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.”
Covishield recipients in dilemma over second jab
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (11) said that the ‘health administration’ hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the second jab for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine first dose.
The government, both in and out of Parliament has acknowledged a shortfall of over 600,000 Covishield doses.
Top GMOA spokesperson Dr Naveen de Zoysa told The Island contrary to various statements made over the past several days in that regard, health authorities hadn’t been able to take a decision, in case ongoing efforts at government level to procure a sufficient stock, failed. Responding to another query, the outspoken GMOA official said that they were in a quandary.
When The Island pointed out that the success of the vaccination programme, depended on the availability of the second dose within 12 to 16 weeks after the first, Dr. Zoysa said that some expressed the view it would be better to have the same in spite of a slight delay. Then others talked of a ‘vaccine mix’ or vaccine cocktail’ to meet the requirement, Dr. Zoysa said. However, at the moment, the issue at hand hadn’t been addressed, the GMOA spokesperson said.
State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemic & Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday afternoon assured that the government was trying hard to obtain the required number of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab.
The government launched the second round on April 28. The first round launched on January 29 was brought to an end on April 6.
GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) President Dr. Rukshan Bellana emphasized that the government owed an explanation to the public how it intended to solve the issue at hand. Responding to The Island queries, Dr. Bellana said that the very purpose of the vaccination programme would be jeopardized if over 600,000 people couldn’t receive the second jab.
Dr. Bellana urged the government to reveal its response to the crisis without further delay. “We know, Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. Of them, half a million were a donation. Having used 927,000 for the first dose, the country had about 330,000 at the time the government launched the second round. We are now faced with over 600,000 shortfall. That is the undeniable truth,” Dr. Bellana said.
Appreciating the introduction of Chinese and Russian vaccines and efforts to procure US vaccine, too, Dr. Bellana said that those who had received covishield were really anxious whether the second dose could be received within the stipulated time.
The GMOF Chief said that the deepening health emergency in India shouldn’t be an excuse for those who turned a blind eye to the developing situation here. If the government made timely intervention, the situation wouldn’t have deteriorated so rapidly, Dr. Bellana said adding that the country was now paying a huge price for the government not taking tangible measures ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera didn’t answer his hand phone.
Dr. Bellana alleged that influential persons had jumped the queue to secure the second covishield jab. The GMOF urged the government to look into that matter and ensure transparency in the process.
The Island also sought an explanation from Chief of Vaccination Plan Lalith Weeratunga, who is also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s principal advisor regarding how the government intended to ensure the second jab. Weeratunga said that the government was in touch with three countries in that regard. “We are quite confident the required stock could be secured to meet the shortfall,” Weeratunga said, adding that in addition to 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China free of charge, the country could get as much as 3 mn doses from Beijing. Referring to consensus with Russia to procure 13 mn doses, Weeratunga emphasized that Chinese and Russian vaccines were going to be Sri Lanka’s mainstay against the backdrop of the situation in India.
Weeratunga said that in spite of on and off setbacks, the government pursued a proper vaccination strategy. He said that the government was quite confident that by August-Sept a substantial percentage of people could be vaccinated.
Johnston: Country will become a metropolis with efficient interconnected expressways
Chairman of the RDA Chaminda Athaluwage handing over the contracts to the construction companies to develop the Pasyala to Kadugannawa section of the Colombo – Kandy road (A001), as per the instructions of Minister Johnston Fernando.
Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says that with a highly networked system of expressways covering important cities of the country making transport and travelling efficient Sri Lanka could be like one big metropolis in the foreseeable future.
Speaking to the media after a meeting with his Ministry officials to review the tender awarding process to private companies for the widening of the Kadugannawa to Pasyala section of the Colombo-Kandy road on Monday, Minister Fernando said plans had been completed to develop the particular stretch of 55.7 km in four phases with funds from the Asian Development Bank.
The first phase of the project from Pasyala to Ambepussa covering 14.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,603 million. The estimated cost for the second section from Ambepussa to Kegalle covering 12.9 km is Rs 1,507 million. The third phase from Kegalle to Mawanella covering 13.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,345 million while the cost of developing 14 kilometers in the fourth phase from Mawanella to Kadugannawa is estimated at Rs 1,630 million.
Minister Fernando said that he had instructed the Secretary to the Ministry R.W.R. Pemasiri, and the Chairman of the Road Development Authority Chaminda Athaluwage to get the construction companies to complete the entire project within 18 months. A stretch covering 44.3 km from Colombo to Pasyala on the A001 Road has been widened and carpeted as of now.
Minister Fernando said that infrastructure including the road development was continuing at an unprecedented speed as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme to provide people with better roads and boost the country’s economic development. “There is no economic development without infrastructure development and in that regard a highly developed road network is a must,” the Minister said.
Illegal withdrawal of Rs 43 mn, using forged cheques:
Another suspect arrested, CID looking for three more persons
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Another person wanted in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 43 mn from the account of a leading steel manufacturer at the Sampath Bank has been arrested.
With the latest arrest, altogether five persons have been taken into custody. Police spokesman DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that among the arrested was a bank employee, who masterminded the ‘operation.’
Asked whether the money had been recovered, DIG Rohana said that investigators recovered a part of it. “We are looking for three more persons who withdrew money, using forged cheques,” DIG Rohana said.
The Police Spokesman said the three remaining persons too had been identified. According to the DIG, five persons had withdrawn money from six branches of the same bank at the behest of the bank employee, and the person who printed counterfeit cheques, to withdraw money amounting to Rs 43 mn belonging to steel manufacturer Melwa. The police identified the counterfeit cheque printer as a resident of Hanwella.
DIG Rohana said that those who had been sent to the different branches of the same bank wore clothes identifying them as Melwa employees.
Though the large sum was withdrawn fraudulently on April 12, the day before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the company remained unaware of the heist until the re-opening of its main office after the April holidays, he said.
The Police Spokesman said that a wider investigation was required to ascertain printing of counterfeit cheques and the role played by the bank employee. DIG Rohana said that against the backdrop of the counterfeit cheque case, both state and private sector banks would have to take tangible measures to prevent similar frauds.
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