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Sri Lanka at odds with the Human Rights Commission as sessions begin

ECONOMYNEXT – The 43rd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) begins on Monday (24 February) in Geneva where Sri Lanka will withdraw its co-sponsorship of the Resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.’

It is a sharp U-turn from the policies followed by the previous government which appeared to join hands with the international Human Rights community in dealing with the alleged violations committed by the government and its armed forces in the final stages of the separatist conflict.

On Friday the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Ravinatha Aryasinha briefed the President of the HRC Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger on the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw its co-sponsorship, a statement from the Ministry said.

Aryasinha informed the President that the Cabinet of Ministers had on Wednesday approved this decision following a cabinet paper submitted by Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, the statement went on to say.

The decision had also been presented to the Parliament on Thursday. 

He also informed her that Minister Gunawardena will lead the Sri Lanka delegation to the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council, and will formally inform the Council Members on the Government’s decision when he addresses the High Level Segment of the Council, on Wednesday 26 February. 

Minister Gunawardena who will also respond to the Oral Update on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner on 27 February, is scheduled to meet the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, during his stay in Geneva, the Ministry said.

The stance will place Sri Lanka at odds with the Commission which has urged full implementation of the Resolution.

The government of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa was perilously close to international sanctions when he was defeated in the Presidential polls of 2015.

The administration of President Maithripala Sirisena did a U-turn at that stage making the unprecedented move of co-sponsoring a Resolution on Sri Lanka.

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What happens in Geneva is important to all political parties in Sri Lanka going forward into the Parliamentary General elections due in two months or so.

Nationalism is going to play an important part in the campaign and Prime Minister Rajapaksa has already framed the argument as a struggle between the patriots and the “born traitors.”

The Opposition has also fired back with former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera saying that the co-sponsorship “saved our soldiers.” (Colombo February 22, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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