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Sumanthiran, former HRCSL Commissioner, press for int’l intervention

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Jaffna District TNA lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, has argued that Sri Lanka is incapable and unwilling to deliver justice through domestic mechanisms, and there has to be international pressure. The MP said so at a webinar with former top UN and US officials and Sri Lankan participants called for a strong UNHRC resolution at the 46th sessions scheduled to commence on Feb 22. All panelists warned UN failure on Sri Lanka could spur worldwide pandemic of impunity.

They emphasised the need to act on the UN High Commissioner’s recommendations

The webinar “Sri Lanka: Quest for Justice, Rule of Law and Democratic Rights”, co-hosted by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice – New York University, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), held on February 12th attracted more than 3,000 live viewers.

Ambika Satkunanathan, a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, stressed that threats and intimidation to the civil society had escalated to the point of branding them terrorists and traitors. She argued that such a government was incapable of honestly addressing the past and the mothers of missing persons would not receive justice in their lifetime.

Charles Petrie, a former UN Assistant Secretary General, and the author of “the report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka”, referred to Sri Lanka as a country that never came to terms with its violent past and that only an enlightened leadership in Sri Lanka, which is seriously lacking now, can solve the fundamental problems of the state. He also argued that the UN system recognised its past failures and has good intentions and tools to be effective in promoting human rights and good governance in Sri Lanka. However, he cautioned that UN is lacking in courage and counting exclusively on it can lead to disappointment and hurt.

Pablo de Greiff, a former UN Special Rapporteur, recalled from his vast experience with Sri Lanka, and stressed that Sri Lanka’s problems are deeper than its 2009 failure, and by not complying with its international obligations, Sri Lanka was failing its own citizens.

Why some countries undergo repeated cycles of violence, he argued was well understood, and where Sri Lanka was heading was deeply troubling. He also called for all of the UN High Commissioner’s recommendations, including country-specific measures, to be given serious consideration.

Stephen Rapp, formerly US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, argued that impunity was contagious citing the emblematic navy abductions where even without politics behind the killings Sri Lanka could not deliver justice. He described the new Commission of Inquiry set up by the government as an effort to obstruct justice and called for the creation of a dedicated capacity to collect and preserve evidence which would be essential when the conditions were right to deliver justice – both through the UN and by country specific initiatives.

Centre for Policy Alternative’s Bhavani Fonseka, author and activist, claimed to present compelling evidence of democratic backsliding and the erosion of rule of law in the context of the newly enacted 20th Amendment to the constitution. She claimed that the strong executive presidency was resorting to extra-legal measures, including militarised governance, and ruling through Presidential Task Forces.

Ameer Faaiz, Director of International Affairs of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, presented a picture of how anti-Muslim violence escalated in the last decade, argued that the denial of the burial rights of Muslims should be viewed in the context of rising anti-Muslim hatred, and called for increased attention from the UNHRC on religious freedoms of minorities.

Shreen Saroor, a peace and women’s rights activist, claimed how the Prevention of Terrorism Act continued to be used against Muslims, with more than 300 people in detention, and the coordinated efforts to cripple civil society organisations. However, she asserted that the extreme oppression and denial of justice had brought the minority communities together.

The presentations were followed by a lively Q & A session, moderated by Melissa Dring from the NGO Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice – which further illuminated critical challenges facing all Sri Lankans. Issues discussed included:

·Sri Lanka’s failures rooted in the nature of the state

·strengthening institutions with independent Judiciary and Attorney General Department

·the government narrative of no crimes committed during the war totally lacking in credibility

·ensuring accountability and justice for all parties to the conflict

·human rights and justice are neither zero sum propositions, nor the international community targeting Sri Lanka

·coordinated domestic and international effort as a means of crisis prevention

There was consensus among the presenters that Sri Lanka is entering a critical phase where the future for democracy, rule of law and good governance is bleak. The exclusionary and majoritarian thrust of the government will disproportionately affect the minority communities. On its own, Sri Lanka will not deliver on accountability or justice. This is the time for strong international involvement to prevent future violent conflict.

The OHCHR report was welcomed as capturing the failures of Sri Lanka in addressing the past and the emerging crisis situation. Participants called for a strong resolution in the upcoming UNHRC session, which should incorporate the High Commissioner’s recommendations including a strong reporting function for OHCHR on human rights, a dedicated facility to collect and preserve evidence and the application of universal jurisdiction, targeted sanctions, asset freezes and travel bans.

It was argued that international pressure, including economic leverage selectively applied, could be effective.  Panellists also spoke of the power of targeted populations coming together to reassert their lost rights in recent weeks. It was proposed that both enlightened local leadership and strong international involvement were crucial to change the trajectory of Sri Lanka from repeated political violence and entrenched impunity.

