Lanka on path of development, social progress and peace
“At the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s universal periodic review (UPR)
last November, I informed the Working Group that we would continue our
practice of sharing with the UN Human Rights Council our ongoing
progress towards peace and normality. We are present here today to share
that progress. Though faced with scepticism and even hostile criticism
from some quarters, Sri Lanka has continued to engage its interlocutors
in a spirit of openness, candour and constructive dialogue.
Let me now briefly address some of the highlights of our
Three and a quarter years ago, Sri Lanka emerged from a long-drawn
out conflict to eliminate terrorism, successfully conducting a
humanitarian operation to free a captive population, with a view to
bringing about lasting stability, peace and prosperity that had eluded
our nation’s people for nearly three decades.
In the aftermath of this operation, it was established, beyond doubt
that the Sri Lankan Government was doing its utmost to continue
promoting and protecting human rights of all citizens. The
Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reintegration, and
Reconciliation program (known as 5R) demonstrates that Sri Lanka today
is well on the path to usher in an era of sustainable development,
social progress and a durable peace.
Reconstruction includes restoration of physical and social
infrastructure, strengthening of civil administration, provision of
livelihood support and housing. As a result, a 27 percent growth rate
has been recorded in the Northern Province, the former theatre of
conflict, while Sri Lanka’s overall GDP recorded around eight percent
growth in 2011.
Unparalleled progress has been made in areas such as the resettlement
of displaced persons, facilitated by demining. By the time the LTTE was
finally defeated in May 2009, over 295,000 people displaced after April
2008 were in the care of the Government.
A Presidential Task Force for Reconstruction and Resettlement was
appointed to expedite their resettlement and reconstruction in parallel
with the demining efforts in the North. While every effort was being
made to resettle persons in their original habitats, in instances where
this was not possible, they were given alternate land.
The last batch of the displaced was resettled in their villages in
Mullaitivu on September 24, 2012. Almost 1,186 persons from 361 families
were thus resettled. With this last batch the Government has resettled a
total of 242,449 displaced persons.
A further 28,398 have chosen to live with host families in various
parts of the country. A batch of about 200 families living with host
families has been resettled with their consent in their original habitat
in Mullaitivu in September 2012.
At the conclusion of resettlement, 7,264 persons had left the welfare
villages on various grounds and did not return while a further 1,380
sought admission to hospitals. The resettlement of the final batch
marked a day of historic significance as the resettlement is now
complete and there are no more displaced persons or welfare villages in
This makes the achievement reached within the short period of three
years, remarkable when compared with similar situations in other parts
of the world.
To address issues pertaining to land, the Government is in the
process of establishing a Land Commission. The Terms of Reference of the
Fourth Land Commission are being formulated. This is in accordance with
the LLRC recommendation on land return and resettlement.
With the termination of military operations and the gradual
restoration of normality, the strength of the military in the North has
been reduced considerably. Further rationalisation of this presence
would be considered, in line with national security interests.
The Government is in the process of devising measures to pay
compensation to the owners of properties within such areas or provide
them with alternate land. I must re-emphasise that the military is in no
way engaged in civil administration, which is the sole responsibility of
A significant aspect of the resettlement process is demining. The Sri
Lanka Army was responsible for demining 75 percent of the land which was
the largest single area assigned to any of the parties involved in
demining and included most of densely mined regions. As of January 2013,
about 99 percent of the areas identified for demining have been cleared
and less than 98 square kilometres of territory remains to be cleared.
With regard to the rehabilitation and subsequent reintegration of
ex-combatants, from 12,000 persons at the inception, as of January 15,
2013, 396 beneficiaries (378 male and 18 female) are undergoing
rehabilitation and 225 are under legal proceeding (under judicially
mandated custody remanded or bailed).
will consider the report prepared by three officials from
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
on advice and technical
assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting
reconciliation and accountability on March 20. The report
was prepared in line with the US sponsored resolution passed
in March last year.
The final report on Sri
Lanka's Universal Periodic Review, the outcome of the
Group's 14th session held from October 22 to November 5,
2012 will be considered and adopted on March 15.
All HRC resolutions will be
tabled for consideration on March 21 and adopted on 22, the
closing day of the 22nd regular session of the HRC.
As of January 15, 2013, 11,456 (9,203 male and 2,253 female) persons,
including 594 former LTTE child soldiers, have been rehabilitated and
reintegrated into the society. It should be noted that the Government
adhered to a policy of treating all these children as victims, not as
perpetrators and all possible efforts have been taken to look into their
welfare and secure their future.
