Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia Nisha Biswal are scheduled to meet in Washington this week to discuss the proposed US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March.
Speaking to the Associated Press ahead of the meeting, Weeratunga said that there was no record that hundreds of people were killed during the final stages of the war.
“You can’t just pass judgment like that,” he told The Associated Press. He denied any such targeting of civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces, or even the use of heavy weapons in the final months of the war, although he acknowledged there could have been “collateral damage” during the fighting when the Tamil Tigers were using civilians as human shields.
Weeratunga likened the threat of an international inquiry into war crimes to a sword of Damocles hanging by a thread over Sri Lanka — a reference to mythical story from ancient Greece. He argued the government has only had 18 months to implement the recommendations of its own reconciliation commission. He warned that if that process was mishandled, it could trigger renewed conflict.
“I can’t use an American method for resolving issues in my country. I have a Sri Lankan way of doing it,” he said.
The United States confirmed on Monday it would be sponsoring a resolution on Sri Lanka this March, but wouldn’t say whether it would call for an international investigation. But officials said that the fact the U.S. is pushing a third resolution in as many years reflects concern over a lack of progress in addressing outstanding issues of accountability and reconciliation, as well as over land seizures, religiously motivated attacks and unsolved cases of attacks on journalists.
“At some point, you have to come to terms with the reality that this government has no intention of delivering accountability,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in Washington. “If they are not going to do it, then the international community has to.”
The newly elected Tamil-run Northern Provincial Council said Monday it wants to prove that the central government carried out an operation “akin to genocide” to win the civil war. It passed a resolution to conduct its own internationally supervised count of the dead and missing civilians to back its claim.
That’s a response to a census of the dead, wounded and missing civilians being undertaken by the central government, the results of which are expected out in time for the U.N. Geneva session.