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Proposed Amendment to Antiquities Ordinance – a boost to destruction of antiquities

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A dagoba damaged by treasure hunters. (File photo)

 

By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development

It has been reported that the Ministry of Justice is moving to amend the Antiquities Ordinance, repealing the provisions therein preventing the courts from releasing persons charged with or accused of offences under the Antiquities Ordinance on bail. Under the proposed amendment, the Magistrate’s Court is to be given power to release such persons on bail. This proposal is made in the guise of a measure to reduce prison congestion.

Theft of antiquities, demolition of the Buddha statues and causing damage to archeological sites by treasure hunters and the willful destruction and damage of antiquities and archeological sites by interested parties have become serious problems that need to be urgently addressed with deterrent action.

As reported in the media, from 1977 to 1994 the Police received 242 complaints of theft, damage and destruction of antiquities; from 1995 to 2001, the number of complaints the Police received was 424. There is a sharp increase in the number of incidents reported in the recent past. In 2019, the Archaeological Department received 630 complaints of incidents where antiquities were either damaged or destroyed. During the first nine months of 2020, 430 such incidents were reported to the Archeological Department.

The Antiquities (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 1998 was enacted by Parliament with a view to preventing the incidents of theft of antiquities and willful destruction and damage of antiquities and archeological sites. This Act introduced three new provisions enhancing the penalties for offences under the Ordinance and requiring the offenders to be kept in custody without bail till the conclusion of the trial.

S.15A. Any person committing theft of an antiquity in the possession of any other person shall be guilty of an offence –

S.15B. Any person willfully destroying, injuring, defacing or tampering with an antiquity or willfully damaging any part of it shall be guilty of an offence –

S. 32. Any person who commits a breach of (a) any provision of S. 21 (commencing or carrying out any work of restoration, repair, alteration or addition in connection with any protected monument except upon a permit issued by the Commissioner General of Archeology), or (b) any regulation made under S. 24 shall be guilty of an offence – punishable on conviction after summary trial before a Magistrate with a fine not exceeding Rs. 50,000 or with imprisonment for a term not less than two years and not more than 5 years or with both such fine and imprisonment. Same penalty has been laid down for all offences under the Act.

S. 15C. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Code of Criminal Procedure Act or any other written law, no person charged with or accused of an offence under the Antiquities Ordinance shall be released on bail.

The penalties laid down in the Act for these serious offences are hardly adequate to have a deterrent effect on the culprits. The Court has the option of imposing a fine instead of a jail sentence. The maximum fine that can be imposed is Rs. 50,000. Quite often a fine of a lower amount is imposed. It is very seldom that a sentence of imprisonment is imposed on an offender in these cases.

Only the provision that a person charged with or accused of an offence under the Antiquities Ordinance cannot be released on bail by any Court has some deterrent effect on the offenders. They have to remain in custody for a few weeks or a few months till they are charged in the case. Once they are charged, in most cases they plead guilty and pay a fine and walk away.

In response to certain media reviews critical of this move to amend the law enabling Magistrates to release the suspects on bail when they are produced in Court as something detrimental to the protection of our archeological heritage, Chief Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Justice, Mr. U. R. de Silva, P. C. has issued an explanation justifying the Justice Ministry decision to relax the law, enabling the Magistrates to release the offenders on bail. According to his explanation:

a.

All those who are arrested and produced in Court by the Police are not treasure hunters. Abusing the law, the Police arrest and charge innocent people. As an example, he cites how the Police produce drug addicts in Courts as drug traffickers, preventing them from being released on bail by the Magistrates.

It is no secret that the Police have heavily contributed to the congestion in prisons by producing in Courts many drug addicts as drug traffickers, abusing the law and thus preventing them from being released on bail by the Magistrates. The Attorney General is also aware of this. That is why the Attorney General, following the Mahara Prison riot, stated that he had instructed the Inspector General of Police several times to consider filing cases under S. 78(5) of the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act instead of S. 54 (a), which has been the usual practice, in order to reduce prison congestion.

