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Continued UNHRC scrutiny of Sri Lanka’s human rights record crucial: HRW



The United Nations Human Rights Council should maintain its rigorous scrutiny of Sri Lanka’s worsening human rights situation and press for genuine improvements, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

They further said: “At the Council’s upcoming session, which begins on September 13, 2021, UN member countries should express their alarm about the ongoing abuses by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the weakening of independent governmental institutions, civilian governance, and the rule of law. These countries should demonstrate their willingness to press the Sri Lankan government to meet its international human rights obligations,” they said.

“Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office in 2019, the limited progress Sri Lanka had made in addressing past atrocities and ending abuses has been disastrously reversed,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Continued international attention and pressure can help reduce the risks faced by minority communities, activists, and journalists, who live in heightened fear of the authorities”.

“Earlier in 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted an important resolution, 46/1, to advance accountability for past rights violations and war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. The resolution also mandated regular reporting by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2020, the Rajapaksa administration had renounced the previous administration’s commitments to the Human Rights Council to provide justice and end abuses.”

“The administration is using its security and intelligence agencies to check and intimidate the families of abuse victims and others who are seeking to uphold human rights. When we talk to the families of the ‘disappeared,’they say they can be arrested at any time,” a human rights defender in northern Sri Lanka told Human Rights Watch. “That they can arrest you for anything.”

“The authorities are using arrests and threats issued under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to silence calls for justice in the Tamil majority North and East, and to arbitrarily detain Muslims in counter-terrorism operations. In August, Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne said that 311 people were in custody for the deadly 2019 Easter bombings, many of them for over two years. However, no one has yet been brought to trial in connection with the attacks,” Human Rights Watch said.

“President Rajapaksa issued an ordinance under the PTA this year that allows for two years in detention without trial for the “rehabilitation” of people accused of causing “disharmony,” and another that creates a new PTA detention center at a notorious police facility in Colombo that would permit even more abuse under the terrorism law. These actions contradict the government’s claim to foreign diplomats that it was preparing to reform the PTA, which has been used to facilitate the arbitrary detention and torture of prisoners since its introduction in 1979.

Under the PTA, a prisoner can be held for up to 18 months without being produced in court. A newly formed “advisory board” of three presidential appointees to review pretrial detention orders under this law offers no credible legal protection against abuses”, Human Rights Watch said.

“The police Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) has been used to stifle civil society. They regularly visit the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and talk about the financial reports and staff lists and phone numbers,” an activist in the east, who described the visits as a method of surveillance and intimidation, told Human Rights Watch. “The TID visits NGOs regularly. It’s kind of routine.”

“An amendment to the constitution in 2020 undermined the independence of the judiciary by empowering the president to appoint senior judges. The amendment also undercut the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the status of which is now under review by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. Recent appointments to the Office of Missing Persons, which is supposed to discover what happened to thousands of victims of enforced disappearance over several decades, have further undermined its credibility. The appointees include a former Inspector General of Police accused of destroying evidence in the murder of a journalist.

A presidential commission established in January 2020 to examine supposed cases of “political victimization” has recommended halting investigations or prosecutions in the few cases of serious abuses where there had been limited progress, and instead opening investigations against police investigators for allegedly falsifying evidence.” Human Rights Watch said.

“In August 2021, the Attorney General dropped charges against a former commander of the Navy implicated in the enforced disappearance of 11 men and boys between 2008 and 2009. Senior Superintendent of Police Shani Abeysekera, who led that and other major human rights investigations, received death threats and was imprisoned for a year and half, until the Court of Appeal found that the case against him was “fabricated.” Meanwhile, the government has sought to persuade diplomats at the Human Rights Council that an accountability process still exists, by referring to a separate presidential commission established by President Rajapaksa in January with a mandate to reexamine the reports of the numerous previous domestic commissions “to ascertain whether there have been violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” and whether previous recommendations had been implemented, ” Human Rights Watch said.

