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Wednesday September 27th, 2023

CPA “gravely concerned” over ethnic relations on Independence Day

ECONOMYNEXT – The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Sri Lanka is expressing its grave concern with the state of ethnoreligious relations and threats to democratic institutions in Sri Lanka on the eve of Sri Lanka’s 73rd Independence Day.

The CPA says there is a “climate where the space for dissent is fast shrinking due to new levels of surveillance, incitement, and the targeting of minorities.”

In a statement released today Feb 2, CPA notes the spate of arrests and detentions of writers, lawyers and media personnel including Hejaaz Hizbullah, Ramzy Razeek & Ahnaf Jazeem to name a few such cases, where due process guarantees are undermined and questions as to the real motivation for such arrests have been raised.

“CPA is also deeply concerned with the arbitrary decision to impose forced cremations for Covid-19 deaths, a cruel policy decision void of any scientific basis that directly impacts and marginalises the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.”

“Compounding these worrying developments is the rising influence of Sinhala Buddhist ethnonationalism in state policy. This is evident in the influential role played by several leading Buddhist clergy as well as systematic efforts to change the ethnic demography in the North and East of the country that could lead to long term implications for electoral politics, coexistence and reconciliation.”

CPA pointed out that Independence Day provides a valuable opportunity to understand the key failings of successive governments that ruled the country after independence.

It said in particular failings in relation to building a peaceful and stable country with shared prosperity for all its citizens are shared.

“Over the past year, not only has the government displayed no efforts to improve ethnic relations in Sri Lanka, but government policies have actively exacerbated ethnic tensions and marginalised communities. The government’s failure in this regard is driven by its mistaken belief that it represents only those who voted for it and the inability to recognise the very political conflicts that underpinned the armed conflict in Sri Lanka,” it added.

CPA further notes the targeting of those who were instrumental in investigations, prosecutions and other initiatives to address accountability and transparency over the past years. A recent development in this regard is the report of the Presidential Commission on political victimisation that raises serious concerns on the integrity of ongoing and past judicial processes. Whilst the government is moving swiftly to implement the recommendations of this Presidential Commission on political victimisation, very little has been done to implement even limited recommendations of previous commissions on past abuses and violence. It is also deeply worrying that a new Presidential Commission was appointed in January to investigate, inquire into and implement the recommendations of previous Commissions “in line with the present Government policy”. This will only add to the already long list of such Commissions with little to no prospect of genuine action.

This is the first Independence Day held amidst a pandemic and a time to look beyond the pomp and pageantry to review the disturbing ground realities. CPA notes that the above challenges are worsened by an economic crisis that has highlighted the structural inequalities and hardships faced by many Sri Lankans. These economic and social challenges require urgent attention. To date, there is no comprehensive plan to address structural issues with the official rhetoric more focused on setting up task forces, giving prominence to former and serving military officials and ad-hoc assistance schemes.

Thus, despite the celebrations this week, the situation in Sri Lanka is of serious concern. Historic mistakes are being repeated with the misguided belief that the outcome would be different on this occasion. As usual, much noise will be made revolving around the UN Human Rights Council process but the rhetoric is likely to be designed to distract and deflect. CPA urges caution with promises that are likely to be made and the need to focus on the real dangers at play in the country. The trends noted here must not be ignored. And it is time for all to robustly and peacefully challenge any threats to Sri Lanka’s fragile democracy.

Full statement can be accessed here
(Colombo, February 2, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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Sri Lanka’s sex workers face false charges: Women’s collective

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s sex workers have faced fundamental rights violations including unlawful detention and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, a representative of the Abhimani Women’s Collective said at a conference yesterday (26).

“Following their arrest, sex workers frequently experience the infringement of their fundamental rights, including the right to fair treatment, due process and protection from cruel and inhumane treatment,” said a report by the Abhimani Women’s Collective.

Soliciting on the street is currently illegal under section 7 1 (a) of the Vagrants Ordinance which criminalizes ‘any person in and about any public place soliciting any person for the commission of any act or of illicit sexual intercourse or indecency.

This provision along with section 2 of the Brothel’s Ordinance, which criminalizes the aiding and abetting of the management of a brothel, has been used to arrest sex workers in the country.

However, many sex workers claim that they have been presented before court on false charges of drug possession and have been subjected to harassment by both Police and customers.

“When inquiries are made over our arrest, the police say that we have been charged with drug possession,” Sakuni Mayadunna, a sex worker, said.

“Prostitution is not legal in Sri Lanka, so therefore, sex workers will face problems,” Chief of Police in charge of the Child and Women Abuse Prevention, Renuka Jayasundara, said.

“However, every citizen has fundamental rights in this country. We have not authorized the Police to carry out actions such as hitting detainees or not providing a female officer. If those actions happen, a complaint must be filed.”

Attorney-at-Law for the legal aid commission, Ganga Somarathna, said that the legal aid commission provides legal support for such victims whose income is below 45,000 rupees and also for women and children. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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Sri Lanka to introduce social security system: minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Labour minister has said that they are set to introduce a comprehensive national social security system, covering all workers.

“The system will address the weaknesses of the current system and provide much-needed support to workers and their families,” Manusha Nanayakkara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment said on X (formerly known as Twitter).
He did not specify the details.

Nanayakkara also spoke of the need for robust social security when he met with exporters last week to discuss labor law reforms, boosting female workforce participation and attracting FDI.

Sri Lanka plans to reform labour laws for an export-oriented economy.

The pandemic and the economic crisis highlighted the need to improve the coverage of social security.

Studies have shown that Sri Lanka’s women are kept out of formal employment by childcare, elderly care and housework, as day care and elderly homes are either too expensive or too few.

The government imposed a Social Security Contribution Levy to increase its revenue last year. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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Sri Lanka’s stocks up in trading on Wednesday morning

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares were picking up in trading on Wednesday morning.

Turnover was at 50 million. Trading in the Capital Goods Industry Group was driving turnover.

The All Share Price Index was up 0.37 percent or 41.78 points to 11,289.94, while the S&P SL20 was also up 0.68 percent or 21.66 points to 3,187.65.

Hatton National Bank, Commercial Bank and LOLC saw gains in morning trade, while Tokyo cement and Lanka Hospitals were trading down during morning trading. (Colombo/Sep27/2023)

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