Why doesn’t the Ministry of Justice propose to amend the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs Act, enabling Magistrates to grant bail to persons arrested with small quantities of drugs instead of keeping them in custody for years without bail, in the same manner it proposes to amend the Antiquities Ordinance?

If the Police abuse the law by arresting and producing in Courts innocent people as treasure hunters and keep them in custody without bail, why can’t the AG and the IGP direct them to strictly comply with the law and take action against the police officers who abuse the law?

b.

This is a state of affairs totally different from what the legislature expected.

It is an erroneous statement. Parliament enacted this law in 1998 specifically for the purpose of protecting antiquities by taking stern action against those who damage or destroy them. S. 15C clearly states that whatever the other laws may state, no person charged with or accused of an offence under the Antiquities Ordinance shall be released on bail.

c.

As the Immigrants and Emigrants Act has been amended enabling Courts to release suspects on bail, it is a grave mistake not to amend the Antiquities Ordinance enabling Courts to grant bail.

This is also not a correct statement. The Immigrants and Emigrants Act was amended by Act No. 31 of 2006 to grant relief to hundreds of suspects held in custody being unable to obtain bail due to the Supreme Court Judgment given in 2006 in Thilanga Sumathipala case (Attorney General & others vs. Thilanga Sumathipala – (2006) 2 SLR 126) depriving the Court of Appeal of its jurisdiction to grant bail.

This Act made provision for release on bail of all persons held in remand without bail on the date on which this Act came into operation due to the Supreme Court Judgment in the Thilanga Sumathipala case.

This Amendment Act did not grant power to the Magistrate’s Courts to release on bail all suspects held in custody in respect of all offences under the Immigrants and Emigrants Act. Under this Amendment, a Magistrate can grant bail only for an offence in respect of which there is no express provision made for granting bail. – S. 47A (2) Where there is an express provision for granting bail, a Magistrate cannot grant bail in respect of such offences.

Only a High Court can grant bail to a person accused of an offence under S. 45C of the Act upon proof of exceptional circumstances.

S. 47 (1) of the Act states that, notwithstanding anything in any other law, the offences mentioned therein shall be non-bailable and no person accused of such an offence shall in any circumstances be admitted to bail.

d.

Whenever any digging is done anywhere the Police have the habit of arresting persons and producing them in Court as suspects under the Antiquities Ordinance. They have to languish in custody for months till the certificate is produced showing that it is not a place coming under the Antiquities Ordinance.

The Antiquities Ordinance clearly states what are the offences coming under it. Instead of amending the law enabling Magistrates to release the offenders committing all kinds offences under the Ordinance on bail at the time they are produced in Court, there are many things that can be done to prevent the Police from acting arbitrarily abusing the law.

The Police cannot arbitrarily arrest people and produce them in Court for digging any land; If they do so a complaint can be made against the Police to the Supreme Court or the Human Rights Commission for violation of fundamental rights.

The Attorney General can direct the Police not to arrest and prosecute without ascertaining from the Archeological Department whether it is a site with antiquities.

The Court can promptly call for the certificate from the Archeological Department.

 

e. Another sorry state of affairs is that, though the place where the digging was done is not a place coming under the Antiquities Ordinance, the Police file action on the opinion of the Commissioner General of Archaeology that charges can be brought if it appears that the digging has been done in search of antiquities.

No such action can be filed under the law. It is an arbitrary action taken totally contrary to law. One cannot understand why the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the lawyers appearing in these cases remain silent without challenging the legality of such actions.

 

f. As they cannot obtain bail, in many of these cases suspects plead guilty for an offence which they have not committed and pay the fine of Rs. 50,000 getting their image tarnished. Having understood this practical reality, the Ministry of Justice has taken action to address this issue.

This is a strange story. Why should a person plead guilty for an offence which he has not committed? How can a lawyer advise his client to plead guilty to an offence which he has never committed?

