Tag: Sri Lanka

UNHRC passes rights resolution on Sri Lanka; China, Pakistan, Russia oppose, India, Nepal abstain


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 23 March 2021: In a landmark resolution the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 23 March 2021 passed a resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” with 22 voting in favor, 11 voting against, and 14 abstaining. Among others, China, Bangladesh, Russia, and Pakistan voted against and India and Nepal abstained.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favor (22): Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

Against (11): Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.

Abstentions (14): Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Sudan, and Togo.


In a statement Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s representative in Geneva says, “This is a significant move by the Human Rights Council, which signals a shift in approach by the international community. Years of support and encouragement to Sri Lanka to pursue justice at the national level achieved nothing. This resolution should send a clear message to perpetrators of past and current crimes that they cannot continue to act with impunity.”

“While an important first step, the real impact of further monitoring and reporting will rely on other UN member states using the resolution as a basis for concrete action, including investigations and prosecutions under universal jurisdiction and a possible referral to the International Criminal Court.”

“We urge Sri Lanka to engage constructively with the OHCHR, to implement the recommendations of the report and to allow full and unfettered access to the country. Failing this, the Human Rights Council may take more robust action, including the establishment of an independent accountability mechanism,” said Hilary Power.

In a pre-vote statement reported in The Evening Wrap, The Hindu (23 March 2021), the Indian delegation said India’s approach to the question of human rights in Sri Lanka was guided by the “two fundamental considerations” of support to the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, dignity and peace, and ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. “We have always believed that these two goals are mutually supportive and Sri Lanka’s progress is best assured by simultaneously addressing both objectives,” India said, reiterating its earlier position.

Meanwhile, in a pre-recorded video address Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to the UNHRC before the vote said, ” “It is regrettable that … elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution.”

Members should choose whether Sri Lanka “warrants the urgent attention of this council – or if this campaign is essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this council has been established”, he added. (Al Jazeera, 24 February 2021).

Deepa Mehta’s ‘Funny Boy’ on Netflix soon!


Funny Boy (2020); Directed by Deepa Mehta; Produced by David Hamilton; Screenplay by Deepa Mehta, Shyam Selvadurai; Based on Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai; Starring Rehan Mudannayake, Arush Nand, Brandon Ingram, Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas and Shivantha Wijesinha; Music by Howard Shore, Cinematography Douglas Koch; Edited by Teresa Font; Distributed by ARRAY Netflix; Release date 4 December 2020; Country Canada; Languages English, Sinhala and Tamil.

Funny Boy is a Canadian drama film, directed by Deepa Mehta and slated for release in 2020. An adaptation of Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel Funny Boy, the film centers on the coming of age of Arjie Chelvaratnam, a young Tamil boy in Sri Lanka who is coming to terms with his homosexuality against the backdrop of the increased tensions between Tamil and Sinhalese people before the breakout of the Sri Lankan Civil War.

Shot on location in Colombo, the film stars Arush Nand as Arjie in childhood and Brandon Ingram as Arjie in his teenage years, as well as Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Rehan Mudannayake, and Shivantha Wijesinha. Its production was first announced in 2018. The film will have a theatrical release in Canada and selected cities in the United States and will be streamed internationally via Netflix. The movie rights for the United States have been acquired by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY who will handle worldwide distribution.

It is slated to premiere on December 4, 2020, on CBC Television and CBC Gem.[4] It was selected as the Canadian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Source- Wikipedia


504132Mahinda Rajapaksa's surprising defeat


NEW DELHI: After a decade in power, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa — who declared elections two years ahead of schedule in a bid to seek a third term in office — has been roundly defeated.

Early trends indicated almost immediately that the opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, was on course to win the 50 percent needed for a victory.

Rajapaksa tweeted his acceptance of the results, and said that he was looking forward to a peaceful transition of power.

The verdict has shocked commentators and common people alike. This election was Rajapaksa’s to lose. It had been the soon-to-be former Sri Lankan President’s decision to call for early elections. He seemed to enjoy widespread support because of his role in ending the Sri Lankan civil war.

How did the gamble go so wrong?

Things began to get complicated from the get-go. The day after Rajapaksa declared the elections, Sirisena — a former Health minister in Rajapaksa’s cabinet and widely perceived to have been the ‘Number 2’ in Rajapaksa’s party — quit the government and declared his candidacy.

