|Fresh IIGEP controversy
fresh controversy is brewing following a letter written by
former Chief Justice for India P.N. Bhagwati retracting his
earlier position on the International Independent Group of
Eminent Persons (IIGEP) observations.
The controversy now is over the observations made by Sir Nigel
Rodley, who has told newsmen that he was sceptical about the
government’s statement quoting a letter sent by Justice Bhagwati.
Sir Rodley has told BBC Sandeshaya that the IIGEP stood by its
original statement that was issued after discussions held in
The government now feels that Sir Rodley is having a different
agenda and he is making use of Bhagwati to put his views across
at a time when UN human rights agencies are meeting to discuss
various issues, which include Sri Lanka.
The letter written by Justice Bhagwati, addressed to President
Rajapaksa dated April 26, 2008, retracting his earlier position,
is as follows:
“I am grateful to Your Excellency for giving three members of
the IIGEP, Sir Nigel Rodley. Prof. Yokota and myself, an
opportunity of meeting with you. During this meeting we had an
opportunity of discussing and clarifying some of the issues
arising out of the public statement of IIGEP.
“One of the main issues raised in the discussion at the meeting
was in regard to the expression ‘absence of political will’ on
the part of Government of Sri Lanka mentioned in the public
“I would like to point out to your Excellency that if you would
kindly look at the public statement at the relevant part, you
will find that IIGEP has not accused the Government of Sri Lanka
of any lack of political will insofar as the functioning of COI
is concerned. What has been recited in the public statement is
about ‘IIGEP’s apprehension regarding absence of political
“IIGEP has never alleged that there was absence of political
will on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka. It was merely
an apprehension which was voiced by IIGEP in view of the facts
“IIGEP of course could not voice anything more than mere
apprehension because it was not within their jurisdiction to
find whether there was absence of political will on the part of
Government of Sri Lanka or not. That was not within their terms
of reference which were confined merely to observing whether the
proceedings before the Commission of Inquiry were transparent
and in accordance with the international principles and norms.
“I may add that so far as the Commission of Inquiry is
concerned, it has been doing very good work and the members of
IIGEP have had the best of cooperation from the Chairman and
members of COI. I have no doubt that the COI will continue to
carry on its work with the same zeal and dedication as it has
been doing so far. All my best wishes to COI and to the
Government of Sri Lanka.”
Meanwhile, the government feels that the IIGEP worked on a
different agenda to embarrass the government and the letter
written by Bhagwati retracting his earlier position had put the
entire panel in a very awkward position.
The government, which met with Justice Bhagwati together with
Professor Yokota Yozo and Professor Sri Nigel Rodley, told them
in no uncertain terms that the IIGEP had overstepped its
The IIGEP was met by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Human Rights
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Attorney General C.R. de Silva
and other officials.
The Commission of Inquiry looking into human rights abuses is
continuing and is looking into the assassinations of the 17 ACF
workers, who were killed in Muttur in November 200.
The latest is that the IIGEP has issued another statement, which
states that it stands by its concluding remarks and
disassociates itself from any attempt by the government to
reinterpret the unanimously agreed text.
However, what should be considered most is the letter sent by
Chairman Bhagwati retracting the earlier position taken up by
the IIGEP, that the government lacks the political will to
ensure the success of the Commission of Inquiry.
Contrary to his earlier remarks, Bhagwati has said that the
IIGEP would only express its apprehensions and nothing more.