Members of civil society who will be meeting United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, during her visit in Sri Lanka next week, are expected to highlight some of the issues they perceive have not received due consideration from the Sri Lankan Government.
A civil society organization, Platform for Freedom, told, they have already submitted 20 proposals to Pillay that the government has failed to implement. These issues are to be discussed when they meet her on 26 and 27 August. Convener of Platform for Freedom, Attorney-at-Law, Sudharshana Gunawardana said, “The UNHR Commissioner’s visit is significant considering that she will be in Sri Lanka from 25 – 31 August.
Civil society has been branded as hatching conspiracies against the government and we want to openly state who and what we are. There are many promises the government had made but not kept. When we look at the LLRC report, there was no action plan about accountability and the reasons for the disappearances. However, now it is being included and a committee has been formed to probe into it.
There are also land issues in the North where lands belonging to civilians are still under the High Security Zone although the government claims such lands have been returned. The issue of the 13th Amendment and government’s promise of 13 A plus which they pledged to implement, still remains in limbo,” he asserted.
Speaking further, Gunawardana said another issue is that of detainees where civilians are still not aware if their loved ones are detained or are dead, as information in this regard has not been released to them. “There are also cases of detainees who have not been tried so far and there has been no transparency on their detention. For instance, it came to light that the detainee who had died in the Vavuniya camp had in fact been living all the while,” he said.
He also said the police being politicized and acting in favour of the government will be highlighted. “A proper independent police force should be set up under the 17th Amendment whereas the government bypassed that amendment and passed the 18th Amendment to bring in emergency when it deems it necessary. This is not what the people want. We will also highlight the impeachment of the former chief justice, Shiranee Bandaranayake,” he declared.
“This meeting is not to downplay the government but to remind the government to fulfill the commitments and promises they made to society at large. Our position is to ensure that Sri Lanka develops with the participation of the general public,” he quipped.
“The Human Rights Commissioner should know the facts so that she can support the Government of Sri Lanka to forge ahead, on a positive note,” he said. During her six-day visit, Navi Pillay is scheduled to meet the President, Ministers, senior judicial officers, members of the National Human Rights Commission and the committee monitoring the National Plan of Action on the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
The conveners of civil society organizations, namely, the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, President, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Dr. Nimalka Fernando, Executive Director, Right Now, Sudharshana Gunawardana and President of Families of the Disappeared, Britto Fernando, will meet the HR Commissioner along with several other representatives of civil society organizations.