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Monday, April 22, 2024

Sri Lanka categorically rejects any follow up measures to Resolution 46/1

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The Sri Lankan Government categorically rejects Resolution 46/1, Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Sabry, PC told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 51st session which began in Geneva yesterday.

Minister Sabry said: “At the outset, I reiterate Sri Lanka’s unwavering commitment towards advancing, securing and protecting the human rights of our people, and continuing our engagement with the Council in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue.

In keeping with our commitment, notwithstanding our categorical rejection of resolution 46/1, we have submitted Sri Lanka’s detailed written response to the High Commissioner’s Report. We remain cognizant of and acutely sensitive to the events that have taken place in the recent past. The severe economic crisis emanating from factors both internal and external offer many lessons for all.

We recall in this context the indivisibility of human rights, as enshrined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Government is extremely sensitive to the socio-economic hardships faced by our people, and has initiated immediate multi-pronged measures to ensure their wellbeing through the provision of supplies essential to the life of the community. A staff level agreement has been reached with the International Monetary Fund, and discussions on debt restructuring are in progress. The Government is in dialogue with UN agencies as well as bilateral partners to protect the most vulnerable from the adverse impacts of the crisis. The recent changes that have taken place bear testimony to our continued commitment to upholding our longstanding democratic principles and norms.

The Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and expression guaranteed the democratic space for our people to exercise their rights. In this regard, transgressions of the law resulting in criminal and unlawful activity were addressed in accord with the law and the Constitution, in circumstances where such freedoms were abused by elements with vested interests to achieve undemocratic political ends.

Notwithstanding the severe constraints and challenges, Sri Lanka remains firmly committed to pursuing tangible progress in the protection of human rights and reconciliation through independent domestic institutions. Sri Lanka, along with several Members of this Council, have opposed resolution 46/1, fundamentally disagreeing with its legitimacy and objectives. We have consistently highlighted that the content of the resolution, its operative paragraph 06 in particular, violates the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and the principles of the UN Charter. Once again, we are compelled to categorically reject any follow up measures to the resolution, as well as the related recommendations and conclusions by the High Commissioner.

It is observed that the High Commissioner’s report makes extensive reference to “economic crimes”. Apart from the ambiguity of the term, it is a matter of concern that such reference exceeds the mandate of the OHCHR. In this context, we recall the paramount importance of adhering to UNGA resolutions 60/251, 48/141 and the IB package. The proposed 22nd Amendment to the Constitution introduces several salient changes which would strengthen democratic governance and independent oversight of key institutions, and combat corruption including through the constitutional recognition of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

Measures aimed at promoting reconciliation and human rights, if they are to be meaningful and sustainable, must be based on cooperation with the country concerned, be compatible with the aspirations of its people, and be consonant with its basic legal framework.

The outreach to overseas Sri Lankans encompassing all communities will be expanded through the establishment of an Office for Overseas Sri Lankans. As we delivered on the onerous task of review and reform of the PTA this year, to further enhance human rights, we will replace the PTA with a more comprehensive national security legislation in accordance with international best practices. The recent delisting of groups and individuals will provide further impetus for constructive dialogue. We will continue to provide the necessary support and resources to strengthen the functioning of the independent domestic mechanisms including the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), the Office for Reparations (OR), the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).

Mr. President, In upholding human rights, we have benefitted from the considerable expertise available with other countries as well as the United Nations. We will seek further advice and support on best practices as we proceed, and as deemed necessary. Sri Lanka has maintained regular and constructive engagement with the UN Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review process. We look forward to proactively engaging in the upcoming UPR fourth cycle. We have facilitated two visits by the Office of the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka this year, and provided unimpeded access.

Mr. President, It has been 13 years since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, and since then a new generation has emerged with their own aspirations. While issues of reconciliation and accountability are being comprehensively addressed through a domestic process, it is time to reflect realistically on the trajectory of this resolution which has continued on the agenda of the Council for over a decade, and undertake a realistic assessment on whether it has benefited the people of Sri Lanka. There is a need to acknowledge actual progress on the ground and support Sri Lanka. The current challenges, though formidable, have provided us with a unique opportunity to work towards institutional change for the betterment of our people. In a message of unity and reconciliation, President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his inaugural address to Parliament said “if we come together, we will be able to invigorate the nation”.

Mr. President, The people of Sri Lanka remain steadfast and resilient while upholding their democratic values as one of Asia’s oldest democracies. We are not hesitant to acknowledge our challenges and forge ahead with renewed vigour. While our immediate concern is economic recovery, advancing the human rights of our people is of equal priority. We look to the genuine support and understanding of this Council, as we proceed on this path.

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