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Wednesday February 28th, 2024

UNHRC resolutions: Dinesh announces withdrawal from cosponsorship in Geneva

FILE PHOTO: Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunewardena / MFA handout photo

ECONOMYNEXT – Promising “homegrown solutions to contemporary challenges”, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) formerly declared its decision today to withdraw from cosponsorship of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 40/1 and the preceding resolutions 30/1 and 34/1.

Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who addressed the high-level segment of the 43rd UNHRC session in Geneva a short while ago said that Sri Lanka will work toward the closure of the resolution in conjunction with all members of the UN.

“I wish to place on record Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from the cosponsorship of the resolution 40/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, which also incorporates and builds on preceding resolutions 30/1 of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2017,” he said.

Gunawardena declared the government’s commitment to “sustainable peace and reconciliation” through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process. This will include a commission of inquiry (CoI) headed by a justice of the supreme court.

The foreign relations minister said the end of the war in 2009 advanced, secured and protected one of the fundamental human rights: the right to life, for all Sri Lankans – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others.

“Since 2009, not a bullet has been fired in the name of separatism in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Gunawardena said a “group of the UNHRC” had failed to appreciate GoSL endeavours in defeating terrorism and bringing about stability, humanitarian relief and lasting peace through a “carefully balanced reconciliation process”.

He accused the previous government of jettisoning the homegrown reconciliation process of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government that he claimed was bearing fruit. The Yahapalana administration, he said, “violated all democratic principles of governance” when it “unconstitutionally” agreed to cosponsor the 30/1 resolution binding the country to deliver the dictates of an international body.

“More seriously, it is seen that the dictated changes in the country pursuant to 30/1 undermined the national interest, compromised national security including weakening national intelligence operations and related safeguards which are deemed to have contributed to the lapses that resulted in the Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019,” said Gunawardena.

Resolution 30/1, he went on to say, had sought to cast on Sri Lanka obligations that could not be carried out within the country’s constitutional framework and had infringed on the sovereignty of the people. This, he said, was another factor that had prompted the present government to reconsider the cosponsorship.

Part of the delegation supporting Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunewardena during the sessions. From Left to Right Additional Secretary to the President Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage, State Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Ravinatha Aryasinha and seated behind Samarasinghe the Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka in Geneva Dayani Mendis

Pointing to what he called the inherent illegality of the exercise, Gunawardena said the provisions in the resolution had forced the country to “carry out this experiment” that was impractical, unconstitutional and undeliverable.

The foreign relations minister also lamented the impact the resolutions had allegedly had on long nurtured regional relationships as well as relations with non-aligned nations, and on South Asian solidarity.

With President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resounding victory in November last year, Gunawardena further said, the people of Sri Lanka have given a signal for their wish for a different path forward.

“Sri Lanka remains committed to sustainable peace and reconciliation,” he said, adding that no one is more committed to this endeavour than the GoSL.

He declared the government’s commitment to a sustainable peace through a domestically designed process in line with the current administration’s stated policy framework and institutional reform consistent with Sri Lanka’s commitments.

Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with UN agencies and will seek their assistance where necessary including the regular human rights mandates, bodies and mechanisms in keeping with domestic priorities and policies, he stressed. (Colombo/Feb26/2020)

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Sri Lanka confident of “smoother” IMF second review: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s second review for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan would be smoother than the first as the government has implemented many reforms required for the economic recovery, State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe said.

An IMF mission will visit Sri Lanka on March 7 and will engage in the review of second tranche of the $3 billion IMF loan for two weeks, he said.

“The second review will commence on the 7th of March, and we are very confident that will be a smoother review than the first review,” Semasinghe told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Wednesday (28).

He said the the first review was difficult because of hard policy decisions taken by the government in the initial stages.

The global lender completed the first review of the 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) on December 12 before disbursing $337 million to support the island nation’s economic policies and reforms.

The IMF after the first review said Sri Lanka’s performance under the program was satisfactory while “all but one performance criteria and all but one indicative targets were met at end-June”.

Sri Lanka implemented most structural benchmarks due by end-October 2023, though some with delay. (Colombo/Feb 28/2024)

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Sri Lanka’s religious leaders need to cultivate harmony: Prez

ECONOMYNEXT – The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said.

“While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes,” Wickremesinghe was quoted by his media division as saying at the ‘Religions to Reconcile’ national inter-religious symposium, organized by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, held today (28) at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall (BMICH).

“Our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict.

“With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence,” Wickremesinghe said, adding that steps are being taken to resolve land disputes, address the issue of missing persons, release certain individuals, and initiate a delimitation of powers.

The President’s speech:

Having acknowledged the intrinsic connection between religion and reconciliation, our nation has endured the bitter consequences of racism and religious extremism, culminating in a devastating conflict. Following the cessation of hostilities, our main objective has been to foster coexistence among all communities.

The responsibility of cultivating harmony rests significantly on the shoulders of religious leaders. It is imperative that we remain mindful of our intentions. While politicians often pursue power, religious leaders strive to maintain their positions, frequently resorting to the perilous avenues of racism and bigotry. This unfortunate trend has plagued our country since the 1930s, yielding disastrous outcomes that require no further explanation.

Take Singapore, for example, where the absence of racism and bigotry has contributed to its rapid development despite its diverse linguistic landscape. With the military conflict resolved, Sri Lanka’s political challenges are now receiving attention, necessitating a renewed focus on coexistence, a topic also being deliberated in Parliament.

Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, served as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Religious Affairs and Co-Existence when he was serving as the Speaker. This committee was established in response to conflicts involving Muslims in March 2018, as well as incidents in Galle in 2017 and Beruwela in 2014. Various proposals were put forth by these committees to address these issues, and consensus was reached on their implementation. It’s crucial that we uphold this agreement and continue working collaboratively to resolve these challenges.

Towards the close of last year, numerous Buddhist monks and Tamil leaders presented the Himalaya Declaration, a document we are currently adhering to. As we move forward, the final phase entails fostering synergy, particularly through discussions with Tamil political parties and MPs, aimed at addressing lingering issues. Steps have been initiated to resolve the matter of missing persons, with further updates forthcoming in the near future. Additionally, arrangements have been made for the release of certain individuals held in connection with these matters.

The primary concern at present revolves around the fate of the missing persons. To address this issue, we’ve presented and successfully passed a bill in Parliament to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Numerous reports from Disappearance Commissions have been reviewed, and one report authored by Judge A.H.M.D.Nawaz was selected.

Following the approval of the draft for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged his support for these initiatives. Similar assistance is being extended by other nations as well, enabling us to advance these critical endeavours.

Addressing the on-going political challenges, our attention is directed towards resolving land disputes, particularly in regions like Jaffna where tensions persist between villagers and the Wildlife Department. Similar conflicts also arise in areas such as Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, and Mahianganaya. We aim to address these issues through inclusive dialogue, involving all concerned parties. Furthermore, I have instructed to proceed in accordance with the 1985 map. Additionally, I anticipate meeting with Tamil MPs in Parliament next week to discuss these matters further. Following consultations with the security forces, agreements have been reached to release more land, providing a pathway forward in our efforts.

Another pressing issue is the delimitation of powers. A key demand is the empowerment of the 3rd list of devolution, with an emphasis on not interfering with police powers at present, leaving them open for future consideration. The Land Act is slated for presentation, and there are no objections to the delegation of other subjects in the 3rd list. However, securing the necessary consensus with other parties in Parliament to achieve a two-thirds majority remains crucial.

Simultaneously, discussions are underway regarding the implementation of the Provincial Board of Education. Proposals have been made to establish provincial professional training institutes in each province. Additionally, plans are underway to appoint provincial-level committees to lead the modernization of agriculture, establish a tourism board, and undertake related initiatives.

Additionally, the work of five provincial ministries is expected to be distributed among twenty ministries. This restructuring cannot simply resemble a general ministry, so officials are currently deliberating on adjusting their structure accordingly.

I eagerly anticipate addressing the final aspect of this matter, the decentralized budget, once all parties have convened. There’s also a call for a secondary board, akin to a Senate, which the government does not oppose. However, such an initiative would need to coincide with the framing of a constitution, potentially requiring a referendum. I also intend to engage in discussions on this topic with other party leaders.

These measures aim to lay the groundwork for a new era in our country. Religious leaders have been entrusted with significant responsibilities in this endeavour. I am confident that further discussions on these matters will yield fruitful outcomes.

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.00/15 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.00/15 to the US dollar Wednesday, from 310.25/50 on Tuesday, dealers said.

Bond yields were broadly steady.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed at 10.60/80 percent from 10.60/75 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.90/12.00 percent up from 11.80/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed stable at 12.00/15 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/50 percent from 12.25/50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed stable at 12.25/40 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.55/75 percent down from 12.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent down from 12.55/13.00 percent. (Colombo/Feb28/2024)

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