What are these cases in which the innocent people have pleaded guilty for offences which they have never committed and paid fines of Rs. 50,000 tarnishing their images? Before which Courts? Can the Ministry of Justice issue a list of these cases?

Why should they pay Rs. 50,000 in each of these cases? Rs. 50,000 is the maximum fine a Court can impose for any of these offences. As laid down in the Act, the penalty is a fine not exceeding Rs. 50,000. The Court has the discretion to impose a lesser fine. Depending on the circumstances of the case it may be a fine of Rs. 10,000, 20,000 or 25,000.

All these are false premises.

Archeological sites and antiquities in a country are the national historical heritage of the people of the country. Not only the present generation, but all the future generations also have an equal right to them. Destruction of archeological sites and antiquities will result in the destruction of the historical national heritage of the people of the country. It may be a deliberate attempt at turning the history of the country upside down by erasing historical evidence. It is worse than any act of destruction of environment.

If any forest is destroyed it can re-forested. But if an antiquity or an archeological site is destroyed it can never be restored to its previous condition. Bamian Buddha Statues destroyed by Talaiban in Afghanistan is a clear example. A replica may be erected in its place, but it has no historical or archeological value. Any change, alteration, removal or addition of parts in an antiquity or an archeological site will result in the diminution of its archeological value. That is why even commencing or carrying out any work of restoration, repair, alteration or addition in connection with any protected monument without a permit issued by the Commissioner General of Archeology has been made an offence punishable under the law and all offences under the Antiquities Ordinance have been made unbailable by any Court of law.

Frequently our media, both print and electronic, disclose incidents of destruction of antiquities and archeological sites throughout the country. Many of these incidents reported from the Northern and Eastern Provinces, are not acts of treasure hunters, but deliberate and planned acts of destruction of archeological sites by interested parties. Though hundreds of such incidents are reported, very seldom legal action is taken against the culprits due to lack of adequate resources in the Archeological Department and lethargy or insensitivity of the officials.

In the face of the threats currently posed, antiquities and archeological sites remain survived even to this extent due to the provision in S. 15C of the Ordinance that no person charged with or accused of an offence under the Antiquities Ordinance shall be released on bail by any Court. Even the Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction to release such a person on bail. If the Antiquities Ordinance is amended as proposed by the Ministry of Justice granting jurisdiction to Magistrate’s Courts to release on bail offenders charged with offences under the Antiquities Ordinance, any offender who has deliberately destroyed any priceless antiquity or archeological site will be able to obtain bail and go home on the day he was produced in Court itself. This will amount to giving an open license for the destruction of archeological heritage of our people. As the maximum fine that can be imposed is Rs. 50,000, any offender can pay the fine and get the license. By paying the fine he can get away after destroying any antiquity.

The Chief Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Justice has suggested to increase the penalties for the offence while granting jurisdiction to Magistrate’s Courts to release offenders on bail. If the offenders can get bail from the Magistrate’s Court when they are produced in Court, even if the amount of fine that can be imposed for the offence is increased to Rs. 500,000, that will not have any deterrent effect in preventing deliberate and planned activities of destruction of archeological sites in the North – East and other areas in the country.

If this amendment proposed by the Ministry of Justice is brought about that will seal the fate of all our unprotected antiquities and archeological sites. It will wide open the gates for destruction of our invaluable antiquities and archeological sites.as happened in the case of Devanagala, Kuragala and Vijithapura. No museum, antiquity or archeological site will remain safe thereafter.

