At the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sri Lanka in Geneva today, the Sri Lankan delegation asserted that there is no nation that does not have challenges, and no nation is perfect and promoting and protecting human rights is constant work in progress.
Head of the Sri Lankan delegation, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva said that promoting and protecting human rights is not something that can be done overnight despite the most sincere of commitments and the most fervent sense of determination.
“The UPR to us, is a process that recognizes this fact, and a process that is aimed at helping each other self-assess, share best practice, and support one another to take steps to more effectively address the concerns of individuals in our respective countries. There are many, both in Sri Lanka and overseas, who question the commitment of the National Unity Government to addressing concerns of human rights. Of course it is natural to be impatient; it is natural to question; and it is natural to feel a sense of frustration. We all know very well that some who criticize do so with the best intentions as they want Sri Lanka to do well,” the Deputy Minister said in his opening statement at the session.
The Deputy Minister said that in a democracy it is not easy to always make changes at great speed, or navigate change in a rapid manner, or along a straight and preconceived path.
“Shifts and changes in the international domain, economic impacts, natural disasters, political developments, all this affects and impacts on our best intentions. Our institutions are not perfect. We recognize this; and we are making constant efforts to identify administrative and training requirements, and reform that is necessary to be undertaken, to make our institutions stronger. We are also taking steps to inspire personnel to make necessary positive changes required to optimize the service of our institutions, to our citizens. Our broad vision, and our determination to make changes for the benefit of all our citizens remains firm, and we are open to listen to others with equanimity, heed advise, and take positive steps towards change,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said that as a democratic country, Sri Lanka welcomes robust criticism and debate about its journey towards the full enjoyment of human rights, and sustainable peace and reconciliation.
“But we are aware that our public sphere, like that of many other democracies, features some degree of misinformation, manipulation and prejudice. It is for this reason that we have sought to tread cautiously and prudently with a view to building and sustaining national consensus on the importance of protecting and promoting human rights, and advancing reconciliation. As a nation, we have been through much strife for long years. At this historic moment when the two main political parties are working together, we want to ensure that we tread cautiously to take steps that would ensure that the reform that we initiate is sustained in the long-term,” he added.
Dr. Harsha de Silva further noted that Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect and promote human rights are often attacked by opponents as inviting foreign interference and efforts to ensure harmonious relations between the different ethno-religious communities, and the commitment to constitutional reform, are often attacked by opponents as attempts to create divisions.
Yet, he said the Sri Lankan Government will persevere with strong determination. (Colombo Gazette)