Sri Lanka is actively engaged in evolving an all-party consensus regarding the need for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, to consolidate seminal democratic values enshrined in Parliament, independent institutions, and statutory checks and balances on the powers of the Executive, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris said at the 50th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 13 June.
“As a stable foundation for the future, the President and the Prime Minister have called for a consensual approach to national issues through a broad-based government. Far-reaching political changes are already taking place with the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the appointment of a new multi-party Cabinet.” He further added that they have consistently emphasised that dissent needs to be peaceful and be expressed within the democratic space.
Over the past years, including at the 49th Session in March this year, the Foreign Minister said they have interacted with the Council in addressing a series of issues raised in relation to Sri Lanka.
The Foreign Minister added that soon after his pledge to the HRC that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) will be amended, and he presented legislation to Parliament to amend the PTA, and this was enacted. The cumulative effect of these amendments will make a substantial improvement of, and a profound impact on, the existing law and will further the cause of human rights and human freedoms in Sri Lanka. In this regard, the Inspector General of Police has issued instructions, whereby there is a de facto moratorium on arrests being made under the PTA.
Law enforcement officials have been instructed by the Inspector General of Police to follow due process in the conduct of investigations under the PTA and to use the PTA only in instances of extreme necessity, he added. After the last Session of this Council, from March to June, 22 persons detained under the PTA have been released on the recommendation of the Advisory Board established under Section 13 of the PTA.
The list of designated individuals, groups and entities under the United Nations Regulation No. 1 of 2012 is being reviewed. As of now, 318 individuals and four entitles are proposed to be delisted. This is a continuing exercise.
The Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) continued with its mandate in promoting reconciliation.
With regard to the SDGs, Sri Lanka has made substantial progress, including on SDG 16. The UN Sustainable Development Report 2021 has placed Sri Lanka in the 87th position (SL’s global rank has increased by 7 positions out of 165 countries) and the country is given an overall ranking of 68.1, which is above the regional average.
The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) has met more than 83% of persons invited for panels of inquiries as part of its verification process. The Office for Reparations (OR) was allocated Rs 53 million in addition to its initial allocation of Rs 759 million to pay compensation for the year, despite the present economic constraints.
Over 92 per cent of private lands occupied by the military at the end of the conflict have been released to the legitimate owners. Steps are being taken to resettle the last remaining 8,090 IDPs.
On the Easter Sunday Attacks, the Attorney General has sent out several indictments to High Courts and the Trials in this regard are proceeding.
Sri Lanka remains open to engaging with the Diaspora community and with civil society organisations committed to the well-being of our country.
In the past, I have made clear that Sri Lanka rejects the so-called external evidence gathering mechanism introduced by HRC Resolution 46/1, adopted without our consent and that of other members of this Council. We reiterate our conviction that this mechanism will only serve to polarise and divide, and will be an unproductive and unhelpful drain on the resources of this Council and its Members.
In conclusion, we seek the understanding of this Council regarding the challenging social and economic situation in Sri Lanka. We undertake to engage in the multiple tasks before us and to honour legitimate commitments. Sri Lanka is an active participant in the multilateral framework and has continued its close engagement with the international community and the Human Rights Council to realise the promotion and protection of human rights with justice and equity for our people. The difficult situation we are facing today and the voices of our youth remind us urgently that we need to address these challenges with humility.