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Sunday August 14th, 2022

Amnesty International declares detained Sri Lanka lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah prisoner of conscience

Hejaaz Hizbullah/Facebook.com

ECONOMYNEXT – Amnesty International has declared detained Sri Lankan lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah a prisoner of conscience.

“He is a prisoner of conscience and must me immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped,” the UK-based international human rights organisation said Wednesday (14).

Hizbullah was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on April 14, 2020, and placed under a detention order by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the 2019 Easter Sunday bombers and for engaging in activities deemed “detrimental to religious harmony among communities.”

Amnesty International said on its website Wednesday that Hizbullah was detained on “trumped-up charges” under the “draconian” PTA.

“He has been targeted for his work, and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim minorities in the country,” the organisation said.

Hizbullah, the PTA and detained poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem have been the focus of concerns raised recently over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the recent intention to introduce a rehabilitation process lacking adequate judicial oversight. Human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, and poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem, remain detained without trial and further arrests under this Act have continued, including among minority communities and the political opposition,” the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) core group on Sri Lanka said on June 24.

Related: UNHRC core group concerned over Sri Lanka’s lack of progress on human rights

Another instance was the recent resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by the European parliament on June 10. Calling for the repeal of the PTA, the European parliament invited the European Union (EU) Commission to consider temporarily withdrawing Sri Lanka’s access to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) concession.

Related: EU parliament adopts resolution on Sri Lanka; wants PTA repealed, GSP+ withdrawn

(Colombo/July15/2021)

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices continue to climb

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s average coconut prices grew 3.7 percent to 64,618.23 rupees for 1,000 nuts at the last auction held on Friday August 12, official data showed.

The highest price was 62,900 rupees for 1,000 nuts, while the lowest was 57,000 rupees at the auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority.

Buyers offered 1,019,395 nuts at the auction and sold 576,906.

Exports of coconut-based products have risen by 12 percent in January to June to 434.48 million dollars from a year earlier, data show. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Chinese tracking vessel cleared to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given the green light to Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5 to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22.

Sri Lankan authorities had first given clearance to the Chinese vessel on July 12, to make a port call at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17​ for replenishment purposes.

However, following a diplomatic standoff after concern about the tracking vessel’s anticipated arrival were reportedly raised by the US and India, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested China to defer the port call until “further consultations”.

A report by Sri Lanka’s privately owned Times Online news website said Saturday August 13 morning that the foreign ministry has authorised the docking of the ship.

Related:

Sri Lanka permits entry to controversial Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5

The ministry’s official statement released Saturday evening confirmed that the ship has been given clearance to dock at the Hambantota Port for the new dates August 16 to 22.

“The Ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people,” the ministry said, without naming the stakeholder countries. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Sri Lanka looking to provide relief to bona fide protestors: justice minister

Pix by T.N.Nawas

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has entrusted the process of identifying individuals who engaged in violence during the widespread anti-government protest to a “different group”, as there is a “practical issue” with separating those individuals, the island nation’s Justice Minister said.

“There is a problem. This is not a legal issue; it is a practical issue because the Aragalaya consists of several groups. In fact even the police has difficulty identifying who were genuinely involved in the peaceful struggle and the others who came from outside and caused some violence,” said Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksha, speaking to EconomyNext on Wednesday August 10.

“We needed assistance in identifying those who [protested] bona fide. We want to give them relief; [not] take any legal action against them.”

Sri Lanka saw a massive uprising against the government’s inability to protect people from a debilitating economic crisis caused by wrong economic policies. The public took to the streets to demand the resignation of then President Gotabaya Rajapaksha and a stop to Sri Lanka’s systemic corruption.

Most protestors focused on sustained protests in several areas of the island, particularly the GotaGoGama agitation site in front of the President’s Secretariat.

However there were incidents of violence that saw houses of ruling party MPs looted and burned down and public property damaged. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence was also burned down in July, while he was Prime Minister and protestors were occupying the Official Residence of President Rajapaksha, who had by then fled the country.

Wickremesinghe declared a State of Emergency shortly after, granting the forces power to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in violent behaviour.

However, many of the arrested protestors allege that they were not part of the “violent minority”.

“This was such a peaceful protest. When the Bastille was stormed there was not a brick left in the place,” said one protestor.

The protestors subsequently handed over the occupied government buildings to the authorities, and have now wrapped up the occupation segment of the protests following to a court order.

Activists both local and international are asking the government to repeal the State of Emergency, but Wickremesinghe has not indicated that he plans to do so anytime soon.

The Supreme Court meanwhile has granted leave to proceed to a Fundamental Rights Petition filed by former Human Rights Commissioner of Sri Lanka Ambika Satkunanathan.

Satkunanathan tweeted Friday August 12: “The Supreme Court granted leave to proceed in Articles 12(1) and 14(1) in the fundamental rights petition I filed challenging the declaration of the state of emergency and the emergency regulations.”

Though Satkunanathan had filed the petition for other allegedly violated Articles, the Supreme Court will only be proceeding with Articles 12(1) and 14(1) which deal with equality under the law and freedoms of speech, expression and assembly.

Several prominent protestors have been jailed under the Emergency laws, and on Wednesday August 10 the Immigration Department cancelled the visa of a Scotswoman who had documented the protests.

Minister Rajapaksha said that he had met with protestors, and discussed the situation regarding arrests.

“We are in the process [of identifying protestors]. We entrusted that to a different group on the advice of the president and we will do that in the following days,” he said.

“The police will have to take action only against those who engage in vandalism,” he said. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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