“On August 31, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry circulated a document to foreign diplomats in which the government claims, without basis, to have made “continued and tangible progress … in addressing issues related to achieving peace, reconciliation, and development, including accountability, within the domestic legal framework of Sri Lanka.”

They further said: “In fact, the government’s approach has been to emphasize “compensation” to victims over justice and accountability, as Justice Minister Ali Sabry said at an event organized by the Office of Missing Persons on August 31. The Foreign Ministry claims that these payments – about US$500 each in cases in which the victim died – will help bring “closure” and “reconciliation.”

“Far from promoting reconciliation, the government has repeatedly adopted policies that alienate Sri Lanka’s beleaguered minority communities. Tamils and Muslims in the North and East have complained of a concerted government policy to seize land belonging to members of their communities on various pretexts, including by a presidential task force on archaeology composed of Buddhist monks and members of the security forces.

Foreign governments should take firm and coordinated action to press the Sri Lankan government to reverse course”, Human Rights Watch said.

“The European Union should insist that Sri Lanka complies with its human rights obligations to maintain tariff free market access under GSP+, as should the United Kingdom under its similar program. Donor governments and multilateral agencies, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, should immediately withhold support for Sri Lankan security forces until they take steps to halt and address violations, in compliance with UN due diligence standards.”

“Governments should also consider imposing targeted sanctions on senior figures implicated in grave abuses, and pursue prosecutions under universal jurisdiction, as recommended by the UN human rights chief, Michele Bachelet, earlier this year.”

“No one should be in any doubt that Sri Lanka’s human rights situation is deeply alarming and getting worse,” said. “UN member states should recognize that the government is sensitive to international pressure, and make the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka their priority,” Ganguly said.

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Lanka to lend US$2.5bn to US and top-rated borrowers in 2023 under IMF deal: analysis



ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is projected to lend 2,533 million US dollars mainly to the US and Euro areas during an International Monetary Fund deal in 2023 including a mandatory 1.4 billion US dollars collected from exports and remittances, according to official documents.

Sri Lanka is expected to get two tranches of 331.2 million dollar (254 million special drawing rights each) in March and September 2023 from the IMF.In 2023 Sri Lanka has to repay 256.4 million dollars from an earlier IMF loan taken during an earlier currency crisis.

Net inflows from the IMF would be 406.12 million US dollars in 2023 if the first review is completed in September 2023.Sri Lanka has committed to collect at least 1.4 billion US dollars from remittances and exports and lend to the US and other developed nations during 2023 under the IMF deal.

A large volume has already been collected. An ad hoc peg is now operated under the IMF deal to buy dollars and export to the West, as ‘below-the-line outflows. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are usually loaned to highly rated sovereign or sovereign linked borrowers, mainly in the US.

But there have been amounts of Euro assets in Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves at times, triggering forex losses when the dollar to Euro parity changed.Under the IMF program there is a performance criterion to increase net international reserves by 1,948 million dollars during 2023.

Sri Lanka is also expected to repay a 200 million US dollar swap to Bangladesh during 2023, which will also raise the NIR.At the moment Sri Lanka’s central bank is in debt after borrowing from India, Bangladesh, India including on Asian Clearing Union dues as well as the IMF. Year end net international reserves would still be negative.

Sri Lanka’s gross reserves are expected to rise by 2.5 billion US dollars to 4.4 billion US dollars in 2023 indicating that the country will lend 2.5 billion US dollars to the US and other highly rated borrowers. It may include re-invested interest coupons.

Sri Lanka is also expected to get 650 million dollars from the Asian Development Bank and 250 million dollars from the World Bank as part of partner support for the IMF deal. Outside of core monetary reserves linked to reserve money, balances in Treasury accounts are also counted as forex reserves.