Other important defections followed.

The country’s main party of Buddhist monks, the Sri Lankan National Heritage Party (JHU), pledged support to Sirisena, delivering another blow to Rajapaksa, who retained the support of the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Force.

Then a key minister and his minority Muslim party quit the coalition government. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Muslim Congress, said that he was switching allegiance to Sirisena.

Bathiudeen explained his switch by alleging that Rajapaksa had failed to restrain radical Buddhist groups involved in attacks on mosques, churches and businesses run by religious minorities in the Buddhist-majority country. “I asked the president to stop these religious hate attacks, but he failed to take action against offenders,” Bathiudeen told reporters in Colombo.

Although Muslims, the second largest minority in Sri Lanka after Hindu Tamils, account for only 10 percent of the electorate — they are be a key vote bank when the Sinhalese vote is split, given that both Rajapaksa and Sirisena are members of the majority Sinhala Buddhist community.

The country’s largest Muslim party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, followed. Ameer Faaiz, a leader of the party that represents minority Muslims in overwhelmingly Buddhist Sri Lanka, cited the Rajapaksa administration’s “intolerance toward religious minorities” and disagreement with his style of rule. The decision served a major setback for Rajapaksa as with it more than 20 lawmakers and ministers defected to the opposition.

More bad news came soon after. Tamil National Alliance leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan said his party will back Sirisena because Rajapaksa failed to bring to a close the country’s long-standing ethnic conflict, despite ending 25 years of civil war in 2009.

“We are inclined to the view based particularly on the performance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the past, that we would rather repose our faith in the joint opposition candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, rather than expect what has not happened in the past 10 years to happen hereafter,” Sampanthan said.

More recently, last week, the key defender of Sri Lanka’s controversial casino policy — Faizer Mustapha, a president’s counsel and deputy minister of investment — quit the government and declared his support for the opposition.

The opposition managed to unite themselves under Sirisena and develop a list of tangible promises. The joint opposition agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding. If Sirisena wins, Sri Lanka’s Presidential system will be replaced by a parliamentary system within one hundred days. The 18th amendment to the constitution will be appealed — meaning that crucial institutions such as the police and judiciary will regain their independence. The 18th amendment, passed in 2010, also eliminated presidential term limits, allowing Rajapaksa to run for a third term.

Sirisena also made an effort to distance himself from perceptions of corruption and nepotism that have come to be associated with the governing party. Announcing a series of reforms, Sirisena vowed to stop Sri Lanka from “moving towards a dictatorship.” He raised issues such as the rising cost of living, wages, corruption, the rule of law, and the welfare state.

This is important because although Rajapaksa continued to enjoy support because of his role in ending the civil war, allegations of corruption and nepotism sprung up. Two weeks after Rajapaksa was re-elected, the losing candidate — a leading general in the fight against the LTTE — was jailed. The government took legal action against the opposition and critics, and reports on the curtailment of press freedom continue to pour in.

Rajapaksa also appointed his two brothers to head major government ministries and his cousins as ambassadors to key countries, including Russia and the United States. Another brother was appointed Speaker of Parliament.

In fact, during the run up to the elections, civil rights groups and the opposition rang alarm bells accusing the government and the security establishment of coercing voters. The army, they said, was being deployed to deter Tamils from casting their vote against Rajapaksa in the country’s north. Further, in the few weeks leading to the elections, recordings surfaced where anonymous callers — appeared to be connected to the security establishment — issued death threats to leading human rights activists who were campaigning for the opposition.

Perhaps because of the perceived attempt at concentration of power, Rajapaksa’s share of votes plunged in the by-elections and provincial elections last year. The decision to announce the elections two years ahead of schedule is linked to this, with Rajapaksa gambling on the belief that he stands a better chance of being re-elected now, as opposed to waiting for two years and risking a further decline in support.

Wrong move, but who would have known?

Source: thecitizen.in

Sri Lanka unfazed by U.N. rights resolution

By Amantha Perera

COLOMBO, Mar 22, 2012 (IPS) – As the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted in, Thursday, a resolution asking Colombo to act on recommendations made by its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), Buddhist prayers reverberated through the Sri Lankan capital.