It must be noted that Sri Lanka has now been delisted by the UN
Secretary General from Annex II of the UN Security Council Resolution
1612, on Children and Armed Conflict. The Working Group has adopted the
‘Draft Conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in
Sri Lanka’ on December 19, 2012, thereby closing the dossier on Sri
Lanka in the Security Council.
A Court of Inquiry was established by the Commander of the Sri Lanka
Army to inquire into the observations made by the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in its report as to alleged civilian
casualties during the final phase of the Humanitarian Operation and the
Channel-4 video footage irrespective of its authenticity or otherwise.
The Court of Inquiry will now proceed to investigate the second part of
their mandate - to examine the Channel 4 allegations.
In relation to the killing of five students in Trincomalee and the 17
ACF workers, the Police are conducting further investigations, guided by
a team of senior prosecutors specially mandated for the purpose of
examining documents and other forensic material that may be useful to
conclude the investigations relating to these two cases.
The GOSL’s efforts continue, through the relevant agencies, to bring
finality to the crimes involved in these two cases. In the case of the
five students, the Attorney-General has instructed the Police to
commence a non-summary inquiry before judicial authorities. Thus this
matter may be brought to a conclusion and is concrete evidence of our
commitment to accountability.
LLRC recommendations addressed
Referring to the concern expressed on the alleged lack of Government
implementation of the interim recommendations and that the National Plan
of Action (NPoA) deals with only selected recommendations of the LLRC, I
wish to inform this Council that some of the recommendations were
already being addressed, including through the National Human Rights
Action Plan. They have not been reflected in the NPoA. Further, it may
be noted that the NPoA is an evolving process.
A budget line of Rs. 763 million has been provided for 2013 to fund a
substantial number of recommendations. This was supplemented by an
additional allocation of Rs. 500 million. The allocated funds are being
made available to the ministries from end of January 2013.
The bulk of the activities will be implemented there from, the
progress of which will be measured. The latest update on implementation
of the NPoA was shared with diplomatic representation in Colombo last
week and we will be issuing web-published reports regularly, as and when
progress review meetings are held.
As to the proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), the
Government is of the view that it is the most appropriate forum on this
matter since constitutional reforms need a two-third majority and a
broad national consensus.
While the Government has nominated its representatives to the PSC,
the nominations of the Opposition parties are awaited. Provincial
elections are envisaged to be held within the course of this year for
the Northern Province in keeping with the Provincial Councils Elections
Act and relevant judicial pronouncements interpreting the provisions of
Despite these gains within Sri Lanka, remnants of the terrorist
organisation remain very active in some countries in the Western
hemisphere, where their proxies are continuing to lobby host
governments, opinion makers in the media and elsewhere, to undermine the
peace and reconciliation process that is ongoing.
It is regrettable that some part of the international community has
fallen prey to these efforts based on disinformation, outright falsehood
and pressure tactics.
This has at times, resulted in biased and unequal treatment of Sri
Lanka. An example of this selective and inequitable process seeking
punitive action on Sri Lanka, are some efforts in this Council. We
believe that Resolution No 19/2 on Sri Lanka, which was introduced and
adopted at the 19th session of the Council on March 22, 2012, was
entirely unnecessary, unwarranted and unfair. Moreover, as is already
announced in this Council and elsewhere, a follow up draft resolution on
Sri Lanka, already circulated, is to be introduced at this session - a
year after the earlier Resolution.
We strongly object to any unfair, biased, unprincipled and unjust
approach that may be adopted by this Council with regard to the
protection and promotion of human rights in Sri Lanka. We are,
therefore, firmly of the view that this Council should not embark upon
or encourage either debate on or any country-specific resolution by
virtue of a selective process which would run counter to the founding
principles of the Council. Doing so will clearly reflect an application
of double standards.
It is our position that it is the Government’s primary responsibility
to resolve domestic issues. Unwarranted internationalisation of such
issues would only undermine the local reconciliation process in Sri
Lanka; a process that is still ongoing, impacting adversely on the
people in the former conflict- affected areas in their efforts to reap
the dividends of peace.
Targeting Sri Lanka unfairly in this manner would only serve to
further polarise the affected parties, particularly considering that
there is no imminent threat to the human security of its citizens or to
international peace and security.
