High Commission of Sri Lanka in India

55th Session of the Human Rights Council: Statement by PR/Geneva PDF Print option in slimbox / lytebox? (info) E-mail
Monday, 04 March 2024 14:40

(as the country concerned following the Oral Update on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

01 March 2024

 

Mr. President,

 

The Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, in his address to this Council earlier this week, highlighted that Sri Lanka has over the years engaged actively and constructively with this Council. He also elaborated on our recent engagements with a number of working methods of the Council. It is in this context that I take the floor today, specifically to provide more details on the progress made on matters of relevance to this Council. 

 

The Government, to overcome the challenges of the recent past, prioritized economic recovery and reconciliation objectives, while ensuring that  the country’s democratic traditions and institutions remained stable at all times. Being sensitive to the economic hardships faced by the people, social safety nets have been strengthened to help cushion the impact of the challenges on the poor and vulnerable. It is undeniable that significant progress has been made in restoring normalcy in the social, political, and economic spheres. This has been welcomed both domestically and internationally. It is envisaged that the Government’s commitment to economic recovery leading to sustainable and stable growth which will benefit all segments of Sri Lankan society in all parts of the country.

 

Despite severe constraints, our objectives remain steadfast and unwavering towards expediting the ongoing efforts for strengthening the foundation of national unity, post-conflict reconciliation and human rights. Sri Lanka is committed to pursuing progress through already established domestic mechanisms.

 

Consultations on the draft Truth, Unity and Reconciliation Commission bill are ongoing with the participation of Government, civil society, religious leaders and legal experts. The draft Bill was gazetted on 1 January 2024 and will be tabled in the Parliament after providing sufficient time for the public to express their views on the draft. An interim-Secretariat, to lay the foundation for the Commission, has already been established since May 2023 and continues its work.


The work of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) is ongoing. Demonstrating significant public trust on the OMP, 5,221 out of 6,025 phase 1 complainants have met with the OMP and inquiries held. Progress was made in tracing missing persons in 2023 as the OMP’s Tracing Unit found 16 persons alive, and confirmed 3 deceased. 1,313 families received Certificate of Absence (CoA) and steps have been taken to extend the validity period until 2028. The OMP continues to collaborate with the ICRC in terms of obtaining technical assistance in the areas of data collection, protection and management as well as legal and forensic expertise.

 

During the past year, despite the financial situation in the country, the Office for Reparations (OR) has granted Rs. 41.2 million to the families of the missing. With the financial and technical assistance of the IOM, the OR continues to implement several projects to provide psychosocial support for aggrieved communities.

 

The Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) has been further strengthened by an Act of Parliament whereby it now functions as an independent institution, like to the OMP and OR. The ONUR conducts training programs to promote religious coexistence and conflict transformation workshops providing opportunities for interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

 

In addition to the above, the Office for Overseas Sri Lankan Affairs (OOSLA) has made progress in serving as a platform for mutually beneficial engagement between the Sri Lankan government and overseas Sri Lankans. OOSLA will present a draft bill on its establishment and related matters during the first quarter of this year.

 

With a view to promoting national reconciliation and to resolve matters encountered by the people of the Northern and Eastern Province, the work of the Special Unit established under the Presidential Secretariat continues to be expedited. This includes land release, resettlement of IDPs and development plans for the North and East as identified by the Cabinet Sub Committee on Reconciliation.

 

Mr. President,

 

Sri Lanka reiterates its categorical rejection of Resolutions 46/1 and 51/1 and the external evidence gathering mechanism that stems from these 2 divisive and intrusive resolutions. Both of these resolutions, that do not have the consent of the country concerned, have wide-ranging legal and political implications for all countries. The establishment of such unhelpful mechanisms, utilizing the funds of Member States at a time when the UN is facing a liquidity crisis for dire humanitarian needs, for a purpose and end result that is vague and ambiguous contravenes the very founding principles of this Council. Its sole purpose seems to cater to the aspirations of a few and does not in any way help the people of Sri Lanka.

 

Mandates arising from resolutions against countries of the Global South have now evolved to become a running chart on developments in that country – developments that are always highlighted in the negative. In the case of Sri Lanka, the oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights makes reference to a number of national legislations where discussions are still ongoing. The Online Safety Bill, a domestic legislation that the Government is now in the process of amending, in good faith, taking into consideration the additional proposals presented by civil society and other stakeholders. After reviewing petitions following the tabling of the revised Anti-Terrorism Bill in Parliament on 10 January 2024, the Supreme Court has provided its determination on the said Bill. The Government has taken cognizance of the Supreme Court determination and the Bill will be appropriately amended prior to being passed into law. Six rounds of consultations with Civil Society Organizations had taken place regarding the draft NGO Act (NGO Registration and Supervision Bill) in Sri Lanka. It is emphasized that there is the necessity of incorporating provisions in the Bill to tackle concerns such as terrorism financing and money laundering while all concerns raised by civil society organizations had been considered and integrated into the draft Bill.

 

It is pertinent to note, Mr. President, that the above demonstrates that the current environment in Sri Lanka is such that the public have the freedom to challenge any proposed legislation. Sri Lanka recognizes the importance of protecting human rights in line with international standards while addressing national security concerns. Our recent action is testimony to that.

 

Mr. President,

 

We cannot condone the continuing double standards of some sectors that provides no tangible relief to the grievances of people but only contributes to the politicization of human rights. The very existence of the people in Gaza is under threat. Where are the resolutions and where are the accountability projects?

 

Mr. President,

 

Reconciliation processes must have national ownership and take place at a pace that is conducive to that country. The Council must encourage locally conceived policy responses where domestic priorities are reflected. Sri Lanka will continue to engage constructively with the international community with a view to providing tangible benefits to all Sri Lankans.

 

Notwithstanding our position on the HRC Resolutions, as a responsible member of the international community, Sri Lanka will continue to engage constructively with the UN and its agencies, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies as well as the international obligations voluntarily undertaken.

 

In this context, I recall our active and constructive engagement, in the recent past despite the severe constraints, with the regular Human Rights mechanisms, including the UPR Review under the 4th Cycle in February 2023 and the ICCPR Review in March 2023. In addition, in order to streamline our reporting obligations, Sri Lanka launched its Inter-Ministerial Standing Committee on Human Rights earlier this month. This Committee will serve as a standing national framework to ensure the efficient coordination of Sri Lanka’s voluntary commitments on human rights and reconciliation, undertaken both domestically and internationally.

 

Thank you.          

Public Diplomacy Division

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Colombo - Sri Lanka

 

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