US expresses faith in Sri Lankan reconciliation commission
Last Updated: Saturday, May 29, 2010, 16:51
Washington: Expressing full faith in the government-appointed Reconciliation Commission in Sri Lanka, the US has ruled out seeking formation of an independent foreign panel to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in that country during the LTTE era.

"We are not. We are not," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, told reporters in response to a question whether the Obama administration was calling for "a foreign, independent, outside" investigation.

Blake said the Sri Lankan Government should be given a chance, before the Colombo-appointed commission is called a sham.

"I think in the first instance, we always look to host governments to play the leading role. So the Secretary (of State Hillary Clinton) welcomed the Government of Sri Lanka's decision to establish a reconciliation commission," Blake said yesterday.

His comments came hours after Clinton met visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris.

At a joint news conference, Clinton said experience in different countries have shown that such a commission has the credibility and legitimacy within the country and plays a valuable role in advancing accountability.

"We are very supportive of the approach taken by the Sri Lankans. We of course will continue to work with them and observe this commission. We expect it would be given a broad enough mandate with the resources necessary to be able to follow the trail of any evidence that is presented," she said.

It is important that the Commission members be and are perceived as being independent, impartial and competent, she said.

"We expect that the mandate would enable them to fully investigate serious allegations of violations, that they make public their recommendations, the commission members and potential witnesses must enjoy adequate and effective protection and the commission must be able to work with the government and the government will give due considerations to the recommendations," Clinton said.

Blake said it is up to the Sri Lankan Government to prove that they will be able to take on all of these responsibilities.

"The (Sri Lankan Foreign) minister expressed confidence that they will be able to do so. But he also importantly said that if they're not able to do so, that they would welcome assistance and advice from the United Nations to help them.

"And the Secretary said that the UN can play a very, very important role based on its long experience there," he noted. Earlier in the day, Peiris ruled out any UN role in the Commission at this point of time.

"Commissions of this nature have made important contribution to the healing process in the other parts of the world in post-conflict scenarios.

"But the focus has to be on the local culture, on the local situation. So it is our firm conviction that the Commission which has been set up in Sri Lanka consisting of people of stature has a mandate that is broad enough to address the critical issues. The commission enjoys broad measure of public support in Sri Lanka, which is a decisive consideration," the minister said.

He pleaded that they be given the space to allow the commission to begin its work without impediment and hindrance. "Certainly along the road, if we feel that there is need for support than we would certainly be happy to engage in a dialogue with the United Nations to get the benefit, the wisdom and the experience of the United Nations," he said.

"But we think, at the start the commission be given every encouragement to start its work and there must be a presumption that it is going to succeed. We want all our friends to support us," the Minister said.


First Published: Saturday, May 29, 2010, 16:51

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