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Monday April 15th, 2024

Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission probing rehabilitation centre mass escape

ECONOMYNEXT – The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) is investigating the escape of nearly 700 detainees at the Kandakauwa Drug Rehabilitation Center in Polonnaruwa, on Wednesday (29) June, an official said.

HRCSL Acting Director Sulari Liyanagama told EconomyNext on Friday July 01 that the investigation was launched on the day of the incident, and that the HRCSL officers and Regional Coordinator from Anuradhapura had visited the facility on Thursday June 31.

“We will give our recommendations based on our independent investigation,” said Liyanage.

The Police Media Division said around 600 escapees were arrested by Thursday (30) June. The rehabilitation centre  houses 998 detainees at the time, police sources confirmed.

The escape took place during an investigation by the Welikanda police regarding the suspicious death of one of the inmates.

The Centre is guarded by the Sri Lankan Army, a media release from the police stated.

Footage aired on  the privately owned NewsFirst network showed escapees begging not to be sent back to the Centre.

“We are suffering, send us to prison. If the family hadn’t called, they would have killed us,” an alleged victim featured in the footage said.

“We were sent here to be reformed. But they are not treating us. They are killing us,” another man was heard saying.

The video also showed a man claiming to have been assaulted at the centre and was then denied medical attention.

“They told me to go home and get medicine.”

The escape and the video footage regarding it has renewed conversation surrounding Sri Lanka’s handling of people with substance abuse issues, a marginalised community who activists say do not receive the support necessary to overcome their addictions and reintegrate into society.

Former Human Rights Commissioner Ambika Satkunanathan said in a tweet on Wednesday June 29 that the video validates her findings from a year ago.

“They beg to even be sent to prison but not back to Kandakadu. Imagine the conditions if they’re begging to be sent to prison,” she said.

The centre faces criticism from activists for its military involvement, alleged mistreatment of detainees and compulsory rehab concept, which is regarded as a Human Rights violation by organisations like the United Nations.

The UN called for closure of compulsory rehab centres as far back as 2012. Activists say that the “military style” treatment of the patients in such centres are not backed by medical evidence.

Rehabilitation Centres like Kandakadu fall under the purview of the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation in Sri Lanka. The top officials of the Bureau are all Army officials, and activists are calling for systemic demilitarisation of treatment institutions.

The International Standards for Drug Abuse Disorders published by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states that treatment for substance abuse disorders must be based on respect for human rights and dignity, avoiding “punitive, humiliating or degrading interventions.”

Satkunanathan tweeted that laws allowing compulsory rehabilitation should be repealed and any treatment should be voluntary, health, human rights and community based and also include post-treatment support.

“Another [example] of corrosive impact of militarisation that reiterates urgent need for demilitarisation,” she said.

Police Media said on Thursday that the postmortem of the deceased detainee had not yet been conducted.

According to a media release, Welikanda police are collaborating with the Sri Lanka Army to arrest the remaining escapees. (Colombo/Jun30/2022)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes weaker at 299.00/10 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 299.00/10 to the US dollar in the spot forex market on Monday, from 298.50/55 on Wednesday, dealers said, while bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed stable at 11.30/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed stable at 11.90/12.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2028 closed at 12.10/20 percent up from 12.10/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed stable at 12.20/40 percent. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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