Govt committed to assurances given in February
At the 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Sri Lanka made it clear that even as it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1, it will remain committed to achieving reconciliation, accountability and human rights within the framework of the Constitution, through a domestically designed and executed process, in line with the Government’s policy framework.
On 15 September, acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, Dayani Mendis further said the new Government remains committed to the assurances given before the UNHRC in February this year.
“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 (GoSL) is of the view that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and judgmental, based on presumption.
The GoSL wishes to state that the pardon to the former Army Sergeant was granted in terms of the powers and provisions of the Constitution, she added. The Government rejects the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations levelled 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 Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and Paranagama Commission 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, she pointed out.
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 the freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensures that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and the civil society are investigated and prosecuted.
The prime focus of this Government is to ensure national security, and to uphold the rule of law and order for all 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 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. As the UNHRC is aware, last November, the people gave a resounding mandate to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to pursue a policy framework aimed at achieving the fourfold outcome of “a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society, and a prosperous nation.”
This historic mandate was renewed by the people at the General Election held last August, with an unprecedented percentage of 59.09 per cent votes, for the first time in the history, in an Election held under the proportional representation system. This is a clear signal of the support of the people for a path forward for the country, towards prosperity while safeguarding the people and protecting the sovereignty without succumbing to any force.
On Sri Lanka’s unequivocal support to the global efforts towards a comprehensive, collective and effective response to COVID-19, she said that the World Health Organisation has commended Sri Lanka’s efforts to control COVID-19 more effectively than more resourced countries even with modest means and for being among the first countries in South Asia to open schools and bring back children in a safe way, as commended by the United Nations Children's Fund. Furthermore, the World Travel and Tourism Council has recently stamped Sri Lanka as a safe haven for tourists. At a time when even highly developed countries in the world are left with a substantial challenge in the wake of the COVID–19 pandemic, Sri Lanka was able to successfully face the challenge by containing its spread, thanks to a well-coordinated mechanism of preventive measures at the national level, assisted by a robust local healthcare system. Sri Lanka notes with concern that developing countries are facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis due to the Pandemic. The need for debt relief and financial stimulus for these countries must be duly recognised. It is important to provide necessary financial support to such countries, enabling them to face diverse socio-economic consequences caused or aggravated by the Pandemic, she noted.