(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Sri Lanka responding to the references made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet at the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday in Geneva, said the High Commissioner’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption.
Delivering a statement during the General Debate at the UNHRC session Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s representative expressed hope that the Council would appreciate that Sri Lanka while successfully containing the spread of COVID-19 through a balanced, multi-sectoral approach, held its commitment to the democratic processes, and conducted Parliamentary elections successfully and peacefully, last month.
The draft 20th Amendment to the Constitution submitted through the Parliament will be discussed, debated, following a complete democratic process, where all stakeholders will have the opportunity to present their views.
“Therefore, the GoSL is of the view that High Commissioner’s comments on the proposed 20th Amendment are unwarranted and pre-judgmental, based on presumption,” the envoy said.
In her opening remarks to the Council on Monday, Bachelet said among other developments, the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission.
Responding to the Rights Chief’s comment that she is troubled by the swift changes the Sri Lankan government is making after withdrawing its support to the UN resolution 30/1, the representative said Sri Lanka is committed to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights.
“Sri Lanka made it clear even as it withdrew from the co-sponsorship of Resolution 30/1, that it will remain committed to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights within the framework of the Sri Lankan Constitution, through a domestically designed and executed process in line with the Government’s policy framework.”
“Sri Lanka would like to state further that the new Government which assumed office with the election of the new Parliament on 5 August remains committed to the assurances given before this Council in February this year,” she added.
Responding to concerns expressed by the High Commissioner on the pardoning of former Army sergeant, the representative said the pardon was granted in terms of the powers and provisions of the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
“The Government rejects the references made to false and unsubstantiated allegations leveled against senior military officials being appointed to key positions of institutions. Sri Lanka has consistently refuted the credibility of these allegations and wishes to highlight that the domestic processes such as the LLRC and Paranagama Commissions that examined these allegations particularly with regard to the last stages of the conflict, have not found substantive evidence against any of the senior military officials referred to in this regard.”
She added that In the absence of any substantive proof, Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations on crimes or crimes against humanity made against these senior military officials are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice.
“In conclusion, with regard to allegations of surveillance and intimidation, the Government has already publicly refuted these allegations, and is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and civil society space, and ensure that complaints received on alleged attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and civil society are investigated and prosecuted.”
Sri Lanka asserted that the prime focus of the Government is to ensure national security, and to uphold the rule of law and order in the country for all its citizens, with the aim of creating “an environment where any citizen can live freely without any fear for the safety of themselves and their families.
“In line with the above policy framework, the Government is committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, with a determination to uplift the lives of all its citizens and ensure that there is no threat to peace, reconciliation or development in Sri Lanka.”