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Mangala calls for ‘restoring honour’ of military and warns of universal jurisdiction

Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lanka’s finance minister and leading UNP member, called on Sri Lankan voters to reject Gotabaya Rajapaksa and warned that Sri Lankan soldiers may face prosecutions abroad through universal jurisdiction cases if “a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism” is not enacted.

“It is my duty to remind the citizens of our country about the history of how, during the Rajapaksa-era, we erred in dealing with our conflict-ridden past, isolating our country on the international stage and how we regained our stature following the January 2015 Presidential Election by reasserting our sovereign right to deal with our own issues locally,” claimed Samaraweera in a statement on Thursday. 

He claimed the previous government, led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, “failed to restore the honour of our security forces and police” by not investigating allegations of war crimes, which led to the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka “and further strictures including targeted measures on individuals” which were expected following the report.

“It is important to remind everyone that it is only if we as a responsible and sovereign nation fail to act that we place our citizens in grave peril by allowing space for others to step in, and international action as well as universal jurisdiction to apply,” he added. 

“Shouldn’t we do justice to all our citizens including our security forces personnel by investigating allegations so that those who may not be guilty of a crime do not have to carry the weight of an allegation with them to the grave? Should we let allegations remain without investigations and make our security forces personnel vulnerable to be subjected to universal jurisdiction?”

See the full text of his piece here.

His statement comes as the UNP candidate Sajith Premadasa announced that former Sri Lankan army commander Sarath Fonseka would head national security if he were to be elected. Fonseka headed Sri Lanka’s military during the final stages of the armed conflict when the army shelled hospitals and perpetrated widespread sexual violence in an offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians.