Sri Lanka hits back at concerns raised by UN human rights chief

Sri Lanka has hit back at concerns raised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet saying some comments were “unwarranted and pre-judgmental”.

The Foreign Ministry quoted the Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, Dayani Mendis as telling the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed, debated, following a complete democratic process, where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views.

“Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka is of the view that High Commissioner’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption,” Mendis said.

On the opening day of the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, Bachelet had noted concerns the 20th Amendment will have on the independence of key institutions including the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission.

She also said that the pardon given in March to a former Army sergeant convicted of participating in unlawful killings; appointments to key civilian roles of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity; and moves within the police and judiciary to thwart the investigation of such crimes, set a very negative trend.

“The Government of Sri Lanka wishes to state that the pardon to the former Army sergeant was granted in terms of the powers and provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The Government rejects the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions. Sri Lanka has consistently refuted the credibility of these allegations and wishes to highlight that the domestic processes such as the LLRC and Paranagama Commissions that examined these allegations particularly with regard to the last stages of the conflict, have not found substantive evidence against any of the senior military officials referred to in this regard,” Mendis said.

She said that in the absence of any substantive proof, Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations on crimes or crimes against humanity made against these senior military officials are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.

“With regard to allegations of surveillance and intimidation, the Government has already publicly refuted these allegations, and is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensure that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are investigated and prosecuted,” she said.

Mendis said that the prime focus of the Government is to ensure national security, and to uphold the rule of law and order in the country for all its citizens, with the aim of creating “an environment where any citizen can live freely without any fear for the safety of themselves and their families.”

In line with the above policy framework, the Government says it is committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, with a determination to uplift the lives of all its citizens and ensure that there is no threat to peace, reconciliation or development in Sri Lanka.

Mendis also said that the Government hopes the Council would appreciate that Sri Lanka while successfully containing the spread of COVID-19 through a balanced, multi-sectoral approach, and despite this challenge, held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully, last month, which the EU has acknowledged.

She also said that Sri Lanka made it clear even as it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1, that it will remain committed to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution, through a domestically designed and executed process in line with the Government’s policy framework. (Colombo Gazette)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Michelle Bachelet did the right thing calling out the adverse trend of this government which included the draft 20A. It was a terrible draft to put out. The mounting condemnation of the gazetted draft 20A should not have been unexpected.
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    Many claim that it was the people’s mandate. Did the people truly understand or know how draconian the amendment would be and that it would be taking major steps toward a family autocracy, and dismantling our democracy which allows the people to set the mandate in the first place?
    ———
    Some claim that Sri Lankans are not evolved enough to produce a parliament of competent elected representatives because the population doesn’t have competent candidates, and hence we need a executive president with powers of an autocrat!
    Didn’t the same voters who elected nearly 2/3rds SLPP majority to the parliament at the September 2020 general elections also were responsible for electing Gotabaya to the presidency?
    —/—

    • Sri Lankans live in their own country. If you really concern about democracy and human rights, you should start talk about the US, Canada and Australia, because those countries were invaded on genocides. The British settlers had killed hundreds of millions innocent people. Hitler only killed six million people in Europe. The First People of Australia, America and Canada are worst off than average Sri Lankans. Therefore, you should concern about the First People in North America and Australasia more than Sri Lankans.

  2. Amending the Constitution is an internal matter, the people have given the mandate to the current government. Above all, the 20th amendment is still in a reading stage and hasn’t passed in the parliament. The UN is getting involved with unwanted issues unprofessionally to please a powerful country.

    Why the UN does not talk about the Australian Constitution?

    The Australian Constitution says ‘terra nullius’ which means land that is legally deemed to be unoccupied or uninhabited. This is a daylight robbery, but the UN does not say a word against the daylight robbery. .

    The Australian Constitution was drafted against a backdrop of racism that led to the White Australia policy and a range of other discriminatory practices. The racist elements of the Constitution and the lack of recognition of the status and rights of the First People in the Constitution has had negative consequences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. The Australian Constitution was also drafted in the spirit of ‘Terra Nullius’ which means land that is legally deemed to be unoccupied or uninhabited. Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people were subjugated, incarcerated or eradicated, in order to keep the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’ alive. They were ignored from its drafting and excluded from the discussions concerning the creation of a new nation to be situated on their ancestral lands and territories.

    In the 21st century only Australia allows its Parliament to validly enact laws that are racially discriminatory. Section 25 of the Constitution gives provision for exclusion of voters based on race. Section 51(xxvi) enables the Australian Parliament to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were expressly discriminated while drafting the Constitution, noticeably with the provisions that prevented them from being counted as among the numbers of the new nation. Consequently, the new Australian Government ignored them and had not had made any provision to protect their inherent rights as the First People of this country. Throughout the history of exclusion, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have consistently fought to have their rights acknowledged by the people of Australia. As a major step, the 1967 referendum paved the way for a critical change that allowed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be counted in the census. Before 1967 referendum, First Australians were not citizens of this country.

    THE ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) ACT 1976
    The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was a fundamental piece of social reform since 1788. This act was the first attempt by an Australian government to legally recognise the Aboriginal people’s land ownership. The land rights act has provided land for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and enabled them to re-establish their cultural identity. When the Act was passed; inaccessible and unwanted lands became Aboriginal land. The only land able to be claimed is, land that nobody wants. But the Hawke Government done an amendment and put an end to it, no more land claims could be lodged after June 30 1997.

    History has been forgotten, facts have been ignored, historical truth lost its stance, social justice has turned a blind eye, but the contemporary identity has been created based on the myth of ‘Terra Nullius.’ The people who lived in Australia for more than fifty thousand years through calamitous environments and protected their lands have been denied their place in their motherland. This country has lost its fundamental test when it comes to social goals and human development. Truly, the land of the fair go does not exist in Australia; if you belong to a coloured race. Immigrants have also been affected by the structural and cultural forms of racism in Australia. Lack of recognition of the First Peoples and immigrants affecting Australia negatively. It continues to affect our relationships and sense of identity as Australians.

    • Seems a great attempt at Misdirection. Why don’t we try self examination and be better at influencing our Legislators towards proposing good legislation? The present proposal for the 20A is rotten so far as democracy is concerned. It is great for a Dictatorship though!

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