Fighting terrorism’ must go hand in hand with ‘protecting human rights, Sri Lanka Foreign Secretary tells UN

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The events of the Easter Sunday bombing taught Sri Lanka that ‘fighting terrorism’ must go hand in hand with ‘protecting human rights’ and one cannot be compromised for the other, Sri Lanka told the United Nations General Assembly.

Delivering the ‘Address to the 74th UN General Assembly on Monday, 30 September in New York, Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNGA this year, said the very delicate balance between fighting terrorism and protecting human rights has often been elusive with states veering towards one extreme or the other, applying double standards to similar situations and often politicizing these issues.

He said Sri Lanka as a nation faced the task after the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on churches and hotels that killed over 250 people and the

“We as a nation have found ourselves up to the task of overcoming the challenges posed by the violent extremism on Easter Sunday. The citizenry was secured within a relatively short period of time, and law and order restored; our institutions asserted themselves, each in their role to ensure that people, communities and society as a whole, were able to feel safe again.”

The envoy said therefore, the post Easter attack period has proved to be a ‘litmus test’ to Sri Lanka’s resolve to adhere to human rights standards, while fighting terrorism, and also to determine the strengths and shortcomings of the democratic institutions that have been strengthened in recent years.

In this context, a Ministerial Committee headed by Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, has been established by Cabinet to study and propose amendments to the draft counter terrorism legislation currently under consideration by the Parliament.

“Conscious of our international obligations, Sri Lanka is also consulting with partners in striving to bring about domestic enabling legislation that would make us compliant with more recent Security Council resolutions on combatting terrorism – relating to terrorist financing, border security, returning terrorist fighters and countering violent extremism,” he added.

Aryasinha disclosed that efforts are also underway to curb the terrorists’ use and abuse of the internet and social media platforms, including by evolving legislative measures and law enforcement mechanisms to counter radical ideologies leading to violent extremism.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out that in this context, it is necessary to develop the critical thinking capacity of youth, strengthen community bonds, inculcate a sense of civic duty, and build community resilience to mitigate the effects and influences of extremist ideologies conducive to terrorism that may escape the eye of law enforcement authorities.

“In this regard, the role of the community and its resilience against local drivers of extremism is essential in preventing violent extremism,” he said.

“The recovery over the past five months demanded that we be resolute in governance. If we are to truly overcome these challenges, we must move to incorporating a ‘Whole of Society’ approach to that with a ‘Whole of Government’ approach,” Aryasinha added.

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