The Sunday Leader

Sovereignty Vs Accountability: The UPR

By Raisa Wickrematunge

On Thursday (November 1) Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe made a statement at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Sri Lanka’s progress in terms of human rights issues.
Samarasinghe said that steps were being taken to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan, from training IDPs on the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnances to the ‘significant reduction’ in military presence in the North.
Following the speech, 99 countries released statements regarding Sri Lanka. Many acknowledged the progress that had been made in resettling IDPs, but several countries, particularly the US, raised concerns about human rights violations. The US claimed that disappearances, torture and threats to freedom of expression continued to occur, while Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of making ‘empty promises about human rights’. With the UPR planning to release a full report on Monday (5), the ongoing events in Geneva were a hot topic of discussion.

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Udaya Gammanpila
Minister of Agriculture, Agrarian Development, Irrigation, Livestock Production and Development, Trade and Environment in the Western Provincial Council, Jathika Hela Urumaya
Although Iran cooperated with the international commission and allowed an inspection to prove to the world that they had no nuclear weapons, they failed to satisfy the US in terms of responsibility. The US in accusing Iran on nuclear weapons had an ulterior motive. They accused the Taliban of hiding Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan but failed to locate him, and only 10 years later found him in Pakistan. War crimes are our weapons of mass destruction, Bin Laden and nuclear bombs. They are never satisfied as they have an ulterior motive. The international commission has a right to look into human rights violations of member states, treaties and commissions but they have no right to interfere with the structure of our country. The US Embassy said the Government failed to implement devolution. How about France and Norway, which are unitary states? This shows the US’ duplicity.
No one has appreciated the fact that there are so-called terrorists captured by the US who are still in custody. Three years after the war Sri Lanka has fully resettled refugees. The demining has been completed and 95 percent of former terrorists who surrendered were rehabilitated.

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Vijitha Herath
MP, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

The Government has agreed to fulfill the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, but unfortunately some people say that although they have submitted reports, such as the National Human Rights Action Plan, in reality not much has been achieved. Many countries said favourable things about the resettlement of the IDPs in the North and East, but we cannot be satisfied with that. Although they have been resettled so many places do not have enough facilities like drinking water and housing. The Government has not fulfilled their own plan and while they say they have made progress in terms of resettlement, it is not the truth. So the UPR in this sense is right to question the Government. I think the Government cannot fulfill the things they have promised. They do not care enough about these issues although they have written reports.

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Suresh Premachandra
MP, Tamil National Alliance

The statement that the US made (following Minister Samarasinghe’s speech) clearly shows what the Sri Lankan Government is doing. They are trying to say everything is fine and action is being taken, but I do not think Sri Lanka is in a position to rectify matters. They will not take action to improve. For instance, after submitting the interim LLRC report no action was taken. I do not think the Government has done enough to fulfill the UPR recommendations.
If you look at the war crimes issues for instance, several people were killed or went missing, but there was no proper investigation. The Government might say things but nothing is happening. The UPR believes that this statement matters but Sri Lanka may listen and not do anything.

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Susil Premajayanth
Minister of Petroleum Industries, United People’s Front Alliance

Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe and our team is there dealing with this issue.  The US in particular always talks about accountability. We were at war for 30 years, but we resettled people within three years. In terms of infrastructure there have been massive developments.  We have a specific legal process we have to follow; we have started fact-finding missions investigating the concerns raised by the UPR. I believe at this early stage Sri Lanka has done very well in the Universal Periodic Review.
In the North and the East, with the exception of certain areas local government elections were held with Government support. It is up to these representatives to develop the area.

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Lakshman Kiriella
MP, United National Party
No report has been released yet. Certain countries such as Britain and India are yet to make statements, so it is too early to react. It is only after the report is released on November 5th that we can take a stance.

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