“It is a resolution that encourages Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of its own LLRC and to make concerted efforts at achieving the kind of meaningful accountability upon which lasting reconciliation efforts can be built,” United States ambassador to the Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, said in Geneva.

As expected, Sri Lankan leaders rejected the resolution. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, head of the Sri Lankan delegation in Geneva, termed it as misconceived, unwarranted and ill timed. “Shouldn’t we be given more time and space?”

But, two years and 10 months have elapsed since the Sri Lankan military decisively ended this island’s three-decade-old civil war, and the majority of UNHRC members thought it was time Colombo acted to safeguard the rights of the Tamil minority on the island.

Thousands of civilians died as the war ended in 2009 with a bloody offensive into the northern areas of the country where the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was then entrenched.

The U.S. – led resolution was passed with 24 voting in favour, 15 against and eight abstaining in the 47-member U.N. body.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction to us that 15 countries voted with Sri Lanka, despite the intensity of pressure, in a variety of forms, exerted on them all,” said G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, in a statement.

“As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, our policy in respect of all matters will continue to be guided by the vital interests and wellbeing of the people of our country. It hardly requires emphasis that this cannot yield place to any other consideration,” Peiris’ statement said.

Significantly, Sri Lanka’s ally and influential neighbour, India, voted in favour of the resolution. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had indicated to Indian parliament, on Mar. 19, a shift in stance by a country that had stood with Colombo against U.S. and European moves to bring the war before the UNHRC in 2009.

An Indian official statement said the Sri Lankan government had committed at the UNHRC in 2009, to “forge a consensual way forward towards reconciliation through a political settlement respecting all the ethnic and religious groups inhabiting the nation.”

India urged Sri Lanka to “take measures for accountability and to promote human rights that it has committed to. It is these steps, more than anything we declare in this Council, which would bring about genuine reconciliation between all the communities of Sri Lanka, including the minority Tamil community.”

“As a neighbour with thousands of years of cordial relations with Lanka, with deep-rooted spiritual and cultural ties, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country,” the Indian statement said

Rights activists in Sri Lanka told IPS that the UNHRC resolution’s impact on the country would be symbolic.

“The symbolism is that many countries have expressed their assessment that the country has not lived up to their expectations in terms of international human rights obligations,” Ruki Fernando, head of the human rights in conflict programme at the national advocacy and research body, the Law and Society Trust, told IPS.

Fernando said much now depends on “whether the government is willing to move ahead with the LLRC recommendations and work with the Council as suggested in the third recommendation in the resolution.”

Established in September 2010 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into the conduct of the war from 2002 till May 2009, when it ended, the LLRC handed over its final report with the recommendations last November.

Indications, in the build up to the vote in Geneva, suggest that the government is unlikely to cooperate. Sri Lankan delegation leader Mahinda Samarasinghe told UNHRC that his country would inform it periodically on progress, voluntarily, as it had done even before the war.

Barely 24 hours before the vote, President Rajapaksa told a public meeting in the northwestern town of Puttalam that he would not allow any form of foreign intervention.

“This is the second battle we are facing, after the war (against the LTTE),” Wimal Weeravansha, minister for housing, told another packed rally in Colombo on Mar. 13.

Weeravansha who has been leading public protests against what he terms as attempts by West to interfere – he launched a fast-unto-death in mid-2010 before the U.N. offices in Colombo that only ended when the president intervened – called on Sri Lankans to boycott U.S. products, including Coca-Cola and Google.

The overwhelming sense at public rallies is that Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa government are being targeted by Western powers for independent policies and alignment with powers like China, Russia and India.

Tamil political leaders have a completely different view and support the U.N. resolution.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the largest party representing minority Tamils in parliament, said that it was pushed to support the resolution because of the government’s lethargy in acting on power devolution and feels that only international prodding will help.

“The government has not done anything towards finding a solution (to power devolution) but has been going on according its own agenda. We have no option but to ask for international support,” TNA parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran told IPS.

“The LLRC is the government’s own baby. But, it has not even implemented the interim recommendations of the LLRC. We strongly feel that these issues cannot be solved without international participation,” he added.

The resolution, however, avoids reference to war crimes or an international investigation, as called for by international rights groups like Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group.

The final draft said assistance from the UNHRC will be obtained “in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the government of Sri Lanka” – reportedly through Indian influence.

