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Sri Lankan foreign secretary slams UN Human Rights Council and claims disappeared Tamils are 'abroad'

Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary said his regime was firm on withdrawing from a UN resolution on accountability, as he slammed the global body, claimed there was an “ulterior motive” behind calls for a justice mechanism and claimed that thousands of forcibly disappeared Tamils are abroad “living somewhere”.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Admiral Jayanath Colombage who himself stands accused of being complicit in torture, denied reports that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by a Sri Lankan military offensive in 2009.

“If we were really as accused, we could have killed them all,” Colombage claimed. “But we did not.”

He went on to claim that thousands of forcibly disappeared Tamils who were last seen in Sri Lankan military custody are “not really missing”. Colombage claimed that they “have gone abroad” and now use different names, without elaborating further or providing any evidence. “So, everyone is not really missing,” he said. “They’re living somewhere.”

“There are a few allegations,” he continued.  “Allegations can be there that some activities took place. I do not know. I really did not investigate. I am not privy to that investigation.”

However the foreign secretary went on to state that the “international community is trying to point a finger at us.”

“The UN Human Rights Council is always accusing Sri Lanka,” he added. “They come out with a certain shopping list. When we do that, they change to another shopping list. When we do that, then they give another shopping list. This is the trend... We don’t want to surrender our sovereignty totally to an international body. And we do not like the international body to dictate terms to us and say ‘do this, do that’ at gunpoint. We would like to be treated as a sovereign nation, an independent country.”

Colombage also revealed that a report by the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet had identified “early warning signals, and a negative trend in the country”.

“They are saying, ‘Oh, the trend is bad’,” he added. “I do not know what it is. They have to tell us.”

The foreign secretary added that his regime would not agree to co-sponsoring any resolution on Sri Lanka, as the previous government had done, claiming it had “actually brought down the Government, having been against the constitution, against sovereignty and against the people”. Sri Lanka stands firm on withdrawing from the process, reported the Sunday Times, quoting Colombage as stating Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election victory was “a democratic mandate given by the people of Sri Lanka to revisit the co-sponsoring of the resolution”.

See more from the Sunday Times here and here.

His remarks came as Tamil parties across the political spectrum and civil society organisations over the North-East united behind calls for an international accountability mechanism that includes a referral to the International Criminal Court to investigate charges of genocide.

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