- Tuesday, 28 June 2016
EXPANDED PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT ON REFORM PROCESS IS NECESSARY
Sri Lanka is on the agenda for discussion at the ongoing 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be submitting a report on Sri Lanka’s implementation of the resolution of the 30th session in October 2015, which was co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan government. The government is currently in the process of establishing the transitional justice mechanisms it agreed to at the October 2015 session. As a first public step, the draft legislation for an Office of Missing Persons has been released.
The government is also fast tracking a process of constitutional reform with a draft document expected before the budget in November. It has restored law and order and improved the sense of security of the ethnic and religious minorities. On the other hand, the government has yet to deliver on many commitments, including repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, restoration to people of land taken over by the military, the significant reduction of military presence in the North and East and, most controversially within the country and internationally, the involvement of foreign judges and legal personnel in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism.
- Monday, 27 June 2016
The Sri Lankan government goes into the current session of the UN Human Rights Council with several accomplishments to show. These are primarily at the level of change of spirit and less as concrete changes that can be quantified. It is difficult to quantify the impact of the lifting of fear of agents of the state and their associates acting with impunity, of white vans into which people disappear and the attitude of confrontation. But these have transformed life in the country. The passage of the Right to Information law in Parliament unanimously, without a vote and therefore without division, is an indication that there is broad acceptance in the polity, to which the government gives leadership, that good governance is good for all. In addition, the government has been able to showcase the draft law setting up the Office of Missing Persons, which is one of the four transitional justice mechanisms that it promised to establish at the October 2015 session of the UNHRC.
There are many other changes in the political and legal framework that will infuse a new spirit and atmosphere into the country, such as the draft constitution, the preparation of which is proceeding more rapidly than anticipated. The Steering Committee appointed by the Constitutional Assembly formed out of the whole of Parliament for evolving proposals for a new constitution will be submitting its interim report that will give an outline of its preliminary proposals for constitution-making soon, as early as next month. The promise of the new constitution will be, amongst others, to provide a lasting solution to the issues that embroiled the country in three decades of violence, which led to war, to massive human rights violations on all sides and to war crimes.
- Monday, 20 June 2016
There have been indications of a growing gap between the positions taken by the UNP and SLFP which are the two main constituent parties of the National Unity Government. Some months ago it took the form of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking positively in terms of international involvement in the country’s post-war accountability process while President Maithripala Sirisena said the reverse. At the present time the point of concern would be the fate of the Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran. The SLFP has opposed his reappointment. On the other hand, the UNP led by the Prime Minister have expressed their confidence in the Governor’s contribution to the economy as a member of the government team. This is an issue on which the two parties will have to find a mutually acceptable solution if their relationship is not to be soured and they continue to cooperate on important issues as they have been doing so far for the past one and a half years since the election of the new government.
The defeat of the no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake by a large 145 to 51 margin showed that the government’s majority in Parliament remains secure. The failure of the Joint Opposition to obtain the support of SLFP members who have joined the government was a major blow to their efforts to portray themselves as a government-in-waiting. Although members of the Joint Opposition continue to make political speeches that ostensibly have public backing, their weakness in Parliament was manifested by the magnitude of the defeat of the no-confidence motion they had presented with an appearance of confidence in themselves. There appears to be a fall in the public campaign of the Joint Opposition after this political debacle. Former coalition partners of theirs from the CWC and EPDP have joined the government. To make matters worse for them, one of their key leaders has been arrested on charges of financial fraud.
TRANSITION PROCESS MOVES FORWARD SMOOTHLY FOR NOW IN ABSENCE OF ORGANISED OPPOSITION ON THE GROUND--Jehan Perera
- Monday, 13 June 2016
The 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council starts this week in Geneva at which the case of Sri Lanka will be taken up. UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein will make a statement on the progress that has taken place with regard to the UNHRC resolution of October 2015 which was co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan government. The main institutional development to be presented will be the Office of Missing Persons of which the Sri Lankan government has presented draft legislation approved by the cabinet of ministers. There will be many other developments reported too, such as the government’s ratification of the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances, the issuance of Sri Lankan passports to those who claimed asylum abroad, the deproscription of many banned organizations and the report of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform.
The government may await feedback from the UNHRC prior to submitting the draft legislation on the Office of Missing Persons to Parliament for final passage into law. The defeat of the no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake by a comfortable majority of 145 votes to 51 in Parliament will give the government confidence that it can pass the first of the transitional justice mechanisms that it has developed into law. At the 30th session of the UNHRC that took place in September 2015 the government promised four mechanisms to promote transitional justice. In addition to the Office of Missing Persons, the government promised to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a Special Court on Accountability and an Office of Reparations. Although the draft legislation regarding these three mechanisms has not emerged it is reported that the government is close to completion on them too.