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Geneva resolution: GTF disappointed over Lanka’s response; appreciates India’s efforts

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The UK-headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) said that Sri Lanka’s response to the latest Geneva resolution presented by Foreign Minister Ali Sabry – who insisted on an exclusive domestic mechanism to address wartime atrocities despite the country’s inability to take a single meaningful initiative for 13 years – is thoroughly disappointing.

Rejecting any external involvement in investigating the economic crimes – despite overwhelming evidence that such crimes partly contributed to the economic crisis, the President’s Counsel trivialised the efforts put in by many countries for Resolution 51/L1/Rev1, alleging it catered for their domestic politics and regional differences only.

The following is the text of the GTF statement issued by its spokesperson Suren Surendiran: “For Minister Ali Sabry, there was no sense of irony when invoking an outdated concept of sovereignty as an all-encompassing protective shield while the country is totally dependent on international assistance to overcome its deep economic crisis. Perhaps therein lies a pathway to make a meaningful transformation in Sri Lanka. Knowing Sri Lanka’s track record with past UNHRC resolutions, it makes complete sense to link the progress on implementing the key aspects of Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 to the financial packages provided by the international community.

Implementing key aspects of the UNHRC Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 is crucial for promoting human rights, accountability and economic stability in Sri Lanka

The GTF welcomes the passing of Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 with minimal opposition among the member countries of the UNHRC on 6 October 2022. It is particularly pleasing that several countries who would have traditionally voted against such a resolution recognised the criticality of the Sri Lankan situation and decided to abstain. For the thousands of victims of serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, who have been denied justice for more than a decade, UNHRC continues to offer hope, even if the process of seeking justice is painstakingly slow and arduous.

The process towards this important outcome commenced with the comprehensive report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was highly critical of Sri Lanka’s failure to address wartime accountability; entrenched impunity for human rights violations; economic crimes; endemic corruption; and the application of draconian security laws to crackdown peaceful protests. The High Commissioner’s recommendations were ably converted into Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 by the core group of countries – in effect, a balancing act of highly concerning developments in Sri Lanka and challenging geopolitical reality.

GTF would like to express its gratitude to all progressive forces that made this outcome possible – the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the core group of countries led by the UK, countries that voted for or co-sponsored the resolution, the human rights organisations who championed the cause, and more importantly, the victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka who despite the long time elapsed and the risks involved, continue to provide inspiration by bravely fighting for accountability.

Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 recognises Sri Lanka’s total failure in addressing wartime accountability. It has extended and reinforced the capacity of the OHCHR to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence, and develop strategies for future accountability processes. Such options could include extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction as well as targeted sanctions against those credibly implicated in serious human rights abuses.

The resolution acknowledges the lack of freedoms and marginalisation endured by the Tamil and Muslim communities and calls for the government to fulfil its commitment to the devolution of political authority, specifically to ensure that all provincial councils, including the northern and eastern provincial councils, are able to operate effectively in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The resolution also underscores how unaccountable governance, deepening militarisation and impunity for human rights violations eventually led to the unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka and calls on the government to address the crisis, including by investigating and prosecuting corruption committed by present and former public officials, and offers assistance with the investigation into economic crimes.

Furthermore, Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 notes the heavy-handed approach adopted by the government against protesters calling for change, such as declaring multiple state of emergencies and continuing with detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It calls on the government to protect civil society actors and human rights defenders while emphasizing the positive contribution peaceful protests can make towards the effectiveness of democratic processes.

Notwithstanding India’s abstention, we are pleased with its strong statement in support of the Tamil people for equality, justice, dignity and peace. India noted inadequate progress in implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and called for meaningful devolution and early elections for the Provincial Councils. GTF hopes India’s actions of goodwill – both the unprecedented assistance during the economic crisis and abstention at UNHRC – could be leveraged to protect and promote the legitimate political and economic aspirations of Tamils.

Resolution 51/L1/Rev1 which aims to address many legacies and emerging human rights and economic issues is timely. Its success depends entirely on the insistence and persistence of the international community in ensuring its full implementation. In this context, it is important to highlight the sense of frustration engulfing many victims and their families with no sense of accountability and justice even after 8 UNHRC resolutions and 13 years of waiting.

Unlike previous years when the outcome at the UNHRC was eagerly sought mainly by the Tamil community, the interests and expectations this year were much more widespread. The ruthless treatment meted out to those protesting against the government, and the authoritarian and militarised trajectory the country is increasingly adopting, has brought a new awareness about human rights and their universality among all citizens of the country.

GTF believes this convergence of concerns, fears and apprehensions offer hope for all the people of Sri Lanka to come together as equal citizens and communities. Such progress is possible only when all communities stop living a lie based on denial and come to terms with the truth based on evidence. The UNHRC resolution just passed provides a useful framework to work towards such an outcome in unity.”



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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman

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Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand

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At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night

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President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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