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Govt. tells parliament UNHRC resolution illegal

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By Saman Indrajith

The government yesterday told Parliament that the recently ratified UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka was illegal.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the resolution was an attempt to interfere in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. “Sri Lanka considers the resolution unwarranted. This resolution against Sri Lanka is illegal.”

Minister Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka was a sovereign state and the government would protect the country’s sovereignty.

Gunawardena said that the new resolution had not been backed by a majority of the UNHRC members.

Minister Gunawardena tabled the resolution in Parliament along with details of the co-sponsors of the document.

However, the Minister said that Sri Lanka would continue to engage with the UN agencies.

The resolution co-sponsored by the former government had been a great betrayal, the Foreign Minister said, adding that the Government would address accountability issues in Sri Lanka through a domestic mechanism.

Given below is the full speech the Foreign Minister made in Parliament:

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted by a vote, the draft Resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka” (A/HRC/46/L.1/Rev.1) tabled by a ‘Core Group’ of countries, on 23 March 2021 during its 46th Session. Out of the 47 Members of the Council, 22 countries voted in favour, 11 voted against and 14 abstained. It is implicit from the voting result that the majority of the Council did not support this Resolution.

“At this meeting, Sri Lanka, as the country concerned, reiterated its position on this Resolution against the country, and the politically motivated process behind it, as has been briefed to the Human Rights Council before, including through my statement at the High-Level Segment of the 43rd Session, in February last year. Sri Lanka rejected this Resolution which had no consensus and requested the Members of the Human Rights Council to reject this Resolution by a vote.

“I have provided a briefing on this matter to the Cabinet of Ministers itself.

“Sri Lanka considers the draft resolution to be unwarranted, unjustified and in violation of the relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter, in particular Article 2(7) and relevant Sections of the United Nations Resolution 60/251 that provides for the mandate of the Human Rights Council. For the above reasons, this Resolution against Sri Lanka is illegal.

“The very first sentence of the Resolution states: “Guided by the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations…” Having said so, the Resolution goes on to violate Article 2 (7) of the Charter which states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”

 

This intervention denies a state the right enshrined in the Charter and other UN instruments in respect of the right of its People to choose its system of governance, developing the institutions to govern it, and developing arrangements to meet national challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic in keeping with its civilizational values within provisions of the Constitution.

“Acting beyond the Mandate granted to the UNHRC by UN Resolution 60/251 and recognize the importance of preserving evidence. Instead, to promote and protect Human Rights; to make recommendations relating to human rights violations; and be guided by “universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity”.

“To address accountability through a Domestic Mechanism and address violations of International Humanitarian Law, and derogated International Human Rights laws within the context of International Laws acceptable to the Community of Nations.

“This Resolution against Sri Lanka is pushed forward at the behest of a few countries, representing one part of the world without the consent of Sri Lanka. It is therefore unhelpful and divisive. There is no moral right to interfere into affairs of a sovereign country in this manner.

“No country has a greater interest in bringing about reconciliation among its peoples than Sri Lanka – a point that has repeatedly been emphasized during proceedings of the Human Rights Council.

“The list of co-sponsors of the resolution amply demonstrates the divisive nature of such “country-specific” initiatives and it is clear from the result of the vote that there is no consensus within the Council on this resolution.

“The resolution adopted on 23rd of March is intrusive of the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and the core values of the UN Charter. It will have an adverse effect on the ongoing efforts to maintain peace, reconciliation and economic development in the country. It will lead to polarization of Sri Lankan society, contrary to the insistence of its proponents that it will bring about reconciliation.

“Sri Lanka categorically rejects the unprecedented proposal in this resolution to expand the role of the OHCHR. This sets a dangerous precedent and will have wide ranging implications for all countries. The Council cannot assume tasks not assigned to it by the UN General Assembly in resolution 60/251 or subsequent resolutions.

“This Resolution is based on the rejected report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka presented to the 46th Session of the HRC which violates the principles of sovereign equality of all states and non-interference in internal affairs. The Government of Sri Lanka has rejected this Report pointing out that, among other things, it is one-sided and exceeds the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council. It contains sweeping recommendations unsubstantiated and unwarranted comments of essentially political nature which no self-respecting sovereign country can accept. It has been compiled within months after the formation of a new Government in Sri Lanka, without any field visit, while the whole world was grappling with the ongoing global pandemic.

