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FM accuses UNHRC of resorting to punitive, politicised, divisive, unhelpful action against Lanka for extraneous reasons

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The Foreign Ministry has accused the UNHRC of resorting to punitive, politicised, divisive, unhelpful action against Sri Lanka due to extraneous reasons.

The OHCHR has now established a “Sri Lanka Accountability Project” citing resolution 46/1, in a situation where the language of OP6 (Operative Paragraph) in resolution 46/1 only sought to “strengthen the capacity of the OHCHR to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve…evidence.” Thus, what was supposed to be only an internal capacity building exercise, within the OHCHR, has arbitrarily been elevated to the level of a project and listed with other external mechanisms of the UNHRC, the Foreign Ministry alleged in a statement that dealt with the 49th session of the UNHRC.

Text of the statement issued yesterday: “The delegation from Colombo that attended the 49th session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor G.L. Peiris, and comprised the following members: Minister of Justice Ali Sabry, State Minister of Production Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, and Additional Solicitor General Nerin Pulle.

The 49th session of the Human Rights Council was held in a backdrop where a written update on Sri Lanka was to be presented to the Council by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in pursuance of resolution 46/1 which was adopted in March 2021, without the consent of Sri Lanka as the country concerned, and with only 22 of the 47 Council members voting in favour of it.

Operative Paragraph 6 of this resolution set a very dangerous precedent by requiring the Office of the High Commissioner to take on the role of collecting criminal evidence with a view to future prosecution. Due to its fundamentally flawed nature, even countries that voted in favour of resolution 46/1, in their ‘explanation of the vote’ expressed reservations regarding this new task assigned to the OHCHR which is not consistent with its founding document GA resolution 48/141.

The OHCHR has now established a “Sri Lanka Accountability Project,” citing resolution 46/1, in a situation where the language of OP6 in resolution 46/1 only sought to “strengthen the capacity of the OHCHR to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve…evidence.” Thus, what was supposed to be only an internal capacity building exercise, within the OHCHR, has arbitrarily been elevated to the level of a project and listed with other external mechanisms of the UNHRC.

Furthermore, all this adversarial action is taking place in Geneva in a situation where the Government of Sri Lanka is vigorously engaged in initiating and implementing a series of national processes, aimed at advancing reconciliation and human rights for all our people. In this context, it was important for Sri Lanka to explain to the stakeholders in Geneva, including the Council, UN Member States and other relevant actors, our position on this matter and to present before them the significant progress that Sri Lanka has achieved, in this regard, even amidst COVID 19 – related challenges.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs addressed the High Level Segment of HRC49 on 1 March 2022 highlighting Sri Lanka’s longstanding profile as an active participant in the multilateral framework, the national Constitutional, legal and institutional frameworks that are in place for the realisation of human rights, including the right to development, and our achievements in this regard. The Minister also stressed the importance of the HRC being guided by the principles of impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of Member States, and raised objections to punitive, politicised, divisive, unhelpful action, initiated due to extraneous reasons.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs made a statement, on behalf of Sri Lanka, as the country concerned at the interactive dialogue that followed the introduction of the written update on Sri Lanka on 4 March 2022, pointing out among other things, that resolution 46/1 on Sri Lanka was directly contrary to the founding principles of the HRC. He also pointed out to the Council, the aspects of the High Commissioner’s written update that were discriminatory and intrusive.

At the Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s written update, Sri Lanka received cross-regional support and solidarity from a large number of countries of the Global South, who appreciated the Government’s significant efforts towards reconciliation and reiterated the importance of objective and constructive cooperation as the fundamental basis for multilateral engagement. Of the 45 countries that delivered statements at the interactive dialogue, 31 spoke in support of Sri Lanka. These speakers represented a broad spectrum of states from South, South East and Central Asia, Latin America and the Africa.

The 31 countries that spoke in favour of Sri Lanka, at the interactive dialogue, were Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Maldives, China, Cuba, Japan, Syrian Arab Republic, Viet Nam, DPRK, Venezuela, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, Lebanon, Uganda, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, South Sudan, Lao PDR, Yemen, Iran, Niger, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan.

In addition, in its statement, at the General Debate on Item 2 that followed, the interactive dialogue on Sri Lanka, South Korea also recognised Sri Lanka’s efforts at reconciliation and at initiating legal reforms.

The interventions from the States of the Global South recognised Sri Lanka’s commitment to promoting reconciliation and human rights through national processes, including through legislative reform, and the progress achieved in this regard, irrespective of COVID 19 – related challenges. They also underscored the importance of the Human Rights Council and the international community supporting voluntary national processes, as well as upholding the core principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and non-politicisation.

Among the matters stressed by the intervenient delegations were concerns over the micro-management of Sri Lanka’s internal constitutional and governance matters, and the imperative of strict adherence to the provisions of UN Charter and relevant UNGA and HRC resolutions. It was also stressed that cooperation with international human rights mechanisms should be without any external pressure from outside, with states having the power to determine its priorities and areas for international assistance and that only cooperative action will be truly effective and contribute to the real strengthening of human rights in a country.

Certain intervenient delegations also disagreed with the role being set for the OHCHR in collecting evidence, noting that the decision of the OHCHR to establish an “accountability project” is a breach of its mandate. The exorbitant cost of this mandate, in the region of US$ 3 million, was also commented on.

