Interviews

If SL has HR issues, they can be discussed: Dinesh Gunawardena

By Skandha Gunasekara

The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) asserted that there was room for Sri Lanka to withdraw itself from the co-sponsorship of the resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

UPFA Parliamentarian and Leader of the MEP Dinesh Gunawardena said that incorrect facts and data were used when putting forward the resolution and that it should be rectified.

Below are excerpts of his interview with The Sunday Morning:

There has been a proposal for Sri Lanka to withdraw its co-sponsorship of the Resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Is this something Sri Lanka can afford to do at this point?

Yes, it can be done, because the co-sponsorship was initiated on wrong facts and wrong data. Lord Nesby has come out and stated that the facts that were presented by Britain had no basis, and that they’re not genuine or correct figures.

So it is up to the Head of State, if our Foreign Ministry is not taking steps to rectify the issue. Sri Lanka, according to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not violated the basic laws regarding war crimes. If it is one or two individuals, or whoever the individuals, Mahinda Rajapaksa has said they can be charged.

Several NGOs are already in Geneva pushing for more international intervention on Sri Lanka. What is your opinion on some of these groups exerting pressure on Sri Lanka?

NGOs can and will pressurise against the sovereignty of any country that wants to stand on its own. It is not just in Sri Lanka, rights across the world – whether it is Latin America, the Middle East or, Asia.

The NGOs mostly act according to their international masters, instead of looking at genuine issues. Today, Sri Lanka is focussing on reconciliation. It’s a new era that we are in and the wrong figures have forced some of the western countries to rush this co-sponsorship along with Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister has no credibility today.

Is there a legitimate Human Rights issue on Sri Lanka at this moment?

If there is a human rights issue, it can be discussed. Not in the way Sri Lanka’s sovereignty is being virtually invaded by a few other western countries. Our fundamental rights in Sri Lanka give enough rights to any citizen to go before courts. The commissions that were established to look into people and matters during the war have come out with genuine information in Sri Lanka. So why don’t we work within our legitimate Constitution?

The US withdrew from the UNHRC, claiming the Council was biased. Should Sri Lanka consider withdrawing to protect its own interests?

The US has withdrawn on the basis that US policies are not being adhered to. We have contributed in much more forms in all international forums for the betterment of the people who have struggled for freedom, independence, more economic independence, and against invasions. So Sri Lanka should not just follow the policies that are collapsing in the US.

The Government has taken some steps by setting up institutes like the Office of Missing Persons to address concerns related to human rights. Have we done enough to address these concerns?

We have, as I mentioned. We have the commissions of inquiry, their reports were available but all that was set aside during the run to Geneva by this Government. So we have enough areas where we could continue to redress wherever it is possible; take legal action where needed.

The people in the Northern Province – thousands of them – are not living in their own houses. Why can’t the Government ensure their homes are returned to them? The major violations were carried out by the LTTE. It was forced on the Tamil people but very few are able to talk on this as a result of various NGOs trying to cover it up.

The issue of human rights seems to be centred purely on one community, i.e. the Tamils. Do you think that human rights concerns of other communities are being sidelined?

Obviously we regard Sri Lankan citizens as equal. Whether it’s Sinhala, Tamil, or Muslim – we are committed to providing them better standards of living.

Countries are under threat of suffering because these western powers don’t understand the different countries and their social background.

Just like the human rights trap, Sri Lanka has now got into the debt trap that western powers have imposed on us over the past four years.