Statement by Hon Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs
to Parliament on 18th March 2015
I stand before you today to present amendments, in line with our international obligations, to United Nations Regulations 1 and 2 of 2012 promulgated under the United Nations Act number 45 of 1968.
As the House is aware, following the Al Qaida terrorist attacks in September 2001, the Security Council of the United Nations, acting under Chapter 7 of its Charter, adopted resolution 1373 on 28 September 2001 which is a wide-ranging comprehensive resolution setting out steps and strategies to combat international terrorism. The resolution which is binding on all States called on countries, among other steps to be taken, to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism. On 15 October 1999, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1267 setting out in particular, measures to be imposed against the Taliban. This resolution and its modifications and subsequent resolutions imposes upon member States of the UN, a series of obligations relating to sanctions measures against entities and persons associated with the Al Qaida or Taliban as designated by the Sanctions Committee of the UN and whose names appear on the ‘consolidated list’ adopted by the Committee.
Sri Lanka, in keeping with its international obligations had duly gazetted regulations to give effect to the provisions of these two resolutions in 2012. This had been done under United Nations Act no 45 of 1968 in Extraordinary Gazette numbers 1758/19 dated 15 May 2012 (referred to as United Nations regulation number 1 of 2012) and 1760/40 dated 31 May 2012 (referred to as United Nations regulation number 2 of 2012).
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is an inter-governmental body has developed a series of recommendations that are recognized as the international standard for combating money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This Task Force had also suggested for the Government’s consideration, several recommendations to be incorporated as amendments to the regulations promulgated in 2012, as the standards set by the Task Force had changed after Sri Lanka enacted its regulations.
In December last year (2014), Sri Lanka participated in a mutual peer review carried out by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) of which Sri Lanka is a member. The APG is an autonomous and collaborative international organization consisting of 41 members and a number of international and regional observers. Some of the key international organizations that participate with, and support the efforts of the APG in the region include the Financial Action Task Force, the IMF, World Bank, OECD, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The APG members and observers commit to the effective implementation and enforcement of internationally accepted standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
As I stated before, Sri Lanka has given effect to the provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions 1373 and 1267 under the UN regulations numbers 1 and 2 in 2012. What we seek to do today is to adopt amendments to these regulations in keeping with the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force and the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering to ensure that Sri Lanka’s legal framework in this important area is in harmony with internationally accepted standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The proposed amendments that have been gazetted in Extraordinary Gazette No. 1892/37 of 11 December 2014 and tabled before you in the House have received the careful examination of the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Inter-agency Committee on UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373 comprising representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Attorney General’s Department, the Legal Draftsman’s Department and the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank. The amendments relate to provisions for amending particulars related to names, widening the coverage of freezing orders, expansion of provisions when handling foreign requests, expansion of provisions when requesting foreign States to designate, reporting of attempted transactions, redress for persons who are inadvertently affected, and the expansion of provisions on the proposal of names to the UN Sanctions Committee.
I respectfully seek the approval of the House for these amendments to the UN Regulation No. 1 of 2012 and UN Regulation No. 2 of 2012 to ensure that Sri Lanka’s legal framework in this respect is in harmony with internationally accepted standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. I want to also state here that while legal frameworks are of utmost importance, it is in the hearts and minds that the real battle against terrorism will be won. Therefore, I propose these amendments to be adopted, keeping very much in mind, this stark reality.
As outlined, we are presenting these amendments in line with our international obligations at a time when Sri Lanka marks the marks the 60th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s membership in the United Nations. This important anniversary also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the setting up of the United Nations Organisation.
The amendments to the UN Regulations numbers 1 and 2 of 2012 are aimed at strengthening Sri Lanka’s domestic legislative framework to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions on terrorist financing and money laundering. The amendments will strengthen the capacity of the law enforcement and judicial authorities responsible for investigating money laundering and terrorist financing in keeping with Sri Lanka’s tradition of cooperation with the UN and our resolve to fulfill international obligations and act responsibly towards our citizens in cooperation with other countries in the international community.
For much of Sri Lanka’s history since Independence, Sri Lanka was considered as an important member of the international community including in the United Nations. Having joined the UN on 14 December 1955, Sri Lanka has contributed in many ways to the UN system including its norm setting process. Just five years since becoming a Member, Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Many distinguished Sri Lankans have held important positions in the UN and its agencies. They have chaired important conferences including on the Law of the Sea and presided over the General Assembly as well as the Security Council.
Unfortunately, Hon. Speaker, the last few years saw our country drift from this traditional position of engagement not only with the United Nations but with the entire international community. We shifted from our position of a consensus-builder to a path of confrontation, non-engagement and intransigence. We abandoned our traditional partners including those countries that helped Sri Lanka in its journey of development and those who helped us in times of crisis. The Government at the time became obsessed with ideologies and concepts in a world where countries are required increasingly to work together in cooperation with each other to seek solutions to problems, pursue economic progress, increase investment, and achieve sustainable development. Diplomacy was exercised as if it were a zero sum game, cultivating only one set of countries at the expense of another. This was uncharacteristic of our nation’s inherent personality. We recall with shame when ‘senior’ members of the last government made derogatory and highly defamatory statements about senior members of the UN, calling them ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorist sympathisers’ for merely raising issues about Sri Lanka’s international obligations. Some of these obligations are ones that we had undertaken on our own as a sovereign nation without any pressure from the UN or the international community, in line with our duties and responsibilities towards our own citizens.
Defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country is essential to the foreign policy of any nation. However, no country in today’s world can take cover strictly behind the Westphalian concept of absolute sovereignty which is no longer valid in the modern world. If nothing else, we must awaken to the reality that the imperatives of globalization and interdependence, connectivity and technological advancements have cast the concept of sovereignty in an entirely different light. Sovereignty carries with it great responsibility which involves duties towards one’s own citizens. When a Government fails to discharge such duties, external intervention of an unwelcome nature is difficult to prevent.
Having successfully achieved the complex diplomatic task of preventing external intervention under the UN Security Council during the conflict in 2009, the Government at the time, regrettably failed to pursue the path of domestic peacebuilding. By refusing to address issues of concern locally, the Government alienated communities within the country as well as Sri Lanka’s international partners. This resulted in our nation becoming the subject of successive resolutions in Geneva.
The present Government, under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, pursues a policy of working with all countries. As you are aware, we are also involved in the process of renewing our engagement with international organisations.
The Government is committed to uphold the victory that the people of this country achieved on 8th January by taking resolute action to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and the rule of law and enable peaceful dissent and freedom of expression. A credible domestic investigation into allegations of violations of human rights is an important part of this process. There is no basis at all to consider that human rights are an alien concept to this country. Human Rights, Hon. Speaker, are very much a part of our constitutional obligations.
In the document titled ‘We shall unite for Change. Dawn of Maithri Rule. A new country in 100 days.’ that was presented to the people in the lead up to the Presidential election on 8th January, we have stated the following under item 93:
‘Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of national independent judicial mechanisms.’
These processes are essential to safeguard our national interest, fulfill the aspirations of all communities within our country and restore our nation’s image and reputation as a long standing democracy and a civilized society. I reiterate that whatever domestic action that is taken is not because of international pressure as some allege but to fulfill our nation’s duty to our own citizens. It is to fulfill our Government’s promise to the people in the lead up to the Presidential Election. It is to truly safeguard the sovereignty of the people instead of raising slogans about safeguarding sovereignty which the previous Government engaged in, whilst opening up the nation to international ignominy and making our nation unduly vulnerable to intrusive external intervention.
Taking action locally as a responsible nation that is accountable to all sections of our population, upholding the rule of law, good governance and democracy while working in cooperation with the international community is the only way to project ourselves as a country that is at peace with itself. This is the only way to enable a secure atmosphere that is essential for foreign investment that is required for the long-term economic development of our nation and for sustainable progress and prosperity of our people. True safeguarding of sovereignty can be achieved only by fulfilling our obligations to our people and by preserving and upholding the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious nature of our society while learning to work with other nations and with international organisations in this interdependent world. Not through the pursuit of adversarial policies as some try to make us believe.
You would recall that on the Independence Day this year, the Government made a Declaration for Peace and President Sirisena called for meditative reflection on past errors and to desist from heaping blame on each other. He made a commitment to work towards reconciliation and to unite the minds of the people of all ethnic and religious communities in the country. In order to achieve meaningful reconciliation, strengthen democracy, good governance and the rule of law and re-build our nation’s international image, consensual democracy championed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe as against a culture of adversarial politics is an absolute necessity. In this respect, I am grateful to the members of the Opposition for the support that they have been extending to the Government in this important journey of regaining our nation’s dignity which would ensure that Sri Lanka takes its due place once again as a responsible state among the community of nations.
As you are aware, in the spirit of working in harmony with the international community, the Government has extended invitations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. Some sections of the former regime call this a betrayal of the armed forces. However, this is furthest from the truth. Our objective, Hon. Speaker, is to clear the name of our armed forces who have received wide international recognition as professional and disciplined forces. This is obvious by their very acceptance to UN peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world. In fact the new Government is being invited to participate even more actively in UN peacekeeping efforts around the world. It is our objective to ensure that the international recognition of our armed forces personnel is further strengthened by taking action against any misdemeanours that some individuals may have committed and tarnished the image of our forces.
This House would recall that this is not the first time that entities such as the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances has been invited. Way back in 1990, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa himself as a Member of Parliament, invited the Working Group, Amnesty International and ICRC to visit Sri Lanka. More recently, the former Defence Secretary, during the previous government, gave the green light in writing, for the visit of the Working Group.
I wish to draw the attention of this House to a matter related to the UN regulations that is the subject of our discussion today. The previous government used the UN Regulation No. 1 of 2012 under UN Security Council resolution 1373 to list 424 individuals and 16 entities under Extraordinary Gazette 1854/41 of 21 March 2014 in the run up to the Presidential election. This was done to build up the hysteria about the LTTE regrouping. They banned several Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups under these provisions for their alleged links to the LTTE. However, most of the organisations listed may have merely been vocal proponents of Tamil rights. There was hardly any tangible evidence to link them to the LTTE. Some of the individuals listed had even been dead for some time.
Reviewing this list of individuals and entities is an important exercise at this juncture when the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena is seriously committed to expedite the reconciliation process. In doing so, the Sri Lankan diaspora whether it be Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, has am extremely important role to play not only in taking the reconciliation process forward but they have an important role to play in taking Sri Lanka forward as a nation. Some of the best world class doctors, scientists, lawyers and other professionals who our nation can be proud of as Sri Lankans make up this diaspora and we must enable them to take part in our journey to make Sri Lanka a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual democracy.