Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary Jayanath Colombage vowed that his government would not “surrender” at the UN Human Rights Council, where a new resolution on accountability for mass atrocities is being considered, and instead trashed UN estimates of 70,000 Tamil civilians having been killed during the final phase of the armed conflict.
Speaking to Roar Media, the former Navy Admiral criticised the recent UN High Commissioners report as being “unfounded” and “not based on facts”. He added that UN estimates of 70,000 Tamil civilians killed in the final phases of the armed conflict are flawed as there are no “bodies” or “skeletons” and that “there had not been that many [civilian] loses during the final stages of the war”.
Following this, Colombage went on to state that the “army had to exercise restraint” in the final stages of the war as “they did not want to kill civilians” and followed their “zero [civilian] casualties” strategy. He added the military forces had become their “protectors” taking them to “various centres” and that after a “lapse of a few years” they were allowed to go home and questioned why the government is accused of human rights abuses.
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Commenting on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential election win in 2019, Colombage noted that the majority of people that voted for Gotabaya felt that the previous government had “betrayed” the country and “surrendered” the sovereignty in reference to the co-sponsoring of resolution 30/01.
The former admiral, who himself stands accused of being complicit in human rights abuses, went on to condemn criticism of the 20th amendment which sweeps away several checks and balances on the Sri Lankan president’s powers. Instead, Colombage claimed that is was done to rectify the 19th amendment, which he said had caused lapses of security resulting in the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019.
“The 19th amendment was done in a hurry in 2015… and what was the final result?” said Colombage. “253 people dying on the Easter bombings… The 19th amendment created a division, a power struggle between the president and prime minister and the worst affected area was national security.”
He went on to claim that Sri Lanka democracy was exemplary and said it was incorrect of the UNHRC to include Sri Lanka in a list of countries where military dictatorships and civil wars are present, despite being questioned on Sri Lanka's extensive militarisation.
Watch the full interview below.