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Tuesday April 16th, 2024

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 State FinMin meets BCIU in US; discusses post-crisis investment prospects 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe met Business Council for International Understanding( BCIU) in Washington on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings late on Monday and discussed investment prospects in the island nation which is gradually recovering from an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Our discussion centered on the potential that Sri Lanka offers for international investors. Explored various sectors, including education, tourism, renewable energy, agriculture and technology, where strategic investments can drive sustainable economic growth and development,” Semasinghe said in his X (Twitter) platform. 
“We reviewed the current macro-economic landscape of Sri Lanka, including recent reforms that have transformed to results. Glad to concluded the forum by marking constructive dialogue and a shared commitment to support the economic development of Sri Lanka.” 
“We thank participants, stakeholders holders and global partners for the significant interest shown in unlocking the full potential of the Sri Lankan economy and fostering greater international understanding and cooperation.” (Colombo/April 16/2024) 
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India allows Sri Lanka to import 10,000MT of onions

ECONOMYNEXT – India has relaxed an export ban allowing 10,000 metric tonnes of onions to be shipped to Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“The exemption for Sri Lanka reiterated India’s Neighbourhood First policy, adding to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities here,” the statement said.

Onion prices went up in Sri Lanka after India and Pakistan banned exports.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade has issued a notice allowing National Co-operative Exports Limited to ship 10,000 MT of onions.

The UAE has also been allowed to import 10,000MT of onions on top of 24,400MT already permitted.

A large Indian and South Asian expat community lives in the UAE. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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Iran President to visit Sr Lanka amid rising tension, inaugurate Uma Oya project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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