“A well-orchestrated propaganda campaign was launched against Sri Lanka ahead of the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council. This campaign was carried out with extensive focus on Sri Lanka while reports pertaining to the situations in over 10 other countries were presented at the 46th Session of the HRC. The synchronized content of the propaganda against Sri Lanka and the exploitation of the OHCHR mechanisms in doing so, demonstrated a clear case of a pre-meditated endeavour.

I wish to recall that last year I have briefed this House of the reasons which led to the withdrawal from the co-sponsorship of the HRC Resolution 40/1 and its preceding Resolutions 34/1 and 30/1, which was announced at the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council in February last year. It is unfortunate that the unconstitutional action of co-sponsorship of a resolution against Sri Lanka by the previous Government brought to a halt the comprehensive post-conflict development process which included a domestic reconciliatory process.

“This new Resolution in an unwarranted manner seeks to interfere in all matters that are domestic affairs of a sovereign country. We questioned the members of the UN whether Sri Lanka represents a case warranting the immediate attention of the Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka has only defeated a secessionist terrorist campaign, and acted within its legal rights to defend its territorial integrity.

“Sri Lanka regrets that this Resolution seeks to create a perception of discrimination and marginalization of its people which is far from the truth. Issues affecting the people of Sri Lanka are common to all people irrespective of their ethnicity or religion. The Government is determined to achieve its main targets to improve the lives of the poor despite these distractions.

“No sovereign government is bound to work according to external prescriptions but be guided by the democratic aspirations of its own people. Sri Lanka has a well-established, time-honored legal system which is capable of ensuring dispensation of justice according to the constitution of Sri Lanka.

“The government remains committed to protect those who have made immeasurable sacrifices to neutralize terrorism, protect the territorial integrity of the country and to regain for all people in Sri Lanka the most cherished of all rights, right to life.

“It is regrettable that the proponents of the Resolution seek to create an ambiguous mechanism with funds of millions of USD at a time of severe financial constraints faced by the UN. We call upon the proponents of this Resolution to divest the money allocated for the implementation of this unprecedented proposal to improve the lives of the people affected by the conflict. This huge amount of funds is sufficient to build thousands of houses in the areas affected by the conflict, possibly to vaccinate the population of the entire Jaffna peninsula against the Covid19, or to provide to a whole Province, drinking water.

“As I mentioned earlier, I made the position of the Government on this politically motivated process on the country clear, and undertook deliverable commitments in keeping with Sri Lanka’s domestic and international obligations, at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The Council has been well briefed on all measures taken and the progress made under challenging circumstances amidst a global pandemic within the relatively short period of time since then. We have provided detailed updates to the OHCHR in December 2020 as well as in January 2021 on the progress of implementation of commitments that Sri Lanka had undertaken such as continuity of the existing mechanisms, appointment of a special commission of inquiry headed by a Supreme court judge, achieving the SDGs, progress made in returning lands, demining and creating new avenues of livelihoods.

“Reasons for this political campaign against Sri Lanka may vary from their domestic electoral compulsions to geopolitical interests. It is regrettable that countries with vested interests seek to achieve their political and strategic ambitions either through political destabilization or economic deprivation of the less influential countries of the global South, using the Human Rights Council as a tool.

“We are aware that some of the countries which stood by Sri Lanka at this vote withstood immense pressure on them in doing so. We thank all countries who braved such adversity to reject the Resolution.

“We are also mindful that some of Sri Lanka’s sincere friends were constrained to abstain. We thank them also for sharing with us their principled stands, and remaining neutral. In this context, Sri Lanka is of the view that this vote provided an opportunity for the member countries of the United Nations to re-assess whether the Human Rights Council is keeping with its guiding principles or not.

“Despite the vote of this Resolution against Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka will pursue its domestic mechanisms aimed at bringing about reconciliation and a lasting peace. As briefed earlier Sri Lanka will continue to engage constructively with the UN and its agencies in the same spirit of cooperation that have stood for over six decades for the betterment of its people, including through the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies as well as international obligations and undertakings.”

