Sri Lanka has said that an evidence gathering mechanism that was contained in Resolution 46/1 and which led to division in the Council is unwarranted and unhelpful and will lead to politicization and polarization in Sri Lanka. The Foreign Ministry said so in a statement issued in response to the Human Rights Watch “World Report 2022”: Sri Lanka Section.
Alleging that the HRW section on Sri Lanka depicted an exaggerated and unduly negative picture of the current human rights situation in the country, the Foreign Ministry has issued the following statement: “Sri Lanka follows a policy of constructive engagement with the international community, including with international NGOs such as HRW on matters related to human rights, and we recognize their constructive role as human rights defenders. However, sensationalised and biased reporting during a particularly challenging global economic and social environment risks igniting and aggravating domestic discord. We highlight the importance of responsible, balanced and impartial reporting.
At the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September last year Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris stated that Sri Lanka is engaged in pursuing sustainable peace, through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process. Sri Lanka also reiterated its longstanding commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in line with our own constitution and our international obligations.
This message was reiterated recently by the President at the opening of the 9th Session of the Parliament of Sri Lanka on 18 January, 2022.
The Government of Sri Lanka remains accountable to its people in discharging its mandate on all fronts including economic, social and human development as well as the achievement of the SDGs. At the same time and despite operational, economic and human constraints caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has made important progress in delivering on post-conflict reconciliation, accountability and human rights as undertaken before the people of Sri Lanka and reiterated internationally. The work of the independent domestic institutions – the Office of Missing Persons, the Office of Reparations, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation and the Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka is an important supportive pillar of this effort. We have empowered these institutions with financial and other support in order to execute their independent statutory mandates. Regular updates related to progress made through these domestic processes on human rights and reconciliation are contained in Sri Lanka’s statements to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In our response to HRW we have highlighted the progress made in recent months relating to a number of areas addressed by them such as amendment to PTA, accountability, release of detainees under PTA, freedom of association, the Covid pandemic and the proposed amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance.
We have also stated that with regard to international actors, the Government greatly values the goodwill and advice from our international partners, the United Nations as well as local and international NGOs. We have continued our ongoing interaction with them and encouraged regular engagement with Sri Lanka.
During numerous such exchanges including from visiting bilateral dignitaries as well as senior officials from the United Nations and UN human rights special mandate holders, we have facilitated access to all domestic interlocutors and been open to their encouragement, advice and concerns. We value in particular our interaction with our domestic civil society partners given their established outreach and expertise on many issues related to development reconciliation and human rights. We have engaged them in our efforts to realize the SDGs as well as on matters related to reconciliation. On a broader front, Sri Lanka has also invited the Sri Lankan diaspora groups to partner with us as we move forward.
With regard to Sri Lanka`s position at the Human Rights Council, as we have stated at the September 2021 session of the Council, Sri Lanka will continue its long-standing cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as with the Council. We are delivering on our commitment to address accountability and reconciliation through domestic processes and institutions. As stated by Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris “We are open in acknowledging our challenges and as a responsible and democratic government, we are committed to achieving tangible progress on the entire range of issues relating to accountability, reconciliation, human rights, peace and sustainable development”. Sri Lanka is of the view that the evidence gathering mechanism that was contained in Resolution 46/1 and which led to division in the Council is unwarranted and unhelpful and will lead to politicization and polarization in Sri Lanka.”
Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI
Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.
Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.
Unions predict end of energy sovereignty
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.
“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”
Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.
“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.
Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue
The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.
Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.
“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.
“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”
Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.
However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen
Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”
But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.
Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI
Unions predict end of energy sovereignty
US Ambassador calls on Speaker
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