Despite reservations, the Sri Lankan government would accept controversial diplomat Dr. Bernard Kouchner as a member of International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), which is being set up to oversee Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights.
Kouchner`s nomination by the European Union triggered apprehension among a section of the government and political analysts. EU External Relations Chief Ms Ferrero Waldner on December 22 announced the former French Minister`s selection.
Speculation in knowledgeable circles is that Kouchner`s inclusion would be disadvantageous to the government.
Controversy surrounds Kouchner`s role as the UN Special Commissioner for Kosovo, the former province of the then Yugoslavia.
Kouchner is among the 11 persons nominated by the US, UK, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, India, Cyprus, Japan, Inter Parliamentary Union and High Commissioner for Human Rights. All nominations are subjected to approval by President Mahinda Rajapakse. The Island learns that the President is yet to accept the nominations made by the EU, Australia and Canada. Although the government does not see any problem with regard to the choice of Australia and Canada, officials are worried about the EU`s selection. However, the government would accept Kouchner on the IIGEP.
Except Norway Co-Chairs to the Sri Lankan peace process, namely, the US, EU and Japan have nominated representatives to the IIGEP.
Ministerial sources said that the government was conscious of the heavy criticism over the EU move. The sources indicated that the government would not want to reject the EU nominee.
Although the EU proscribed the LTTE in the middle of last year, efforts are being made to target Sri Lanka over what some foreign diplomats routinely termed as growing human rights violations by Sri Lankan security forces, police and the breakaway Karuna faction.
The IIGEP is likely to meet in Colombo in the second week of February.
A meeting is likely to take place on February 12. Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe is in the process of finalising arrangements.
Contrary to reports, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights had so far met on eight occasions. The Commission regularly meets on Tuesday. The Commission is in the process of working out logistics and procedural matters. The Commission led by Justice Nissanka Kumara Udalagama comprises Upawansa Yapa, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Kanapathipillai Chitravelpillai Logeswaran, Ms Manori Kokila Muttettuwegama, Ms Jezima Ismail, Somapala Wijeratne and Ahamed Javid Yusuf.
Although the Commission announced that it would accept both written and oral representations from any person or organisation, the LTTE is likely to disregard the process. Authoritative sources acknowledged that 15 major incidents earmarked for examination could not be probed without the co-operation of the LTTE. The scheduled referred to in the warrant begin with the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005. Police investigations had established the involvement of the LTTE in the high profile assassination.
Among the other cases were the massacre of 17 aid workers employed by a French NGO last August, execution of Muslims in Muttur last August and the massacre of 14 persons at Welikanda, assassination of Joseph Pararajasingham in December 2005, killing of five youth in Trincomalee in January 2006, assassination of Deputy Director General of the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat Ketheesh Logeswaran last August, Kfir strike on Naddalamottankulam (Sencholai) last August, disappearance of Rev. Nihal Jim Brown of Philip Neri Church at Allaipidi last August, massacre of a group of fishermen in Pesalai last June, Kayts massacare last May, Pottuvil massacre last September, claymore attack on a civilian bus at Kebitigollewa last June, recovery of headless bodies at Avissawela last April, Welikanda massacre last May and the truck bomb attack on the navy at Diganpothana.