 

 



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Toxic coconut oil scare trigger public wave of fear over aflatoxins in foodstuffs

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People now wary of buying certain products

By Suresh Perera

In the backdrop of a top official of Sri Lanka’s key standards body coming under heavy flak over her controversial claim that several other consumer commodities also contain toxic substances, public apprehension has shifted to many other products in the market following a wave of fear triggered over cancer-causing free radicals in foodstuffs, industry players said.

The Trade Ministry has already initiated a disciplinary inquiry into the assertion by Dr. Siddhika Senaratne, the Director-General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), that aflatoxins are also found in certain other food items sold to the public.

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi found on agricultural crops.

As the SLSI scientist’s remarks during a television talk show ignited an uproar following the seizure of imported stocks of contaminated coconut oil, industry officials said that customers are now wary of purchasing certain food products as the social media, rightly or wrongly, painted a frightening picture, they said.

A committee will be appointed to examine Dr. Senaratne’s statement to ascertain the validity or otherwise of her claim of the presence of aflatoxins in some food products in the marketplace, authoritative sources said.

Though the Director-General didn’t identify any of the “toxic products” she claimed were being sold to consumers, her statement unleashed a cycle of fear and uncertainty as consumers, influenced largely by social media reports and hearsay, viewed many brands with suspicion, the sources noted.

However, there has been no credible scientific evidence so far to prove that products identified on social media contain carcinogenic properties, they said.

Dr. Senaratne’s contention was that identifying products with toxic substances could lead to the collapse of some local industries. The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has been informed to take up the issue with the relevant manufacturers for remedial action, she said.

It is no secret that many mills use copra with fungus to extract coconut oil. The perishable copra is dried outdoors but there is no proper cleaning of the fungi, which are common under tropical and sub-tropical conditions, before the oil is extracted, industry officials said.

Has it been established whether the shiny wax coating used on apples as an oxygen barrier to preserve freshness, particularly in consignments imported from China, belong to the safe food grade material?, they asked.

In the case of apples imported to Sri Lanka from the USA, the whole process of orchard to point of landing take many weeks. It is true that fruits are stored in cold rooms to preserve quality and slow the aging process by regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. However, the question arises whether there are accredited processes to monitor the agro chemical and other toxic levels in imported apples and other varieties of fruits before permitting the stocks to be released to the local market, they noted.

Hoppers are a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine, but it’s common knowledge that many wayside eateries introduce plaster of paris (a quick-setting gypsum plaster consisting of a fine white powder known as calcium sulfate hemihydrate) to the batter to keep them fresh and crispy, the officials asserted.

“This is because customers insist on freshly baked hoppers and as a result, those that have gone flat cannot be sold”, they said.

Cleanliness of eateries is being monitored to some extent, but are there any quality checks for toxicity on the food served to customers?, they queried.

After the contaminated coconut oil scandal surfaced, people are reluctant to even buy traditional oil-based sweetmeats from the marketplace, they further said.

Unlike earlier years, there is a slump in sweetmeat sales, a supermarket official said. “Customers are wary about toxic coconut oil in the market”.

 

 

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Ceyleon Solutions launch Sparetime App to turn spare time into income

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Ceyleon Solutions, a leading mobile app solution provider, launched Sparetime (www.sparetime.lk), a special mobile app to make easy money using one’s spare time. This app helps to search for people providing domestic, official or personal services or earn an extra income by providing a wide range of services.

Services such as masonry, plumbing, computer related services, wholesale, distribution, medical & healthcare, teaching, legal, beauticians, cleaning, helping, babysitting and car wash can be either searched or provided using this app as it creates an online platform for such service providers and those who seek their services.

There are two apps compatible to android and apple phones, ‘Sparetime Provider’ for those who provide services and ‘Sparetime User’ for those who seek such services.

“This is an ideal option for those who find it difficult to make ends meet with their salaries. Using this app, they can make use of their spare time effectively to earn extra money. This creates a comprehensive service hub. For an example, a vegetable farmer can find both a whole seller and a transport service provider to transport his goods with just a click. Even students can find part time work for their financial needs”, said Chaminda De Silva, creator and owner of the Sparetime app.

