy of 51 trucks with 650 MT of food, clothing, shelter and medical needs to the Vanni. I can assure you that the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensuring that at least one convoy per week will be undertaken with an approximate delivery of around 3,500 MT of food per month. The government will do so, while not compromising on security and with limited restrictions to avoid material used in the conflict from reaching the LTTE. In fact, I wish to note that 3 of the trucks that were scheduled to make the journey to Vanni last week did not do so, as the security forces found concealed in them 2.5 kilo grams of plastic explosives, batteries and GPS systems respectively – acts the UN has also condemned. Although not pointed out by your selective sources, these are the realities average Sri Lankans have to grapple with on a daily basis, as Sri Lanka continues to care for its people, amidst facing terrorism.
With respect to Section C, “Human Rights situation”, the report states that the Sri Lanka constitution “nominally” ensures the protection of fundamental human rights. It fails to acknowledge that in Sri Lanka, fundamental rights are fully justiciable and the exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine related questions is vested with the Supreme Court, which has in recent years vastly enhanced its jurisdiction by giving wide and purposeful interpretations – including reversing policy decisions taken by the security forces. The draft report also ignores the Sri Lanka Government’s consistent policy of openness, transparency and constructive engagement with the international community, including receiving rapporteurs and voluntarily submitting itself to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council.
Let me reiterate the Sri Lanka Government’s firm conviction that those who violate human rights or break laws will not be excused. Such persons will be prosecuted according to the law and the Government is committed to ensuring investigation into and prosecution of alleged offenders within the legal framework operative in Sri Lanka. It is in this spirit that the Government established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) in 2006 to inquire into 16 incidents of alleged serious violations of human rights, including the ACF case referred to in the report. However, the report fails to acknowledge the action being taken by the COI, which in respect of the cases of the Trincomalee students and the ACF have since early this year held public hearings. The investigation into the Trincomalee case has been concluded and the COI is expected to submit a report to the President shortly. The investigation into the ACF case is continuing and a representative of the French Government is observing the proceedings.
The draft report makes much of Sri Lanka’s not being re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008 when, as members should know well enough, failure to be re-elected means nothing in a context in which a more popular competitor got more votes. It is pertinent to note that in terms of actual numbers of votes Sri Lanka got only a few votes less than some European countries who were also engaged in tight competitions,.
With regard to the COI, contrary to what is stated in the report, four members did not resign from the COI “saying that the GOSL had shown little willingness to help them in their work”. Mr. U. Yapa, a former Solicitor General, resigned due to ill health and later passed away; Mr. K.C. Logeswaran resigned for personal reasons as he wanted to be out of the country and upon his return continues to function as a member; Dr. D. Nesiah resigned after his role as a Commissioner was challenged by private Counsel on the grounds of conflict of interest; Mr. Javid Yusuf also resigned as he had other personal commitments. As for the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) which was mandated to observe the workings of the COI, it certainly did not claim that “it was interfered with by the Attorney General’s office”. The claim was that the COI was interfered with, whereas the COI has made it clear that this is not its view, and that it continued to require the assistance of the AG’s Department in certain respects. It must be noted that unlike in the US, the Attorney General is not a political appointee in Sri Lanka and cannot according to the law of the land be replaced in such proceedings by a private lawyer as is done in some countries. It should be further noted that the COI has exercised the liberty to additionally choose lawyers from the official or unofficial bar in the conduct of its inquiry. With respect to the IIGEP, it is the Government’s position that the mandate given to the Eminent Persons was abused by their Assistants, who took upon themselves authority they did not have, to the extent of issuing statements contrary to agreed guidelines and timed to embarrass Sri Lanka before meetings of the UN Human Rights Council and other International fora. The report’s reference to the final IIGEP withdrawal, and claims by some of its members about “a lack of political will”, should be seen in the context of the final statement by Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Chair of the IIGP who in a letter addressed to the President of Sri Lanka on 26th April 2008, categorically stated “you will find that the IIGEP has not accused the Government of Sri Lanka of any lack of political will in so far as the functioning of the COI is concerned. What has been recited in the Public Statement is about IIGEP’s apprehensions regarding absence of political will”.
Relating to media freedom, it is important to note that of over 25 media outlets in Sri Lanka, only 4 are state owned. Despite the intensity of the conflict, there is no media censorship and a reading of most newspapers in Sri Lanka, or viewing of most television programmes should provide a useful ‘litmus test’ for one to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of “what the delegation heard” on what “is expressly forbidden for journalists to do”. This is not to claim that journalists have not fallen victim to assassins nor been arrested when suspected of wrong doing that needed to be clarified. Pursuing such investigations transparently is in the interest of all concerned, as well as the country. With reference to the case of journalist J.S. Tissanayagam which the draft report refers to, following a period of detention he was produced before judicial authorities who authorized his further detention. He was subsequently indicted, and the case is pending before the High Court. While in detention Mr. Tissanayagam in a petition to the Supreme Court challenged his detention. This case is currently being heard. Let me also assure you that Mr. Tissanayagam has been examined and treated by eye specialists at the Colombo National Hospital and has been produced before the Judicial Medical Officer at the Colombo Judicial Medical Office for check-ups.
