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What are human rights we honour?

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There is a lot of talk about the rights and wrongs about the UNHRC. Perhaps alluding to what human rights UNHRC is talking about would be a good start.

There are 30 basic human rights declared by the United Nations, in 1948. These human rights refer to moral principles, or norms, that describe certain standards of human behaviour, regularly protected as legal rights in municipal and international law. It is perhaps a good thing for our Foreign Minister to first declare what we honour as a country and what we do not. This is because the 1948 declaration may be outdated and need modernisation. Getting the basics right is important to win at the UNHRC.

The list

1. All human beings are free and equal:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. 2. No discrimination: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. 3. Right to life: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. 4. No slavery: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. 5. No torture and inhuman treatment: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or punishment. 6. Same right to use law: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. 7. Equal before the law: All are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law. 8. Right to treated fair by court: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution, or by law. 9. No unfair detainment: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. 10. Right to trial : Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. 11. Innocent until proved guilty: Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. 12. Right to privacy: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. 13. Freedom to movement and residence: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. 14. Right to asylum : Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy, in other countries, asylum from persecution. 15. Right to nationality : Everyone has the right to a nationality. 16. Rights to marry and have family: Men and women of full age, without any limitation, due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. 17. Right to own things: Everyone has the right to own property, alone, as well as in association with others. 18. Freedom of thought and religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. 19. Freedom of opinion and expression: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. 20. Right to assemble: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 21. Right to democracy: Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. 22. Right to social security: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization. 23. Right to work: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 24. Right to rest and holiday: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure. 25. Right of social service: Everyone has the right to a standard of living, adequate for the health and well-being of himself, and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care, and necessary social services. 26. Right to education: Everyone has the right to education. 27. Right of cultural and art: Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. 28. Freedom around the world: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order. 29. Subject to law: Everyone has duties to the community. 30. Human rights can’t be taken away: Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set.

 

C. Goonasekera



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Opinion

Covid-19: Bane of the Decade

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Bane was a true visionary with the Bat-man as his nemesis. For the record this isn’t even funny. If you dive deep into the theory of DC’s super villain Bane, and his nemesis the Bat-man, it sort of reveals how the masked antagonist envisioned the coronavirus pandemic, led by a bat, about a decade ago.

Of course, there aren’t absolute reports connecting COVID-19 to the nocturnal being, there’s enough to prove it is a carrier of the novel virus. But does this pandemic mean an end to the legacy of this caped crusader? To be honest, even uttering bat-shit crazy is deemed offensive as of now. Wonder what frenzy it will cast upon a comic character.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ introduced Bane, a mercenary trained under Ras Al Ghul’s League of Shadows. His mission was to wipe out Gotham for the greater divide of the haves and the have nots. As Selena Kylie suggests, ‘There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne, You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.’

While the scene did give us goosebumps, it is nothing different than the reality we’re facing at the moment. The lockdown has only been a boon for the elite, the privileged who can have access to more than what is required. Meanwhile, there are others struggling to arrange for a decent meal.

The narrative takes us into the character of Bane, wearing a mask, can be hurt if removed, and the story of our lives right now. Not to mention he started off by terrorising the city, only for everyone to remain at home – a lockdown.

Bane had only one enemy – The Bat. Quite familiar to the comparison now are we?

Here are some of his quotes that speak for the oppressed.

“The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. The police will survive as they learn to serve true justice. This great city.. it will endure”

“Calm down doctor, now is not the time for fear. That comes later”

“Do you feel in charge?”

“Oh so you think darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it and didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was only blinding. The shadows betray you because they belong to me.”

A decade back this was all fiction, but did we ever imagine that a similar situation would be faced by us. At the very inception one never expected the COVID-19 situation to balloon into such a crisis. A lockdown helped initially and the situation was well under control, but the moment we relaxed and opened up things got worse, and are now beyond control. So a lockdown will not help us anymore. This calls for a major upheaval and revival of procedure, wherein we have to learn to cope up with the crisis. How will work get back to normal? Industries and factories have to function, how will the daily wage earner survive? The planning and implementation will have to be changed. We might even have to create a COVID-19 Ministry or Department, with an islandwide network, wherein we employ an army of doctors and specialists, not an army of soldiers. They have to study the root cause of the virus and how it can be eliminated, why certain areas and people are more susceptible than others in spreading the virus.

