Colombo, September 2 (NIA): The visiting UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, did not commit himself explicitly to the UN Human Rights Council’s demand that Sri Lanka should incorporate foreign judges in the Judicial Mechanism to be set up to try war crimes cases. Nor did he say that “war crimes” had been committed, though he made a reference to civilians suffering in various ways during the conflict.
Asked pointedly on his stand on the issue at a press conference here on Friday, Ban said that the nature of the Judicial Mechanism will be decided jointly by the UN and the Sri Lankan government. He further said that the gap between the two, which was large during the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, has narrowed since Maithripala Sirisena came to power, and that he is confident that it will be narrowed further.
In his view the main criterion is the acceptability of the mechanism to all, in Sri Lanka, in the international community, and among the victims of injustice. The mechanisms of transitional justice should be transparent and credible to all stakeholders including the victims and the international community, he said.
Ban accepted that reconciliation cannot be brought about “overnight” and that it is a long drawn out process. The UN is of the view that the Sri Lankan government is proceeding on the right lines and the world body is sympathetic and understanding about the efforts of the government. It is also willing to help in whatever way possible. The UN knows that the Sri Lankan government has multiple and competing tasks on hand, with a commitment to ensure good governance, institute constitutional reform and bring about ethnic reconciliation.
But the government must realize that the process cannot be never ending and that the victims of injustice cannot wait for ever, he warned. People had suffered due to shelling, bombing, abductions, extra judicial executions, forcible recruitment and the use of civilians as human shields, and are crying out to secure justice and to know the truth, he pointed out. But he dodged the question as to whether “war crimes” had been committed.
Ban said that the UN and the Sri Lankan government are both committed to bringing about economic development. But economic progress cannot take place in the absence of peace and reconciliation. In his view both can, and should, proceed simultaneously.
Having visited the minority Tamils in the northern town of Jaffna, and the majority Sinhalese in the southern town of Galle, Ban said that the people in the North are better off than they were in 2009 when he saw them last, and he found in the Sinhalese South, the youth being creative and innovative.