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* Sri Lankan President reiterates stance no foreign judges in war crime probe, only technical assistance if necessary
Mon, Jun 13, 2016, 08:32 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 13, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated his stance that there will be no foreign judges in the domestic mechanism which is to be established to probe the alleged war crimes and human right violations during the three-decade long conflict with the Tamil Tiger terrorists.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times, on the eve of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)'s 32nd session which began in Geneva Monday, the President affirmed that any technical assistance to the proposed inquiry into alleged war crimes would be without any commitments or conditions attached.

A resolution co-sponsored by the United States and Sri Lanka called for the establishment of a judicial mechanism "of Commonwealth and foreign judges, defense lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators" to probe alleged war crimes by Sri Lankan troops and the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"We don't need foreign judges. We can resolve any problem within the country without foreign intervention," the President re-iterated commenting on his previously declared position. "If necessary, we can obtain foreign technical support, but without commitments or conditions attached," the President said.

A similar declaration to have no foreign judges was also made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he addressed senior Army officers at Temple Trees on May 27.

President's remarks come in the wake of a report released by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) Sri Lanka, which said the exiled Tamil victims of war crimes and torture expressed willingness to testify by video to a special court in Sri Lanka only if international judges were involved and their identities protected.

The President emphasized that in the postwar era, reconciliation was essential claiming that the previous Government had done little or nothing towards this. He said the reconciliation is something which cannot be built with cement, bricks, concrete or tar. Stressing that reconciliation should be strengthened, the President said an acceptable program should be put in place.

Underscoring that the message of reconciliation should be delivered more to the Sinhala Buddhists in the South than to those living in the North, the President warned that attempts to thwart or sabotage the move would not be tolerated.

"Those who work against this are Jathi Drohiyo (traitors)," he charged and added that "we consider them anthavadiyo or extremists". Such extremists, he said, were there in the south and the north as well as outside the country trying to interrupt or scuttle the program. "We will deal with them firmly."

When asked about the pressing issue of rising cost of living, the President said one of the reason is that the government has been compelled to resolve the issue of huge debt of Rs. 9 trillion and he will soon be submitting proposals to the Government to bring the relief.

The President also declared that he will be submitting proposals to strengthen the economy and reduce the cost of living.


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