The bona-fides and the objectivity of the proponents of action on Sri
Lanka may, therefore, be questioned. Moreover, the subjective
selectivity in focusing on Sri Lanka in this manner, a country which has
always cooperated and engaged with the United Nations system and the
international community, is unacceptable.
Sri Lanka is of the view that country specific action in the Human
Rights Council, such as the Resolution 19/2, is a selective and
arbitrary process which is not governed by objective norms or criteria
of any kind.
It is our firm belief that it is vitally important for the structures
and procedures of multilateral organisations to be uniform and
consistent and devoid of discrimination.
In this context, the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
titled Advice and technical assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka on
promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/22/38)
has been compiled pursuant to Resolution 19/2.
This Report will be considered later during the session. Comments and
observations of the GoSL in general on the High Commissioner’s Report
were forwarded and our comments in full are placed on the website.
In relation to further engagement, it may be recalled that an
invitation was extended to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in
April 2011 for a country visit.
Thereafter, according to her Report, she indicated in May 2012 that
the visit to Sri Lanka will be undertaken after an advance visit by a
team of officials from the OHCHR to explore possible areas for
cooperation, and I quote: to help prepare the ground for an eventual
country visit by the High Commissioner herself; unquote.
The High Commissioner expressed her satisfaction with the cooperation
extended by the GoSL to the OHCHR delegation whose visit in September
2012 was facilitated in close consultation with the UN Country Office.
In granting the team unfettered access, the Government acted in the good
faith expectation that it would in fact prepare the ground for her
Subsequently, the High Commissioner addressed a letter in November
2012 proposing possible areas of technical cooperation between the GoSL
and the OHCHR.
She also chose to introduce a new conditionality: stating that
meaningful progress needs to be achieved in areas outlined for technical
cooperation, before visiting Sri Lanka at some time in the first half of
2013. Thus, it now appears the team’s agenda was purely to collect
material for her present Report and not to “help prepare the ground” for
The GoSL’s reply in December 2012 was to emphasise that, since the
implementation of the NPoA and the NHRAP, are continuously evolving
national processes which were being monitored, to arrive at a considered
opinion on the progress of human rights related issues, that there is no
substitute for experiencing, at first hand, the ground situation.
We reiterate that, therefore, a visit by the High Commissioner would
be an ideal opportunity to view the developments objectively and
holistically and is imperative for the discharge of her mandate.
We also note that an inordinate amount of attention is paid to Sri
Lanka in the High Commissioner's statements within and outside UN fora.
Whether it be in the UN Security Council or successive sessions of the
Human Rights Council, democracy conferences or merely comments from her
on incidents or events in Sri Lanka ranging from economic migrants to
the judiciary, the High Commissioner has had, from around the end of the
conflict in May 2009, a regular negative observation to make.
Her frequent comments to the media, some in close proximity to
sessions of the Council, could well have the effect of influencing
delegations, especially when there are Resolutions contemplated.
This runs counter to the detachment, objectivity and impartiality
expected from the holder of such an exalted office. Sweeping
generalisations using such terms as "massive violations" of human rights
and the constant targeting of Sri Lanka - based on unsubstantiated
evidence founded on conjecture and supposition only supports the
impression of a lack of objectivity.
The Report to the Council - A/HRC/22/38 - is also very much in
similar vein. Very little attention is paid to the significant progress
achieved in the post-conflict phase; matters that we placed before the
Working Group in considerable detail during the UPR, in particular.
However, in contrast, great emphasis is placed on the perceived
negatives as they pertain to Sri Lanka's process of reconciliation. This
disproportionate emphasis on the negative to the virtual exclusion of
the positive, gives the report a skewed and imbalanced character.
It would be incorrect to state that we do not engage with Special
Procedure mechanisms. During the UPR, we placed on record our continuing
engagement with these expert mandate holders; an engagement we value. We
agree that the special procedures, while being independent, play an
important complementary role to the work of the OHCHR.
Sri Lanka is however concerned to note several instances where
special procedures mandate holders have not adhered to the Code of
Conduct, and have on occasion, exceeded their respective mandates.
We therefore emphasise the importance of the need for the mandate
holders to adhere to the Code of Conduct as stipulated, in executing
their respective mandates,
A Cabinet Memorandum titled 'Assistance and Protection of Victims of
Crime and Witnesses Bill' was submitted by the Ministry of Justice and
was taken up for policy approval at the Meeting of the Cabinet of
Ministers on February 7, 2013.