It is an unshirkable duty and responsibility of the Government to protect this national heritage of our people for the posterity. It can be done not by relaxation of the laws enacted for the purpose protecting them, but by further strengthening the law against this destruction. If a mandatory minimum jail sentence coupled with a fine, such as imprisonment for a term not less than two years and not more than 5 years and a fine not less than Rs. 50,000, is laid down for the offences of theft of an antiquity and willfully destroying, injuring, damaging, defacing or tampering with an antiquity then the penalty may have a deterrent effect on persons prone to commit this type of offences. Persons committing these anti-national crimes must be kept in custody without bail till the conclusion of the trial as in the case of offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

 

 

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Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Uttareethara Maha Nayaka Thera turns 88

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It was in the year 1803 that there was a renaissance within the Maha Sangha (the Great Community of Buddhist Monks) in Sri Lanka thereby adding a fresh chapter to the history of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. This was when the Most Venerable Welitara Sri Gnanawimala Thera, the Great Prelate received the Upasampada or the Higher Ordination in Burma, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya. (The name of this monk is embellished with traditional appellations such as Bodhisattva Gunopetha or being imbued with the qualities of a Bodhisattva or Buddha-Aspirant, and Preacher to King and Emperor.)

Thus the Amarapura Nikaya, which began with this Most Venerable Thera, later spread itself very rapidly down five generations of the Sangha spanning the entire Island. These generations of the Sangha organized themselves into 22 Nikayas. This was with the blessings of each of the Mahanayakas. They also preserved the identity of each such Nikaya.

In Sri Lanka, Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha was formed in 1952 with the concurrence of 15 of these subsidiary Nikayas. Presidents of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha have been;

1. the Most Venerable Prelate Beruwela Siri Nivasa Thera

2. the Most Venerable Mapalane Pannalankara Maha Nayaka,

3. the Most Venerable Uddammita Dhammarakhita Maha Nayaka,

4. the Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Maha Nayaka

5. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka.

In the year 1962 all 22 Sub-Nikayas came together to form a more organized and properly constituted Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha. It was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thera who was installed as President and has been succeeded by;

1. the Most Venerable Dhammavansha Thera,

2. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha,

3. the Most Venerable Ahungalla Wimalanandi,

4. the Most Venerable Kandegedara Sumanavansha,

5. the Most Venerable Boyagama Wimalasiri,

6. the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa and

7. the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri.

The Most Venerable Chief Prelate Ganthune Assaji Thera is the current chair.

In terms of the Constitution approved in 1992, an Office of Supreme Prelate (Uttareethara Mahanayaka) was created, and the first to hold this office was the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera who was succeeded by Most Venerable Davuldena Gnaneesara Thera. After his demise the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera, who turns eighty-eight today assumed and continues to be the Uttareethara Mahanayaka.

He was born on 26th January 1933 and ordained as a monk with the permission of his parents, on 17th August 1948. He received his Higher Ordination on 10th July 1954 at the Udakkukhepa Seemamalakaya set up on the River named the Kalu Ganga in Kalutara.

He had his training and primary instruction in the Buddha Dhamma from his Venerable Preceptors, later entered the Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena for his education. It was at the Maha Pirivena in Maligakanda where he received his Higher Education in three languages, under the shadow and tutelage of the Most Venerable Pandita Baddegama Piyaratana Thera.

With the demise of his preceptor, Dhammavasa Thera became the Prelate of the Dharmapala-arama Viharaya in Mount Lavinia. By this time he had already become very popular by broadcasting and delivering sermons in temples and in private homes, contributing to articles disseminating the Dhamma, and articles on topical subjects through the full-moon day publication entitled “Budusarana”, then to daily newspapers, and to the Vesak Annuals published by M D Gunasena & Co., Dinamina etc.

The Thera was also engaged in social welfare activities of the area by setting up Children’s and Young Persons’ Societies within the Vihara.

With the passage of time and the demise of remarkably eloquent monks such as the Most Venerable Narada Thera, Prelate of the Vajira-aramaya, Heenatiyana Dhammaloka, Kotikawatte Saddhatissa, Pitakotte Somananda, Kalukondayawe Pannasekera and other such classic preachers, Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera stands out as a prime orator among those who came to the limelight after the days of the erudite monks of yesteryear.

Owing to the ceaseless invitations to deliver sermons extended to our Venerable Thera he travelled to various regions of the Island, yet fulfilling all his duties pertaining to his own Nikaya and to the work of the Sangha Sabha neglecting nothing whatever. With all this he continued to participate in the discharge of the infinite services expected of all erstwhile office bearers of the Sangha Sabha.