“This app works as a platform for social workers to get together and mobilize people for tasks that they wish to perform. This is a very user friendly app. However, operating instructions can be obtained by calling our hotline 0706355450 or 0706355452. An instructor will come to help you if necessary”, he noted.

Regardless of being a service provider or a user, this app will be ideal. It will also pave the way to gradually reduce the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka and will subsequently contribute to the gross domestic product accelerating economic growth of Sri Lanka.

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“Zahran Hashim and his group were not Muslims; they hijacked the name of Islam to commit these crimes’

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Rishad Bathiudeen tells Parliament

The Muslims never called for separatism. The Muslims have been on the side of the nation for over 1,000 years in Sri Lanka as documented in the book of Dr. Lorna Devaraja titled, ‘The Muslims of Sri Lanka – One Thousand Years of Ethnic Harmony’. Even when the Muslims were threatened with eviction or death from the North, they risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to be on the side of the State, Rishad Bathiudeen, MP, said.

Speaking in English during the fifth day of the debate on the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Attacks in Parliament on April 7, he said: “Zahran Hashim and his group were not Muslims. They hijacked the name of Islam to commit these crimes. The report in Page 94 confirms that Zahran wanted to build tensions between the Sinhalese and Muslim Communities of Sri Lanka”.

The MP’s speech contained many points and references to matters in the report and events that transpired thereafter.

Some of the points raised by the MP were:

* The State is antagonizing the Muslim community in the manner that Zahran had wanted them to act. The State should not play to the tunes of Zahran. The State should not act in a way that would jeopardize national security. The State has already commenced the process of State sponsored oppression by prohibiting the import of Muslim books and are making plans to ban Niqabs/Burkas and Madrasas.

* The PCoI has exonerated Rishad Bathiudeen from all charges in connection with the Easter attacks. Only two charges remain to be investigated. First one is in relation to the phone call placed by Bathiudeen to then Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayake, concerning Ihsan Moinudeen. Secondly, the sale of scrap metal by the Industrial Development Board to Colossus (Pvt) Ltd. Rishad Bathiudeen visited the Bribery Commission on 8th of April, 2021 to request them to investigate the allegation in the report.

 

* The weight placed on the phone call made by Rishad Bathiudeen to General Mahesh Senanayake, was given far higher significance in the report in comparison to the actions of Dayasiri Jayasekara who released six persons from the Hettipola Police Station who were involved in torching and destroying Muslim owned shops and Muslim places of worship. The Commission Report had recommended investigation into the phone call but had not charged Dayasiri on any matter.

 

* The Government cannot have a law banning the Niqab and Burka without also banning medical masks, helmets, sunglasses, etc.

* Restriction of Islamic books being brought into the country is a violation of the Constitution.

* Bathiudeen quoted Page 331 of the Report:‘Reciprocal radicalization is the cycle of radicalization which promotes each other’s radicalized ideologies’. If the Government can keep politicians like Wimal Weerawansa in check, the de-radicalization program will be half completed. He also said that inciting racism will only provoke and radicalize more Muslims.

 * Killing of Fouzul Ameer Mohamed Salley in Kottramulla before his children in the aftermath of the Easter Attacks, was Genocide under Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, and all persons who were inciting racism could be charged for incitement to genocide. Subsequent charges of oppression too can have a detrimental effect on Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka must be careful as Sri Lanka is now a party to the Rome Statute and can be held accountable by the International Criminal Court.

 

* It was Azath Salley who indicated during a press conference concerning the criminal activities of Zahran Hashim in 2017, but he is alleged to have connections to the Easter Attacks. This is not fair. The Government is politically victimizing Muslims who are speaking up against the oppressive tactics of the Government.

* The One Country One Law Policy does not mean that Muslim Personal Laws alone should be targeted. Most people believe that Customary Laws should be removed. However, that logic would require the Government to abolish Provincial legislation too, as Provincial legislation is also territorially implemented and not countrywide. Several laws will have to be struck down. However, the right way of interpreting the One Country One Law policy would be to maintain all laws that are consistent with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

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