Bhagwati, Rajapaksa settle attendance issue

Former Indian Chief Justice and Sri Lankan President have settled the controversial issue of attendance of IIGEP members for government's probe into human rights violation, reports PK Balachandran.
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Updated on Jul 06, 2007 03:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByPK Balachandran, Colombo

Former Indian Chief Justice PN Bhagwati and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa have settled the controversial issue of attendance of the members of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) at the sittings of the Sri Lankan government's Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into human rights violations in the country.

A top source in the Presidential Secretariat told Hindustan Times on Friday, that Justice Bhagwati, who chairs the IIGEP, had agreed to work out a roster for the attendance of the members of the group so that there would be at least one Eminent Person in every session.

The President's Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, had told Bhagwati in a letter dated June 29, that Rajapaksa was "not content" with the situation in which no member of the IIGEP might be present at the sittings of the CoI.

The IIGEP, comprising very busy persons, had been represented by "Assistants" some of whom, according to the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona, were only "young researchers".

Following two stinkers from Bhagwati about the working of the CoI and the unacceptable role of the Sri Lankan Attorney General's Counsels in its proceedings, Attorney General CR de Silva shot off a strong letter to the Indian jurist asking him not to come to conclusions about the working of the CoI or the role of the Attorney General's office, based on the reports of the Assistants.

The Attorney General pointed out that Bhagwati had not attended a single working session of the CoI, and urged him to do so. And to drive the point home, he said that he was writing the letter on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Bhagwati had complained that the CoI was working too slowly; witness protection was grossly inadequate; and the Attorney General's Counsels were playing a role not conducive to the CoI's impartial and independent functioning. He said that the AG's Counsels should not take part in the investigations.

On receiving the Attorney General's missive, Bhagwati told the media that he found it be lacking in courtesy. But he did agree that one or more members of the IIGEP should be present in every sitting of the CoI.

On Thursday, the President's Office said that Secretary Weeratunga's letter to Bhagwati, explaining President Rajapaksa's position, was "very well received" by the Indian jurist, and that he had agreed to work out a roster for attendance.

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