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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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Abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony to achieve spiritual and worldly success – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his Hajj message emphasizes that to achieve spiritual and worldly success, individuals must abandon selfishness and embrace a life of sacrifice and harmony. It is with this noble aim in mind that Muslims celebrate the Hajj festival each year.

On this occasion, Muslims from around the globe gather at a single place of worship, united in purpose, to pray for communal values that embody the hope of humanity. The Hajj celebration fosters feelings of equality and brotherhood among all people, delivering a profound message for world peace.

I extend my heartfelt wishes to the entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka and around the world for a meaningful Hajj celebration, where everyone comes together to fulfill the aspirations of humanity.

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Justice Minister goes ahead with SLFP election campaign

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… attends Karandeniya meeting with MS

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, who calls himself the SLFP’s presidential candidate, launched the SLFP’s election campaign yesterday (16) in spite of restraining orders the Colombo District Court has issued against him and former SLFP Chairman Maithripala Sirisena.

Minister Rajapakshe attended the SLFP meeting at Karandeniya, the main meeting of the Galle District. Former President Sirisena was also present at the meeting organised by former monitoring MP of the Foreign Ministry Sajin de Vas Gunawardena.

Restrictions imposed on Sirisena and Rajapakshe are effective until June 19 and June 25, respectively.

The Election Commission on May 09 announced by virtue of the powers vested in the Commission to fix the date for the Presidential Election, it will hold the Presidential Election between 17 September and 16 October 2024.

The group headed by Sirisena decided to go ahead with the campaign, especially in the wake of the other section forming an alliance with a group of SLPP rebels to back Ranil Wickremesinghe’s candidature at the forthcoming Presidential Poll. However, Sirisena and Minister Rajapakshe, both elected to Parliament on the SLPP ticket, couldn’t represent the party, in any capacity, sources say.

Meanwhile, Chief Government Whip Urban Development and Housing Minister Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (16) disclosed that the ruling SLPP wouldn’t field a candidate of its own and would throw its weight behind a candidate in the fray instead.

When he was asked, after a meeting in Minuwangoda, whether the SLPP would field a presidential candidate, Minister Ranatunga said it would support a candidate in the fray. Minister Ranatunga reiterated that the incumbent President was the best to lead the country therefore he believed he should be supported. The Minister said that the support would grow for Wickremesinghe after he officially declared his candidature.

Minister Ranatunga said that though he didn’t like Wickremesinghe the current crisis had compelled him to back him.

Another Minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchci, widely believed to be a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist, declared on Saturday (15) though the SLPP and President Wickremesinghe differed on policy for the sake of the country such differences had to be sunk. Wanniarachchi said so in Embilipitiya.

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NMSJ calls for proper use of IMF funds

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Karu Jayasuriya

Former Speaker and the National Movement of Social Justice (NMSJ) Chairperson Karu Jayasuriya, yesterday stressed the critical importance of effectively utilising the third tranche of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

Jayasuriya has, in a media statement, said steps must be taken to ensure proper use of the funds. The IMF released the third tranche of $ 336 million from its $ 2.9 billion bailout package.

Full text of the statement: “We believe that the release of the third tranche by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is crucial for Sri Lanka’s restructuring programme and is in the nation’s best interest. It is our national responsibility to allocate and manage these funds towards the country’s development. Given the current economic challenges and the significant sacrifices made by the people, it is imperative that every penny received is used responsibly and effectively.

“Our foremost concern is the urgent need to combat waste and corruption, consistently highlighted by the IMF.

“Additionally, rehabilitating neglected ancient tanks, totaling approximately 15,000, for modern agricultural use is essential. This initiative can be supported by international funds, friendly nations, the private sector, and the military, promising transformative outcomes.

“Another major task is to immediately accelerate the export sector. In the 1990s, a significant programme under the theme “Export or Perish” was launched, including the highly successful international trade fair “Expo 92,” which attracted 5,600 foreign buyers. The concept of Export Villages was successfully implemented, resulting in high incomes for people in selected villages. Given the current situation, we can establish special export villages by leveraging the support of the supermarket chains that are currently operating successfully.

“The Export Development Board (EDB) should be given the necessary resources and powers to strengthen its capabilities. With advanced communication technology, Sri Lanka can be promoted as a country with rapidly increasing exports, even without the need for traditional exhibitions.

“At the same time, it is crucial to support the development of small and medium-scale entrepreneurs (SMEs). This can be achieved by providing subsidized interest rates and basic infrastructure facilities. We should take inspiration from the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who created new opportunities for India’s youth through the development of the IT/BPO sector. This concept can be easily popularized in Sri Lanka, offering similar benefits.

“The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) urges immediate action on these fronts, expecting responsible leadership to address these pressing issues.”

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