The delegation from Colombo held bi-lateral meetings with the following foreign delegations on the sidelines of HRC49 listed in the order in which they took place. – Lord Tariq Ahmed, Minister of State for South and Central Asia, UN and the Commonwealth accompanied by Rita French Ambassador/DPR of the UK. – Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary General – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste Mrs. Adaljiza Magno – Mrs. Nassima Baghli, Ambassador, Permanent Observer, Permanent Delegation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – Mr. Daren Tang, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – Mr Abdulaziz M.O. Alwasil, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia – Foreign Minister of Palestine Rizad Al Maliki and Mr Ibrahim Khraishi, Permanent Representative of Palestine to the UN in Geneva – Federal Minister for Human Rights of Pakistan, Ms Shireen M Mazari and the Permanent Representative of Pakistan in Geneva Mr Khalil Hashmi. – Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Dr Naledi Pandor – Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs of Egypt Khaled El Bakry, and Mr. Ahmed Ihab Abdelahad Gamaleldin, Permanent Representative of Egypt – Permanent Representative of the USA in Geneva Ms.Bathsheba Nell Crocker – Permanent Representative of the UK Mr. Simon MANLEY, and Mrs. Amanda GORELY, Permanent Representative of Australia – Deputy Head of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dr Kazem Gharibabadi, and H.E. Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Permanent Representative of Iran – Permanent Representative of Turkey Mr. Sadik Arslan – UN High Commissioner For Human Rights Michelle Bachelet – President of the Human Rights Council Mr. Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina – Permanent Representative of Bangladesh Md. Mustafizur Rahman, and Febrian Ruddyard, Permanent Representative of Indonesia.

In addition to the above, State Minister of Production Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana held the following bi-laterals with – Dr Tedross Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organization – Mr Santiago Cornejo, Director of COVAX’s Country Engagement Team.



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BASL urges President to de-escalate tensions in different parts of country

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The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has called upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to instruct the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of tensions in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by the public.”

 “Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint”, the BASL has said in a media statement.

 “We also call upon you to ensure that steps are taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.”

The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police.

 The armed forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

Full text of the BASL letter to the President:

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) expresses its gravest concerns at the current situation at fuel stations throughout the country and the reports of several incidents of conflicts between civilians and members of the police force and the armed forces at fuel stations. There has been video footage of civilians being assaulted by personnel of the armed forces and the police, the latest being of a civilian being kicked by an Army officer at a fuel station. There have also been situations of the police and Army opening fire into the air to contain the crowd.

Your Excellency is no doubt aware that thousands of desperate civilians are waiting in queues at hundreds of fuel stations in the country. The queues are kilometres long. The tension at the fuel stations have arisen from this desperation for which there is no immediate solution in sight.

The BASL wishes to warn Your Excellency of the imminent dangers this situation could give rise to. The present unrest could result in a conflagration between civilians and members of the armed forces or the police. Some years ago, confrontations between members of the public and the armed forces resulted in the deaths of civilians. Such incidents between the members of the armed forces or the police and the civilians will discredit Sri Lanka’s armed forces and the police.

We call upon Your Excellency to take all necessary steps to give instructions to the Defence Secretary, the Commanders of the Tri Forces and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that there is an immediate de-escalation of the situation in different parts of the country – especially at fuel stations – understanding the difficulties faced by public. Whilst keeping in mind that the police and armed forces are acting under very trying circumstances, nevertheless it is necessary to give strict instructions to the police and the forces to desist from violence in dealing with the public and to act with utmost restraint. We also call upon you to ensure that steps be taken under the law to deal with errant officers who have subjected civilians to such violence.

The Sri Lanka Army and other service personnel must be deployed only in very limited circumstances as contemplated in the Criminal Procedure Code. The BASL is of the view that it is not appropriate for service personnel to be deployed in the present manner in matters which essentially should be managed by the Sri Lanka Police. The Armed Forces should also not be used to disturb or hinder peaceful protests as was seen last week in Galle.

We trust that this will receive the immediate attention of the Government as to do otherwise may otherwise result in unprecedented turmoil and harm.

The BASL believes that the ultimate solution to the situation at fuel stations is to be transparent with the public and to ensure an equitable and effective system of fuel distribution throughout the country.

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SC orders AG to submit report on fuel purchases and distribution

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By A.J.A. Abeynayake

A three-member Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Vijith Malalgoda, Mahinda Samayawardena and Arjuna Obeysekera yesterday ordered the Attorney General to submit a report on fuel purchases, the distribution thereof and the sectors to be provided with fuel on a priority basis.

The Supreme Court made the order after considering two fundamental rights petitions presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The BASL has requested the Supreme Court to direct the Cabinet of Ministers to consult all stakeholders and independent experts to formulate and implement the necessary policies, and to provide concessions in relation to the prices of essential goods and services to the people including LP gas, fuel, electricity, milk powder, medicines and food.

The petitions were filed by the President of the BASL Saliya Pieris PC, Deputy President Anura Meddegoda PC, former Secretary Rajeev Amarasuriya, Treasurer Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Pasindu Silva.

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A/L may be delayed by one month

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Education Minister Sushil Premajayantha told Parliament yesterday that although it had been scheduled to hold the G.C.E. A/L Examination 2022 in November this year, it could be further delayed by another month.

Responding to a question by MP Shantha Bandara, the Minister said: “The examination should be held at least after three months of releasing the results of the previous A/L exam because the students who need to sit it again should have enough time to prepare,” the Minister said.

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