July 04, London: Sri Lanka has had sufficient time since the end of the conflict in May 2009 to conduct an internal inquiry into the alleged human rights violations but did not do so, the UK parliament was told.
During the debate on Sri Lanka in the House of Lords on Wednesday, the Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Warsi said Sri Lanka's "internal investigations did not do what they said they would do."
"This conflict ended in May 2009, which is more than five years ago. The internal inquiry reported in March 2011. The Sri Lankans have had enough time to deal with this matter if they had showed the political will internally to do so. They have not dealt with it, which is why we have taken this matter to the international forum," the Senior Minister told the members of the House.
She was responding to Lord Naseby's request to encourage the UK government to push the Sri Lankans on a one-to-one basis and to set aside a forced inquiry from the UN.
Lord Naseby pointed out that a vast majority of Sri Lankans supported the defeat of the Tamil Tigers and an imposition by the United Nations of an inquiry on a sovereign state, "engineered by the US and supported by the UK," would not be well received in Sri Lanka, which has a democratically elected Government across all the ethnic groups.
When asked what the UK government's assessment of the positive actions taken by the Sri Lankan Government in implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, particularly in regard to demining, the resettlement and rehabilitation of Tamils, infrastructure development and steps taken to improve the education and health of people in Northern and Eastern Provinces, Baroness Warsi replied that the British government have welcomed the progress but remained concerned since the measures were only partial and not enough.
"Of course, we have welcomed progress made, including on infrastructure development and demining, but we remain concerned that the Sri Lankan Government's national plan of action to implement the recommendations only partially covered the full range of recommendations and that, in turn, action taken by the Sri Lankan Government only partially corresponds to some of those recommendations."
She said the UK agree with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Sri Lankan Government have not established a credible independent domestic investigation into allegations of violations of international law on both sides of the military conflict.
She remarked that it is fundamentally a question of political will despite the UK and others calling for such an investigation since 2009.
"As a result, the UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution that establishes an international investigation, which we strongly support," she noted.
She said the UK has encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to co-operate with the UN human rights commissioner's international investigation despite Sri Lanka's opposition.
"We have seen some of the statements that have come out of Sri Lanka which suggest that the position is otherwise. However, we believe that the UN's independent investigation has a strong team," Baroness Warsi said.
She expressed hope that despite the Sri Lankan Government's not cooperating, the committee will produce a good and strong international investigation.
The Senior Minister said it is in Sri Lanka's interests to cooperate fully and it is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to truly meet its commitment to reconciliation.
As for the recent tensions, the Senior Minister said the UK is concerned about the actions of Bodu Bala Sena.
Noting that the violence in Aluthgama and Beruwala was deeply concerning, and there were not only fatalities but a huge amount of further damage, the Baroness welcomed the Sri Lankan Government's assurances that it will investigate the attacks and prosecute those responsible.