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Sri Lanka pledges to review proscription of Tamil diaspora groups

Sri Lanka said on Wednesday that it would review the proscription of 16 Tamil diaspora groups and over 400 individuals by the previous government last year, shortly after the UN Human Rights Council mandated a resolution calling for an international investigation.

“The previous government used the UN Regulation No. 1 of 2012 under UN Security Council resolution 1373 to list 424 individuals and 16 entities under Extraordinary Gazette 1854/41 of 21 March 2014 in the run up to the Presidential election. This was done to build up the hysteria about the LTTE regrouping,” the foreign minister, Mangala Samaraweera told Sri Lanka’s parliament.

“They banned several Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups under these provisions for their alleged links to the LTTE. However, most of the organisations listed may have merely been vocal proponents of Tamil rights. There was hardly any tangible evidence to link them to the LTTE. Some of the individuals listed had even been dead for some time.”

“Reviewing this list of individuals and entities is an important exercise at this juncture when the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena is seriously committed to expedite the reconciliation process. In doing so, the Sri Lankan diaspora whether it be Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, has am extremely important role to play not only in taking the reconciliation process forward but they have an important role to play in taking Sri Lanka forward as a nation.”

Criticising the manner in which the previous government engaged with the international community’s, including the UN Human Rights Council, Mr Samaraweera said:

“As you are aware, in the spirit of working in harmony with the international community, the Government has extended invitations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. Some sections of the former regime call this a betrayal of the armed forces. However, this is furthest from the truth. Our objective, Hon. Speaker, is to clear the name of our armed forces who have received wide international recognition as professional and disciplined forces. This is obvious by their very acceptance to UN peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world. In fact the new Government is being invited to participate even more actively in UN peacekeeping efforts around the world. It is our objective to ensure that the international recognition of our armed forces personnel is further strengthened by taking action against any misdemeanours that some individuals may have committed and tarnished the image of our forces.”

The invitation to the UN Working Group comes as the Sri Lankan prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe reiterated last week that UN investigators would not be given entry into the country.

Rejecting arguments that positive measures taken by the new government was a result of international pressure, Mr Samaraweera added:

“I reiterate that whatever domestic action that is taken is not because of international pressure as some allege but to fulfill our nation’s duty to our own citizens. It is to fulfill our Government’s promise to the people in the lead up to the Presidential Election. It is to truly safeguard the sovereignty of the people instead of raising slogans about safeguarding sovereignty which the previous Government engaged in, whilst opening up the nation to international ignominy and making our nation unduly vulnerable to intrusive external intervention.”

“Taking action locally as a responsible nation that is accountable to all sections of our population, upholding the rule of law, good governance and democracy while working in cooperation with the international community is the only way to project ourselves as a country that is at peace with itself.”

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