In relation to alleged abductions and disappearances, the position of the Government is that the situation has considerably improved from what was highlighted in the latter part of 2006 and early 2007, when following the earlier decimation of non-LTTE Tamil groups at the hands of the LTTE, these groups re-established themselves following the weakening of LTTE authority, and responded as they thought appropriate. The government was soon able however to bring that situation under control, and though internecine attacks continue, these are far fewer than before. As for exact numbers, the Government faces difficulty in arriving at a figure due to the multiplicity of lists provided by many agencies – often without any rationalization, supporting evidence or even details of those alleged to have disappeared, that could give investigators a starting point.
Further, investigations in areas in the North have been hampered due to the security situation and lack of access to the LTTE dominated areas. It must also be noted that since mid 2007 following vigorous operations mounted by the Government against a number of groups operating in Colombo who had been allegedly responsible for disappearances, and abductions for the extortion of money, a downward trend was noted. However, it is regrettable that agencies such as Human Rights Watch which is quoted in the draft report, having produced figures for a year in 2007, in 2008 produced figures for an 18 month period, which deliberately ignores this downward trend. As was pointed out with regard to its last report, it is no coincidence that, in claiming that there were over 1500 disappearances in the two years that ended in December 2007, HRW records 1300 of them as having occurred in 2006 or the first four months of 2007. Again, of the 97 cases documented in detail in its full report, just three occurred in the calendar year before the report was issued, early in 2008.
As to the allegation of the “prevalence of impunity”, the statistics quoted in the draft report as stated by Sri Lankan spokespersons is accurate over a period, which includes the past few years. Since 2004, it is noted that indictments have been served by the Attorney General of Sri Lanka against nearly 100 persons for human rights violations (including allegations of torture). Among the prominent recent cases where indictments had been served are that of an Army Corporal and Police Constable alleged to be responsible for the murder of 5 students in Thandikulam on 18th November 2006, and 6 members of the police and the armed forces including a Wing Commander (both retired and currently serving), who were arrested in June 2007 for a series of abductions for ransom and murder.
With respect to Section D, “Talks on Power Devolution”, the draft report makes much of the absence of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from the APRC process at present, which I am informed by APRC Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitharana, was perfectly well explained to you during your discussions with him. Since the draft report avoids mentioning it, let me repeat the very simple explanation for this. The setting up of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) was primarily intended to build a consensus within the southern polity of Sri Lanka on the nature and extent of devolution of power that could be put forward in negotiations with the LTTE. The original non-inclusion of the TNA in this process, was since the TNA had acknowledged their dependence on the LTTE, it made no sense to negotiate twice with the same perspectives. However, as Prof. Vitharana told you in Colombo, mid-way in the APRC process, he had explicitly asked the TNA leader whether they would be willing to join the process and that the President was ready to extend an invitation to them. The answer was that they felt it inadvisable at that time, and would consider it when talks were held with the LTTE. While the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have withdrawn from attending sessions but remain engaged with the Chairman of the APRC, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) which recently entered the political mainstream has recently joined the process.
It is important to note that it is the termination of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) which ended the LTTE monopoly of Tamil politics, that enabled the Government to introduce a political process to the North and East as recommended by the APRC and embark on ensuring the full implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution, in the areas for which it was most intended but where it remained unimplemented for 20 years following the categorical rejection of it by the LTTE. The re-establishment of the Eastern Provincial Council through the holding of elections in May 2008, measures to ensure proper implementation of the constitutional provisions relating to official languages, the recruitment of Tamil speaking police officers, interpreters and translators are all tangible results of the “full implementation” policy the draft report questions.
With respect to Section E, “The Situation in the East”, having avoided experiencing first-hand the developments on the ground, the draft report obtusely refuses to acknowledge the massive strides that have been made by the Government, along with all communities that share the East- the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, to restore normalcy in an area where just over a year ago, the LTTE held the people’s lives to ransom. Even as many international development partners have become engaged with this process, the European Union continues to stay aloof, refusing to accept that, when a fact does not fit a theory, it is the theory that must change. The draft report makes no effort to contribute to the winds of change; instead it prefers to stand against the tide of history. Incidentally, it should be noted that a year ago, the European Commission had the temerity to call in my predecessor and advise against holding elections in the Eastern Province, claiming that the EU report on the 2004 parliamentary election indicated that fair elections could not be held. The ground reality has disproved this misperception.
