Power must be distributed – President

Power must be distributed – President

April 9, 2015   04:44 pm

President Maithripala Sirisena says that he plans to announce details of a domestic probe into allegations of human rights violation during Sri Lanka’s long civil war by the end of June, just as the country heads into early general elections.

“We have informed the U.N. that we’ll have a very strong internal mechanism to look into this and we’ve asked for advice and consultancy through the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights,” he told TIME in a rare interview.

He has pledged to weaken Sri Lanka’s powerful executive presidency, telling TIME: “It’s a major problem for the country that power has been centralized. Power must be distributed.”

Separately, the country’s new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, told TIME that Sri Lanka had revived efforts to set up a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an idea first mooted under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“We’ve reopened the talks with South Africa and this time they’ve been positive,” says Wickremesinghe,

He said the government hopes to share proposals for a Sri Lankan truth commission with the U.N. Human Rights Council in September. Proposals are also in the works for a domestic judicial process to deal with the allegations.

Amid speculation that his ascent to the Presidency might spark a shift in the country’s foreign policy, with a move away from China as he revives ties with India and the West, Sirisena insisted that Sri Lanka had an “absolutely non-aligned [foreign] policy.”

“We do not have any enmity toward anybody; we extend the hand of friendship to all countries,” says Sirisena.

Sirisena’s point was reiterated by the country’s Prime Minister, who said efforts by Sri Lanka’s new leaders to cultivate friendlier ties with India and the West didn’t constitute a “tilt away from China.”

“The fact is we moved away from everyone else, leaving only China. We antagonized the West, we antagonized India. You can’t carry on like this. Sri Lanka needs the West, it needs India, it needs China,” says Wickremesinghe.

 

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