The Government will engage with stakeholders in connection with the
implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights (NHRAP - 2012 to 2016). The Annual Review of
the NHRAP is under way with further information being collected from
implementing agencies. The progress achieved will be published on the
dedicated NHRAP website.
Due process followed
On the issue of the removal process of the former Chief Justice, due
process has been followed in accordance with the Constitution of Sri
Lanka. Article 107 (3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka clearly empowers
the Legislature to initiate the process to remove the Chief Justice.
Following a submission of a motion signed by 117 Members of
Parliament, a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) was constituted by the
Speaker, consisting of Government and Opposition MPs, to examine issues
connected with the allegations made against the former Chief Justice.
The report of the PSC was submitted to Parliament and the matter was
deliberated upon and debated for two days, one month after submission of
Once the resolution to remove the former Chief Justice was passed in
Parliament with a two-thirds majority of 106 votes (155 members voting
in favour and 49 against), the required address was made to the
President. It was only thereafter that the former Chief Justice was
removed from that office. A new Chief Justice has been appointed in
accordance with the Constitution.
In the field of human rights, we have engaged with the Council since
its inception in 2006, continuing the practice of active participation
in the deliberations of its predecessor - the Commission.
We who come before this Council to engage, expect that the principles
of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity,
constructive international dialogue and cooperation, with a view to
enhancing the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to
development; upon which this body was founded, will be upheld.
Reiterating what I said earlier: In the post-armed-conflict era, we
have continued our engagement with human rights bodies - acknowledging
the interest they have in the Sri Lankan situation. We have been candid
in our discourse, stating the gains we have made, as well as the
challenges we face. We have put in place structures for discussion and
implementation of solutions.
However, we are being told that our chosen path is, perhaps, the
wrong one. It is supposedly deficient. We must be lectured to: taught
even. We must be instructed by people who know little of our history,
culture and socio-political background.
From the Ashokan Rock Edicts of the third Century before the
Christian era, societies in our region have been guided by values
underscoring good governance and human rights. We do not need to be
told. We do not need to be taught.
These are not culturally relativist arguments, but are values deeply
embedded in our social and cultural makeup. In the modern post-colonial
phase, we have as independent and sovereign democracies, undertaken
international obligations with regard to human rights. We have
democratic constitutional processes in place. We are fully aware of what
we need to do domestically and internationally.
We participate in discussions with treaty bodies. We participate in
the UPR process. We come before this august Body in a spirit of openness
and candour and discuss issues.
Sri Lanka has voluntarily provided information on the various facets
of post-conflict developments to the international community, through
the Universal Periodic Review and UN Human Rights Council sessions. Sri
Lanka will continue to proactively and voluntarily engage with UN
mechanisms including Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies, as it did in the
Even in March 2012, when a resolution was tabled in the Council
which, in effect, asked us to do what we were already in the process of
doing, we continued to engage in the Council.
As has been our custom since the inception, we regularly briefed the
Council and had discussions with regional and cross-regional groupings
represented in this body on the Sri Lankan situation as it evolved. We
hosted side events at which our progress was presented and discussed. We
had been open and transparent about our successes and also about the
challenges we faced.
That resolution was, in our opinion, ill-timed, unwarranted and
violative of the founding principles of the Human Rights Council. We
categorically rejected the resolution on a matter of principle.
However, we pointed out the negative outcomes of the adoption of the
resolution, but notwithstanding our rejection, reiterated our commitment
to achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity for our people.
Effective reconciliation, based on home-grown solutions, is a
cornerstone of that policy.
We do not wish to adopt a policy of 'destructive disengagement', but
continue with our policy of constructive and open dialogue.
We expect our actions to be assessed in their totality, in a spirit
of objectivity and impartiality in this Council. Our interlocutors in
this body must also take into account the considerable progress made.
During the UPR process for instance, a clear majority of delegations did
acknowledge and appreciate the advances we have made since 2009. This
only encouraged us to do better and is what we consider constructive.
However, the focus of some other intrusive initiatives that only
emphasize a few areas which need further action, are less than
constructive and we consider these unhelpful.
These subjective measures based on unsubstantiated assertions aimed
at 'naming and shaming', are indicative of a different agenda unrelated
to the objectives of this Council. We need time and space, to complete
our work and we are confident that we will be able to deliver for our
people and our country.