- Monday, 06 June 2016
The June session of the UN Human Rights Council is expected to be an important test for the government. The resolution that it co-sponsored in October 2015 stated that the UN High Commissioner would submit an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session (June 2016) and a comprehensive report followed by discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its thirty-fourth session (March 2017). In recent weeks there have been several announcements by the government to highlight the progress that it has made in implementing the UNHRC resolution.
The most important of these governmental actions is the unveiling of the draft legislation on the Office of Missing Persons. This was one of the four transitional justice mechanisms that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera promised to establish in the run up to the co-sponsored resolution of October 2015. Other actions taken by the government in the past month include the setting up of a witness protection unit under the Ministry of Justice, the decision to re-issue Sri Lankan passports to those who had sought political asylum abroad if they so desired, and the release of the report of the Public Representations Committee on constitutional reforms.
- Tuesday, 31 May 2016
CREDIBILITY OF TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE MECHANISMS IS ESSENTIAL
Among the festering wounds of Sri Lanka’s protracted war that came to its bitter end 7 years ago is the fate of at least 20,000 persons who went missing and whose names have been registered with the Presidential Commission to Investigate into Complaints Regarding Missing Persons (the Commission) which was established in August 2013. The Cabinet of Ministers has approved draft legislation to establish an Office of Missing Persons, which is intended to expedite the search for missing persons and bring closure to their loved ones. It also ratified the Convention against Enforced Disappearance as promised at the UN Human Rights Council session in September 2015 in Geneva.
The National Peace Council commends the government for seeking to establish credible and effective new institutions as part of its commitment to the process of transitional justice as promised both to the people of Sri Lanka and to the international community. The Office of Missing Persons is one of the four transitional justice mechanisms promised by the government at the September 2015 session of the UN Human Rights Council. With the next session of the UNHRC scheduled for June this year, the government may be seeking to have the legislation regarding this mechanism in place prior to the meeting in Geneva. The government is expected to give a progress report on the implementation of the UNHRC resolution it co-sponsored in October 2015.
- Monday, 30 May 2016
The immediate cause of the fracas in the east involving the chief minister, governor and naval officer was personal pique. That incident has been sought to be politicized by an opposition that is ever mindful of the power of inter-ethnic mobilization of nationalism. They have warned of the undermining of the security forces of the country by the ethnic and religious minorities. The fact that it was a Muslim chief minister who spoke offensively in public to a naval officer from the predominantly Sinhalese security forces was given full play by the opposition that had once exploited narrow nationalism to win successive elections, and endeavour to continue in the same way. Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa even sought to draw a link between this incident and another recent one, in which TNA leader R Sampanthan entered an army camp with some of his supporters to inspect land that had been taken over from civilians during the war.
In both cases exaggerated ethnic interpretations have been given to make it appear to the wider population as if national security is being put into jeopardy by the aggressive behaviours of the ethnic and religious minorities. In the case of the alleged gate crashing into the army camp, the TNA leader has explained that the army officer on duty had not objected to his entry into the outer precincts of the army camp to inspect land that his party supporters had claimed was their own, but which had been taken over as high security zones that the government has promised to return, and which has yet to be returned. The over-centralisation of power, the undermining of devolution of power and the use of the military to take over civilian spaces are both the cause and consequence of the three decade long war.
- Saturday, 28 May 2016
CITIZENS PEACE AWARD TO LATE VEN. MADULUWAWE SOBITHA
The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka is awarding its annual Citizens Peace Prize for 2015 posthumously to the Most Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Nayake Thero for his fearless approach to minority rights and inter-religious coexistence, and for providing skillful leadership in promoting humane values and democratic governance. At the time of passing away he had become a truly spiritual leader, seeking nothing for himself, but seeking everything for the people, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.
The Citizens Peace Award was established in 2010 and is intended to honour and encourage those individuals in civil society who have demonstrated courage and consistency in the protection of and respect for human rights, peaceful settlement of disputes and promoting increased understanding between and among communities.
We are gratified that the Ven Sobitha agreed to accept this award during his lifetime. When members of the National Peace Council met him at the Naga Vihara temple in Kotte in September 2015, and requested him to accept our award, he said there were others more qualified than he was, but eventually agreed when we said our choice was unanimous. We even set the date of the award ceremony for November 5, 2016 but by that time he had fallen seriously ill.