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BASL writes to IGP over protest against Saliya Peiris



The BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has condemned a protest staged outside the Law of Chamber of BASL President Saliya Pieris, PC on Friday.The protest was staged against the representation of Saliya Pieris, PC for notorious Sri Lankan drug kingpin Nadun Chinthaka alias “Harak Kata”.

Condemning the protest, BASL said in a statement that Saliya Pieris, PC was only conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client.

“We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law,” it pointed out.

The BASL called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take action to ensure that Saliya Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.

Full text of the letter: ” We write with reference to an organized protest outside the chamber of Mr Saliya Pieris, President of the \Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

We have been made aware the said protest relates to Mr. Pieris conducting his professional duties with regard to a particular client. We are of the view the said protest seriously hinders his right to represent a client, a professional right which has been safeguarded by law.In the case of Wijesundara Mudiyanselage Naveen Nayantha Bandara Wijesundara v Sirwardena and Others (SCFR 13/2019), the Supreme Court observed that:

“The first piece of legislation passed by the Parliament soon after the promulgation of the 1978 Constitution was the Judicature Act No. 02 of 1978. As the administration of justice in any civilized society cannot be effectively implemented without lawyers, the legislature in its wisdom, through the Judicature Act, established the legal profession.

Thus, there is no dispute that the legal profession is a sine qua non for the due administration of justice in this country and for that matter in any civilized society. The said profession is essential for the maintenance of the Rule of Law and maintenance of law and order and its due existence is of paramount importance to the organized functioning of the society which is primarily the basis for the smooth functioning of the country as a whole.”

Further, Section 41 of the Judicature Act which has clearly set out the right of representation, and, has further shed light on the above mechanism established for implementing the administration of justice in the country.

It is as follows; Section 41 of the Judicature Act (Right of Representation)

(1) Every attorney-at-law shall be entitled to assist and advise clients and to appear, plead or act in every court or other institution established by law for the administration of justice and every person who is a party to or has or claims to have the right to be heard in any proceeding in any such court or other such institution shall be entitled to be represented by an attorney-at-law.

(2) Every person who is a party to any proceeding before any person or tribunal exercising quasi-judicial powers and every person who has or claims to have the right to be heard before any such person or tribunal shall unless otherwise”

Therefore, we strongly demand that you take action to ensure that Mr. Peiris’s professional duties as an Attorney-at-law, are not hindered and to ensure his safety.”

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State need not do business, says Ranil, seven SOEs to be divested



ECONOMYNEXT – The State need not engage in business as its mandate is to provide services such as education and maintain law and order, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday defending plans to divest government-held shares of seven state owned enterprises (SOEs).

At a discussion at the presidential secretariat on Thursday morning, Wickremesinghe responding to a question about the decision said that Sri Lanka must no longer hold on to corporations and enterprises owned by the government.

Sri Lanka has been spending more on the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) than it has on education, he said.The following seven SOEs will undergo the divestment of state-held shares: Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd including Sri Lankan Catering Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd,

Canwill Holdings Pvt. Ltd., (Grand Hyatt Hotel), Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., (Hilton Hotel Colombo), Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., including Litro Gas Terminals (Pvt) Ltd., (LPG retailing), and Lanka Hospital Corporation PLC

The State Owned Enterprises Restructuring Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilisation and National Policies will oversee the process, a statement said.

“Not all of them are loss making. But we do have to repay debt. You can’t keep these and pay back loans.

“If we can’t pay off our loans, we might have to sell something in the house and pay it,” said Wickremesnghe.

Asked why Sri Lanka should sell SOEs that aren’t making losses, he responded: “Why is the state engaged in business? That’s not our mandate. The state has no business engaging in business.”

“In what country is there a law that these (businesses) should be (held by the state)?” he added.

Noting that the crisis-hit nation is trying to embark on a path of recovery and rapid development, the president said Sri Lanka must follow India’s example.

“India is selling their airports, profit making ones. India has come to that stage. We have to go there too.”

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