The draft report also goes on to allege that “the TMVP has not completely stopped its former practice to recruit child soldiers”. In this context, it is noteworthy that, according to UNICEF, as of 31st January 2008, the number of children recruited by the ‘Karuna’ faction was reported as 234 which included 164 children who were yet under 18 years. According to a report of a Committee set-up to monitor the recruitment of children chaired by the Justice Scretary which includes UNICEF, only 66 child recruits of the ‘Karuna’ faction remained as at September 2008. While 20 child recruits have been located and released with the assistance of UNICEF, the others could not be located, the TMVP had earlier facilitated the release 39. The US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, as well as UNICEF, has commended the progress made by the Government in securing the release of child soldiers held by the TMVP. The TMVP claims that there are no more in its custody and has invited UNICEF and the Government to visit and investigate all alleged cases. The logistics of this are still being worked out, but as UNICEF itself has declared, this is not a major problem. The tears shed in the draft report then seem ironic, since it makes no reference to the main culprit of child recruitment in Sri Lanka – the LTTE, who since 2002, had recruited over 5,700 children and that according to UNICEF, there were 1,430 outstanding cases of child recruitment by the LTTE as of 31st January, 2008.
With respect to Section F, “GSP+ Issues”, in comparison to the strident statements made by the Chairman in Colombo that if he had the choice Sri Lanka would not be given GSP+ and, at the pro-LTTE rally in Harrow where he stated that Sri Lanka would lose its GSP+ concessions, the observations made in the draft report are more measured. However, the authors of the draft report are deliberately distorting the truth or being badly misled when they state that “it would be extremely difficult to accept that “Sri Lanka has been making progress” if the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) remains non-ratified through domestic legislations, or indeed, if need be, by way of a constitutional amendment. Such a development would pave the way for rights recognized in the ICCPR to find real protection in Sri Lanka courts – which the Delegation knows is not the case today” How could the drafters of this report pretend they did not know the most crucial fact about the operationalization of the ICCPR in Sri Lanka, namely that earlier this year, upon President Mahinda Rajapaksa seeking its opinion on the recognition and justiciability of the ICCPR in Sri Lanka, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka expressed its opinion following public hearings held on 17th March 2008 affirming the following:
(i) The provisions of the constitution, the ICCPR Act and other laws, including decisions of the Superior Court of Sri Lanka give adequate recognition to the civil and political rights contained in the ICCPR, and adhere to the general premise of the Covenant that individuals within the territory of Sri Lanka derive the benefit and guarantee of rights contained in the ICCPR;
(ii) Rights recognized in the ICCPR are justiciable through the medium of legal and constitutional processes prevailing in Sri Lanka.
On the basis of the above, it would be fair to conclude that the Delegation clearly does not know.
Furthermore, footnote 23 of the report relating to this section states that “the EP Delegation welcomes the proposals made by the business community of Sri Lanka such as the Joint Apparel Association in this respect and notes that at least one of the two major political parties has decided to support this initiative, making the necessary 2/3 majority easier to obtain in the Sri Lankan Parliament”. I have checked this information with the Joint Apparel Association and have been told that the Joint Apparel Association at no stage made any proposal to anyone regarding seeking support to change the constitution, which suggests that the delegation is going on the basis of a false premise. It must be noted that in any event a constitutional amendment does not become necessary in view of the clear ruling of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka that the rights recognized in the ICCPR are justiciable.
With respect to “Final Recommendations” while the status of journalist Mr. J S Tissanayagam has already been referred to, I want to assure you that active investigations into the cases involving Parliamentarians, including the assassinations of former Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, of MP, Joseph Pararajsingham and MP, Nadarajah Raviraj which are additionally before the Commission of Inquiry, are being fully investigated.
On the ‘Constitutional Council’, it should be noted that the 17th Amendment introduced hastily in 2001 was flawed from the start, with some appointments recommended by a fully constituted Council not being made in the early years of this decade, while the Council itself could not be constituted for a long time because of uncertainty over membership, and the inability of the Speaker to resolve the issue. A Parliamentary Select Committee has recently been appointed to review this matter and once this process is completed, action would be taken to constitute the body.
In relation to Witness Protection Legislation, I am glad to bring to your notice that following concerns raised at the time the draft legislation was introduced in the Parliament earlier this year, revisions have now been made and the legislation is scheduled to be re-introduced in Parliament shortly.
In conclusion, I wish to re-iterate the considerable damage done to the good relations between my country and the European Union, and to the high esteem the European Parliament was held in Sri Lanka, following the visit of the delegation to Colombo.
This situation appears to have been compounded by this draft report, which as I have documented is replete with unsubstantiated allegations, deliberate distortions and blatant falsehoods, and underlines the patent bias of its authors against Sri Lanka.
Even at this late stage, Sri Lanka hopes that the concerns that have been flagged in my presentation, of which a comprehensive submission will be shared with those present here, will be carefully considered by the members of this committee before finalizing this report.
Without being guided by parochial self-serving interests of the authors of the present document, I trust you will take it upon yourselves, the task of making a more objective evaluation of developments in Sri Lanka, in order that the damage caused by the present action is repaired, and the Government of Sri Lanka can continue to engage with the President and Members of the European Parliament, as a credible body.
I thank you.