Sri Lanka briefs the United Nations Human Rights Council and says that the country has begun a new political culture after combining the two traditional rival political parties just after winning the recent election by UNFGG. Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera addressing the 30th session of Human Rights Council today said that August 17th election was the return of centrists to power in the legislature and the resounding defeat of extremists on both sides of the divide.
He promised the HRC session that a new constitution will be introduced soon and formation of the national unity government is the first step of that endeavor. He further opined to amend the Penal Code of the country. He also said that steps have already been taken to address the grievances of Tamil people. “With the mandate granted by the people, the President, Prime Minister, and the Government have already taken some important steps to create the conditions required for initiating a dialogue aimed at a political settlement.”
He also spoke about the desire and plans on “Strengthening the National Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles; sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances without delay; maintain the moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its ultimate abolition; release previous Presidential Commission Reports such as Udalagama and Paranagama by the end of this month; begin issuing Certificates of Absence to the families of the missing as a temporary measure of relief; disengagement of the military from commercial activities; undertake security sector reform; invite a series of Special Rapporteurs to undertake visits to Sri Lanka in 2015 and beyond; issue instructions clearly to all branches of the security forces that torture, rape, sexual violence and other human rights violations are prohibited and that those responsible will be investigated and punished; review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in line with contemporary international best practices; review the Public Security Ordinance Act; and review the Victim and Witness Protection Act which was enacted this year. Steps are also being taken by the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation to extend psycho-social support to communities and individuals that are in need of such care.”
Minister Samaraweera also promises (a) a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence to be evolved in consultation with the relevant authorities of South Africa, (b) an Office on Missing Persons based on the principle of the families’ right to know, to be set up by Statute with expertise from the ICRC, and in line with internationally accepted standards, (c) a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to be set up by Statute. This takes into account the right of victims to a fair remedy and aims to address the problem of impunity for human rights violations suffered by all communities, (d) an Office for Reparations to be set up by Statute to facilitate the implementation of recommendations relating to reparations made by the proposed Commission on Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, the Office of the Missing Persons, the LLRC and any other entity; and (e) a series of measures would be undertaken including administrative and judicial reform, and the adoption of a new Constitution. A series of measures including amending the penal code to criminalize hate speech and enforced disappearances are also in process.
Minister also appealed on both international community and local citizens not to judge them by the broken promises, experiences and u-turns of the past. And also requested to Let them (Sri Lanka) to design, define and create their future by their hopes and aspirations, and not be held back by the fears and prejudices of the past. “Let us not be afraid to dream. Let us not be afraid to engage in meaningful dialogue aimed at finding solutions to problems as opposed to pointing fingers, heaping blame and scoring political points at the expense of future generations.” He added.