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Thursday December 1st, 2022

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

FILE PHOTO – United Nations Human Rights Council/UNHRC.org

ECONOMYNEXT – The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) core group on Sri Lanka has expressed concern over what it called the lack of progress with regard to human rights, the rights of religious minorities and other issues highlighted in resolution 46/1.

The core group, comprising, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro and the UK, has also called for the safety of former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Shani Abeysekera’s safety to be ensured. Abeysekara was released on bail on June 16, after the Court of Appeal slammed police for using “concocted stories” to incarcerate their own top detective.

Related: Appeal court slams Sri Lanka police for framing top detective

In a statement issued on June 22, the group of countries recalled that UNHRC resolution 46/1 had called on the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to address the harmful legacies of war and to protect human rights including minority religious rights.

“We regret the lack of progress on these issues, with a number of further concerning developments,” the core group said.

On March 23 this year, the UNHRC adopted a resolution on alleged human rights violations by Sri Lanka in the final phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in 2009. Twenty-two out of the 47 UNHRC members voted for the resolution, while only 11 including Russia and China voted against, at the 46th UNHRC session in Geneva. Fourteen member states including India and Japan abstained.

“The Sri Lankan Government has attempted to dismiss a number of emblematic cases and to initiate criminal proceedings against individuals pursuing some of these cases. This counters the council’s call for prompt, thorough and impartial investigations,” the statement said.

“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 core group further said.

The PTA, Abeysekara, Hizbullah and Jazeem were also the focus of a separate resolution adopted on Sri Lanka 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

The UNHRC core group said it encourages Sri Lanka to cooperate with the council and the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in relation to resolution 46/1.

“We remain concerned about the restrictions on memorialization . We join the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in requesting independent and impartial investigations into recent deaths in police custody,” the core group went on to say.

“We are concerned over appointments to the Office on Missing Persons and reiterate the importance of ensuring independent and credible institutions to achieve justice,” it added.

On June 21, speaking at the UNHRC’s 47th session that, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed her concern by further government measures allegedly targeing Muslims in Sri Lanka and an alleged harassment of Tamils including in the context of commemoration events.

“I am concerned that recent appointments to the Office of Missing Persons and Office for Reparations, and steps to discourage investigations into past crimes, are further undermining victims’ trust,” she said – a remark echoed by the core group the following day.

Bachelet said recent counter-terrorism regulations – which include the listing and/or prohibition of more than 300 Tamil and Muslim groups and individuals for alleged support of terrorism – will also not advance reconciliation. Regulations now permit the arbitrary administrative detention of people for up to two years, without trial for the purposes of de-radicalisation, she said.

“I also note a continuing series of deaths in police custody and in the context of police encounters with alleged criminal gangs. A thorough, prompt and independent investigation should be conducted. We will continue to engage with the Government, and I will update the Council further at the September session, including on progress in implementing the new accountability mandate,” she added. (Colombo/June24/2021)

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Sri Lanka’s inflation eases to 61-pct in November

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s 12-month inflation in the capital Colombo fell to 61 percent in November 2022 from 66 percent in October as price stabilized after interest rates were allowed to go up and the exchange rate was pegged around 360 to the US dollar.

The widely watched Colombo Consumer Price Index fell absolutely 0.5 percent to 242.6 points in November after falling .04 percent in the October.

Food prices fell 1.5 percent after falling 2.0 percent a month earlier. The sub-index containing gas fell 0.5r percent and transport fell 3.6 percent.

But some services continued to go up, as relative prices adjusted to the steep fall in the currency after two years of money printing to suppress rates.

Health costs went up 5.7 percent. Furnishing and routine maintenance rose 0.4 percent.

Sri Lanka’s central bank hiked policy rates to 15.5 percent in April and pulled back on longer term money printing, allowing market rates to go to around 30 percent.

The exchange rater is pegged around 363 rupees with a surrender rule where banks are forced to sell dollars to the central bank for new liquidity.

The ongoing currency and inflation crisis is the worst in the history of the central bank.

Sri Lanka’s Latin America style central bank was set up in 1950 giving powers to the country’s macro-economists the power to mis-target rates, create currency crisis and high inflation. (Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka shares close at one-month high

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares closed at one month high on Wednesday gaining for the fourth session on news that government is in talks with ADB and World Bank to get a 1.9 billion dollar loan facility, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) closed 3.3 percent or 276.02 points higher at 8,651.23, highest index gain in since November 01.

“Investor participation improved on the back of confirmed talks with multilateral and bilateral lenders including world banks and ADB for USD 1.9Bn after IMF board level agreement is reached,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

Former Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said in a forum on Monday that the government is in discussion with ADB and World Bank to get loans of 1.9 billion US dollars after a reform program with International Monetary Fund is approved

A policy loan now being discussed with the World Bank may bring around 700 million US dollars, Coomaraswamy told a business forum organized by CT CLSA Securities, a Colombo-based brokerage.

The Asian Development Bank may also give around 1.2 billion US dollars most of which will be budget support, he said.

The market witnessed a turnover of 3.3 billion rupees, higher than this year’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees. This is the highest turnover generated since October 04.

In the last few sessions market gained after Central bank governor said market rates should eventually ease despite the fears of a domestic debt restructuring as inflation falls, increased liquidity in dollar markets, and the inter-bank liquidity improves.

In the past sessions, the index continued to fall on the speculation of a local debt restructuring although no proper decision has been taken so far.

The market saw a foreign inflow of 39 million rupees. The total net foreign inflow stood at 18.33 billion rupees so far for this year.

The more liquid index S&P SL20 closed 3.4 percent or 89.78 points higher at 2,730.08.

The ASPI has fallen 0.5 percent in November after losing 13.4 percent in October.

It has lost 29.2 percent year-to-date after being one of the world’s best stock markets with an 80 percent return last year when large volumes of money were printed.

Sampath Bank pushed the index up to close at 10.9 percent to 36.6 rupees.

Other top gainers were Browns Investment gained 15.4 percent to close at 7.5 rupees and LOLC gained 9.4 percent to close at 411.3 rupees.(Colombo/Nov30/2022)

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Sri Lanka bonds, T-bills ease, overall market dull

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s treasury bonds eased and T-bill yields fell on the speculation on talks with ADB and World Bank to obtain financial aid but the over all market was dull on Wednesday while the Central Bank’s guidance peg remained unchanged, dealers said.

“During the day, secondary market witnessed some buying interest on the back of speculations on yields easing while talks about financial aid from ADB and World Bank further strengthened interest,” First Capital Market Research said in it’s daily note.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 32.00/60 percent on Wednesday, down from 32.30/90 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 07.07.2025 bond closed at 30.80/31.30 percent up from 30.30/31.25 percent on Tuesday.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 31.00/30 percent down from 31.10/31.30 percent on Tuesday.

The three-month T-bills closed at 32.30/33.25 percent, down from 32.60/33.00 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions remained unchanged at 363.19 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.79 and 372.10 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.79 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Nov 30/2022)

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