 

 

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SLFP: PCoI has exceeded its mandate and failed to address critical issues

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed the PCoI on Easter Sunday Attacks to identify local and international forces behind the attacks, establish the motives of those groups and to punish those who were directly and indirectly responsible for the attacks, but those issues had not been addressed by the PCoI’s final report, the SLFP said yesterday.

 SLFP General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the party’s Executive Committee had discussed the report in depth on Thursday and decided that the Commission had not addressed the issues it had been appointed to probe.

On the other hand, some of its recommendations have gone beyond its mandate.

Issuing a press release, the SLFP said that while the PCoI observed that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been soft on Islamic extremism and his government had not taken active steps in combating extremism, however, the PCoI had treated Wickremesinghe with kid gloves while taking a tough stance on former President Maithripala Sirisena.

 “The former President took over the Ministry of Law and Order on 30 October 2018, i.e. only five months and twenty days before the attacks. None of those who held the post before have been accused of anything. The report also focuses little on those who planned the attacks, those who financed the attacks and those who protected the attackers. Moreover, although there is evidence to prove that the weapons found in Muslim mosques after the attacks had been brought in by ships; the report had not investigated it in-depth,” the SLFP said.

 The party also said Pulastini Rajendran alias Sara Jasmine, the wife of Mohommadu Hastun, a suicide bomber, had fled to India sometime after the attacks. However, the Commission had not only paid any attention to it but also had ignored what could have been found.

 “The mandate set by President Sirisena says to look at current or former state officials who are directly or indirectly linked to these incidents. There is no mandate for the Commission to look into whether the head of the state or ministers have fulfilled their constitutional duties. Thus, the recommendations on the former President are beyond the PCoI’s mandate. The pages 292 and 293 of the report state that President Sirisena had instructed the Police to arrest NTJ leader Zahran Hashim at the National Security Council. However, they also insist that the former President had not carried out its duties and responsibilities. Page 296 says that the former President not appointing an acting Defence Minister when he left for India and Singapore was a violation of the Constitution. However, in another place the Commissioners say that making such appointments is at the President’s discretion,” the SLFP said in a press release.

 The SLFP also states that the former President had carried out his duties and the report has ample evidence of it. Thus, there is no way that criminal proceedings can be instituted against him.

 “The concept that criminal proceedings can be instituted against a President for not carrying out some duty sets a bad precedent and is a slight to the power given to the President by the Constitution. The US and New Zealand security agencies had received information about 9/11 and the Christchurch shootings but the heads of the states were not charged. We vehemently refuse the allegations against the former President and reject many of the other recommendations too.”

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Dubai haven for majority of Lankan fugitives with INTERPOL red notices

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By Pradeep Prasanna Samarakoon

Police had obtained INTERPOL Red Notices against 24 drug traffickers hiding overseas, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.

In addition, DIG Rohana said INTERPOL blue notices had been issued for 87 wanted criminals who were currently residing overseas.

The DIG said a majority of the suspects were reported to be hiding in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, while some were in neighbouring India and European countries.

The country’s law enforcement agencies had seized over 1,610 kilos of heroin in 2020 alone, the DIG noted, adding that last year 33,125 suspects had been arrested for possessing heroin and 1,400 others for having in their possession synthetic drugs.

About 61,550 persons had been arrested for narcotic-related offences, in 2020, said the Police Spokesperson, noting that intelligence reports had suggested there was a shortage of heroin in the local drug market due to continuous raids carried out by law enforcement authorities. That had led to a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as ICE, he added.

INTERPOL assistance had been sought to extradite 129 Lankans wanted for various crimes, he said.

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Organise State Vesak festival at Nagadeepa with those of other religions- PM 

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has instructed authorities to hold this year’s State Vesak Festival at the Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya in Jaffna focusing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Prime Minister at a meeting held at Temple Trees on Thursday evening had given instructions to the Secretary to the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Cultural and Religious Affairs Prof Kapila Gunawardena to organize the State Vesak Festival together with those following other religions.

Accordingly, the Departments of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Affairs under the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs, will join in the efforts to organize the event.

Among those present were Sanghanayake of the Northern Province Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa Vihara Ven Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Navadagala Padaumakitthi Nayaka Thera, Sanghanayake of the Eastern and Thamankaduwa Ven Munhene Mettharama thera, Sanghanayake of the Matara-Hambantota districts Adrahere Kassapa Nayaka thera, State Minister Vidura Wickramanayake, MP Suren Raghawan and officials of the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.

 

 

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