No one cares more about human rights than us : Jayanath Colambage
In a recent appearance made on DW's flagship political show 'Conflict Zone', Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prof. Jayanath Colambage stated that "we are very much interested in human rights. No one is else is interested in human rights and reconciliation than Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka."
This statement was made in response to a question posed by British TV journalist Tim Sebastian in relation to the human rights violations claims leveled against Sri Lanka.
"You have been freeing guilty people. In March last year, the President pardoned a soldier convicted of massacring civilians, including children. Human Rights once said it showed your Government's disregard for justice for the worst abuses. Mr. Secretary, you pardoned child killers. Are there no limits to which you won't sink? What kind of country are you living in?", Tim asked Secretary Colambage.
Colambage went on to explain that although he is unable to comment on the action of the President, it must be noted that Sri Lanka is also responsible for pardoning 12,500 former LTTE combatants and sending 459 child soldiers, as young as the age of 10, back to school, treating them as victims of the war as opposed to combatants.
Tim, however, went on to stress that the pardoning of the Former Staff Sergeant who was convicted in 2015 for the murder of eight Tamil civilians including three children, implies that Sri Lanka does not hold its armed forces accountable.
"This sends the message that the message of 'you can get away with anything' to your armed forces.", Tim explained.
Jayanath Colambage, however, went on to deny all these allegations, arguing that "it is never like that".
"We will never pardon someone who is doing something wrong. The President is determined to make things right. The President will never ever take the side of a criminal.", he argued.
Later in the discussion, Tim questioned Jayanath about the intimidation and harassment human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political actors, and victims of human rights violations face at the hands of State agents.
The Professor revealed that most human rights defenders are bona fide defenders, funded by the West and paying by their tunes. This statement, however, created a lot of controversies, as, according to host Tim, it 'smeared all human rights defenders in one sentence' despite the Professor not having the facts to support his statement.
"If a person has such an issue, they can always go to the Police or the Judiciary. These are baseless accusations.", Colambage stated.