“Timelines evolved externally in achieving stated objectives would only seek to hinder the process of reconciliation since they would be bereft of ground realities” emphasized Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne during a one day debate at the UN Security Council titled “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Transitional Justice in conflict and post-conflict situations,” held on 13th February 2020. She added that when seeking mechanisms of transitional justice, related simple theories would need to also take cognizance of the various historical, cultural and religious sensitivities.
Ambassador Senewiratne stated that the basic tenet of a transitional justice process is the application of its theoretical principles on State obligations and it is the State that needs to pursue truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. She further explained that the post conflict milieu of each country is unique and those traversing the path of post-conflict transition and reconciliation have often made deliberate efforts to maintain a balance between the speed of the transitional justice process and desired standard which includes inclusiveness and the sustainability.
The Permanent Representative referred to the newly elected President, His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa having pledged to work towards guaranteeing human rights and political and economic freedom for his people in a truly democratic Sri Lanka. She added that the President had also espoused that every citizen of Sri Lanka has the right to live freely and securely, holding independent opinions, following the religion of choice and freedom of association and assembly, being rights that no one can challenge.
The Permanent Representative sought to reiterate that the action by the Sri Lankan security forces during the conflict was against a group designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, and even described as ruthless by some, and not aimed at any community in the country. She elaborated that the modus operandi of suicide attacks adopted by this terrorist group, which for the first time in history deliberately targeted civilians, is now being emulated expansively by similar groups globally.
She observed that promoting a peaceful, just and reconciled society is not only an objective in itself, but also a pre-requisite for a sustainable and inclusive approach to development that leaves no one behind. The Permanent Representative upheld that as a sovereign State, Sri Lanka will continue to establish its own priorities towards this end, adding that the country’s experience has taught that certain lessons can be learnt from others, but that it is imperative to chart its own path to reconciliation in order for it to be sustainable. She outlined that Sri Lanka was committed to find innovative and pragmatic solutions, driven by the domestic context to protect the country’s national interest, guided by the provisions of the Constitution, and the will of the citizens, expressed through democratic means.
Ambassador Senewiratne informed the Security Council that Sri Lanka’s engagement at the debate was in keeping with the Government’s vision for a country that embodies the universal values of human rights, justice, rule of law and good governance, while ensuring economic dividends to its people. She concluded, that Sri Lanka looks forward to continuing its cooperation with the international community through capacity building and technical assistance in mutually agreed areas, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.
The debate was the initiative of Belgium, which is holding the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of February 2020 and was chaired by the Belgian Foreign Minister. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Father Francisco de Roux, President Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and non-repetition of Colombia and Ms. Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, Trustee of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan provided briefings at the commencement of the debate.