Our respected Thera was gradually chosen to hold various posts within the Amarapura Nikaya. Some such are his appointment in 1970 as an ordained member of the Working Committee and to the Post of Honorary Prelate (Maha Nayaka); in 1981 as the Chief Ecclesiastical Sangha Nayaka; and in 1990 as the Deputy Chief (Anunayaka) of the Amarapura Nikaya. At the same time it is because of his quality of being industrious that he was elected the Secretary (Lekhakadhikari).

The Venerable Anunayaka Thera who served the Maha Sangha Sabha of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya with great dedication, in order to ensure its unity and advancement, was in 1980 appointed its Co-Secretary (Sama Lekhakadhikari) and in 1992 as its Chief Secretary (Maha Lekhakadhikari) It is only appropriate to place on record that during this period of about fifteen years he performed a very special quality of service to the Sasana by updating the Amarapura Sangha Sabha; by setting up a Kathikavata (Ecclesiastical Edict) for the Amarapura Nikaya (whereby ‘rules governing the discipline and conduct of Buddhist monks including matters related to the settlement of disputes’ together with a Sanghadhikarana Panatha (i.e. an Ecclesiastical Act) were drafted and approved; and finally by drafting a strong, formal Constitution and obtaining approval for same.

It was on 17th December 2016 that the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayaka Thera became the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, and that on a proposal made by none other than the Most Venerable Agga-maha-panditha Ambalangoda Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera who, at the time, was himself the incumbent.

On 3rd October 2008 the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera was appointed to the post of Chairman, and it was on 26th May 2017 that he was elected Uttareethara Maha Nayaka or Supreme Maha Nayaka, which is the highest position within the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya.

He has visited many countries in Asia and Europe disseminating the Dhamma and participating in Conferences thereby earning great international fame. Meanwhile he also serves as the incumbent monk of the Sri Lanka-aramaya in Myanmar and of the Charumathie Viharaya in Nepal.

In the matters of national and religious issues in the country he expresses his views in such a calm and collected manner that he has earned the respect of the Supreme Maha Nayaka Theras of other Nikayas and politicians both in power and in the Opposition and of intellectuals.

He has been honored with the title of “Agga Maha Panditha” by the Government of Myanmar. Although other honorary awards were conferred upon him by foreign countries and foreign institutions he does not use them, entirely because of his humble disposition.

At the end of and exposition of the Dhamma (a Dharma Desana) at Temple Trees His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa (who was then the incumbent President of the country) made an offering to him of about 14 perches of land in Wellawatte. Upon this land stands today, the “Office of the Sangha Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya”, a three-storied building replete with all conceivable facilities. It is a matter of great joy to us that in honour of the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera it was possible for us to make an offering of this building to the Buddha Sasana, on the 15th of August 2020.

We offer merit to His Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister who are today attending to each and every need of our Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera in a spirit of extending infinite regard and respect to him, in appreciation of the national and religious service the Maha Thera has rendered.

Let us also gratefully place on record that the Honourable Sajit Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, has provided an elevator as an offering to facilitate the caring for our Mahanayaka Thera.

I also wish to thank the Doctors, the Staff of the Nawaloka Hospital, Members of the Nikaya-abhivrudhi Dayaka Sabha (Organization for the Advancement of the Nikaya) and the Dayaka Sabha of the Mahanayaka’s Vihara and who are all providing medical care.

Arrangements were made by the Dayaka Sabha and the student monks to offer alms to the Sangha to mark the birthday of our Thera when he reached the age of 88, on 26th January 2021.

On 21st January 2021 at 7.00 p.m. a Bodhi Pooja was organized by the Amarapura Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha at the historic Kalutara Bodhi to invoke blessings upon our Supreme Maha Thera.

May the Supreme Maha Nayaka Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nahimi live a life free from sickness and sorrow.

 

Deshamanya Ajita de Zoysa

Chairman

Sri Lanka Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha

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Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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