The order of the day will be to employ emergency doctors who can handle a situation immediately. Forensic Doctors, who can assist in studying guidelines and offences and help in framing appropriate laws. Infectious disease specialists, Ecologists and those engaged in environmental science. A team of Physicians to diagnose illnesses and administer treatment. One team will be required to see whether our hospitals are well equipped, correct medical equipment and drugs are available, Study whether the vaccines being manufactured are suitable, get the correct vaccines and see that everybody is vaccinated. See whether it would be necessary to set up a separate COVID-19 treatment centre.

It is surprising that India messed up badly, and opened up by having elections and organizing cricket tournaments such as the IPL, without studying the implications and detrimental factors of this virus, and how to cope with it.

It was really amusing to see commentators, who were very much in the open, advising others to wear masks, stay home and stay safe.

Actually it is a big joke when any radio announcer, TV presenter or role model or for that matter any Tom, Dick and Harry ask people to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay home and stay safe, when the causes seem to be yet unknown and precautions to be taken are far more complicated. Not that they are wrong, but it is very much more appreciated when given by a person more qualified to do so.

 

KAN BUTANI

 

 

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Opinion

Win or lose: Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle? 

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A serious allegation has been levelled against Justice Minister Ali Sabry by Ananda Lanerolle, that the Minister had written a letter to the High Court Judge of Beddegama, asking for a favour in a case. Ananda had revealed this at a press conference held by Citizens’ Organisation for Democracy.  And now it is said that the Justice Minister has sent a letter of demand to Ananda Lenarolle asking for a compensation of Rs:1b for damaging his reputation by this false allegation (as reported in the Lankadeepa of 16 May). We quite often see this scenario in politics – allegations and letters of demand for compensation. And I do not know how many of them have got the reliefs. But false allegations continue to spread like wildfire. These days, the critical faculty of the common folk is so blunt that they simply accept whatever the politicians and their stooges  tell them at press conferences.What defies my logic in this allegation is Justice Minister Ali Sabry, a President Counsel  and a veteran lawyer by profession, writing a letter with his signature (a most authentic document) to a High Court judge asking for a favour in a case. No layman with an iota of common knowledge (not legal) will do it. Yet Lanerolle could not have made this allegation to the media without evidence either.  Who will eat humble pie, Ali Sabry or Ananda Lanerolle? 

M. A. KALEEL 
Kalmunai – 05

 

 

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Opinion

Countrywide Lockdown: Better late than never

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COVID cases are detected in large numbers throughout the country. There is no province or district that has been spared. The transmissibility of the current strains of the virus in circulation is quite high. In such a situation a lockdown on a provincial basis is meaningless. It is as if allowing the people to move freely spreading the disease within their province without taking it outside the province. The reason given for this view is that the economy cannot be brought to a standstill. However when the disease is already rampant, people will not be in a position to engage in any economic activity. As opposed to short term losses, wider spread of the disease will guarantee economic shutdown for a very long time.

The few countries like Australia and New Zealand which have achieved almost total eradication of the disease did so by imposing strict lockdowns even when a single case was detected in a locality. Vaccination is being carried out only now to prevent the epidemic raising its head again. It is meaningless to expect a vaccination programme, chaotic at best, to control the spread of an already rampant epidemic while allowing people to move freely, ignoring basic public health guidelines.

Hence it is imperative that the island-wide shut down imposed over the weekend is continued indefinitely until the epidemic abates significantly. People are used to such restrictions imposed early last year. Learning lessons from that experience, systems should be in place to ensure that essential services are maintained and people are able to obtain basic provisions like food, thus avoiding unbearable hardship. Daily wage earners should receive a cash handout to ease their loss of income.

I feel the medical professionals, who met the President recently, should have insisted on this rather than accepting the limited shutdown suggested by the authorities.

 

Dr. Sarath Gamini De Silva

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