These nuances are, however, no reason for a change of heart from the supporters of the government on the streets.

“This is a veiled attempt to influence our country, to make sure that they (West) can set up a proxy administration here,” said Waragoda Premarathana, a Buddhist monk who had taken part in the Mar.19 rally.

Sri Lanka rattled by planned UN rights resolution

By Amantha Perera

COLOMBO, Feb 29, 2012 (IPS) – Strung across the main road leading away from the international airport is a banner that has an intriguing message: ‘USA, Pls Do Not Support Terrorism’.

Most of the other large billboards and banners on the same stretch are also directed at visiting tourists, but these are less political and exhort them to visit beach locations or buy jewellery.

The banner is part of a government campaign to thwart or at least discredit a United States-led resolution to be tabled at the ongoing session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) that began in Geneva on Monday.

The resolution calls on the Sri Lankan government to detail how it plans to act on the recommendations made by its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), according to U.S. assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia Robert Blake.

The LLRC was set up in May 2010 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to inquire into the civil war and related events between 2002 and May 2009, when the conflict finally ended. It presented its final report in November 2011.

The Sri Lankan government has steadfastly rejected international intervention into the conduct of the final phase of the war, despite mounting allegations of rights abuses. So far, it has successfully resisted all attempts to bring on international scrutiny.

In May 2009, as the war was ending and government troops were mopping up the remnants of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Sri Lankan diplomats in Geneva were able to quash a resolution at the UNHRC calling for an international inquiry.

The South Asian nation, backed by India, China and Russia, was then able to get passed a counter-resolution hailing the victory of government forces.

Since then, however, the diplomatic atmosphere in Geneva has changed. Colombo appears shaken by the impending resolution, with high-ranking government officials publicly dubbing the move by the U.S. as intrusive intimidation.

“President Rajapaksa had challenged the conflict management theory introduced by some Western countries. They have named Sri Lanka a country engaged in human rights violations,” youth affairs minister Dullas Alahapperuma told media a day before the Geneva sessions were to start.

“At a moment when they should be supporting Sri Lanka’s revival, they are trying to impose their will on us,” Alahapperuma complained.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, minister and leader of the Sri Lankan delegation at Geneva, said as the sessions began: “We are of the view that this (resolution) could be perceived as undue interference with internal processes of recovery and reconciliation containing strong elements of prejudgement and the application of double standards.”

The government, Samarasinghe said, had in fact begun to implement some of the LLRC recommendations. He was referring to the army and the navy setting up internal inquiries to ascertain whether there were any rights abuses.

Separately, the attorney-general’s department too has begun interviewing some of those who gave evidence at the LLRC.

However, rights activists say that the government needs to show a consistent intent that it is serious about carrying through the LLRC recommendations, rather than reacting when calls for international scrutiny are heard.

“It has to set up an apex body, with possibly the president at the head, to carry out the recommendations. Then it would be clear that the intent is there,” Jehan Perera, executive director of the Colombo-based advocacy body, the National Peace Council, told IPS.

Perera believes that despite the criticism, the final report of the LLRC does give the government a vital entry point into national reconciliation after three decades of civil war. “It is a very important document, one that gives a lot of opportunities.”

Other activists say that widespread protests – some 150 were held in various parts of the country on Feb. 27, mostly organised by ruling party legislators – were unlikely to create any kind of pressure in Geneva.

“I don’t think protests here will change anything in Geneva. Any resolution in Geneva is usually negotiated for several months and weeks,” Ruki Fernando, head of the human rights in conflict programme at the advocacy body, Law and Society Trust, told IPS.

Fernando felt that the government was trying to drum up support by harping on charges of a foreign conspiracy against an independent leadership.

“I think it’s misleading to call this a resolution against Sri Lanka,” said Fernando. “How can a resolution that calls for the implementation of our own LLRC’s recommendations, dealing with accountability issues that the LLRC couldn’t address and having an action plan and road map with specific timelines be against Sri Lanka?”

No official version of the resolution has been made available, but leaked drafts indicate that it will call for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.

In August 2011, the government acknowledged for the first time, in a report, that there were civilian casualties in the final phase of the war, but did not give any numbers.

The report was released soon after a U.N. experts panel spoke of tens of thousands of people having been killed in the last months of the war and deliberate shelling of civilians.