President’s speech at UNGA far from the truth

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said that President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday (26), where he portrayed Sri Lanka as a picture of progress was in reality, however, far from the truth.

President Sirisena at the UNGA urged the international community to consider the tremendous progress made by the Government towards reconciliation, the restoration of democratic freedoms, human rights and the rule of law, and look at Sri Lanka with a fresh perspective. He also said that he is ‘satisfied’ with Sri Lanka’s progress and rejected foreign interference in domestic affairs.

Senior Researcher at the CPA, Bhavani Fonseka said that in 2015, people voted for change and it is understandable that change takes time, but this Government has dragged its feet on critical reforms.

“The continuous protests, across Sri Lanka are an indicator of the disappointment and disillusionment felt by thousands of Sri Lankans. It is time for this Government to move beyond the rhetoric, show leadership and deliver on key reforms promised in 2015.”

She said that despite major steps taken early on in the tenure of the Coalition Government, as seen by the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the Right to Information Act and other areas, many of the promises made in 2015 are yet to be fully realized. “Take for example, the commitments made in the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 which was co-sponsored by the present Government. Four mechanisms were promised in 2015 but only one – the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) – is operational to date. The next mechanism likely to be established is the Office for Reparations with legislation now before Parliament but serious concerns have been raised by the civil society on its proposed structure and dependence on the Central Government to implement its plans and programmes. Further, there is no public information on the other two mechanisms promised in the areas of truth and accountability.”

She added that the President spoke of reconciliation and communal harmony but there continues to be challenges on the ground. “The ethno-religious violence as recent as March 2018 highlighted the fears and uncertainties faced by the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Despite the numerous cases in the recent past, there is no known prosecution of anyone advocating racial and religious hatred. Lack of progress, with such cases and other emblematic cases, point to a disturbing trend of impunity prevalent in Sri Lanka. Justice must prevail. In the absence of this, the chances for genuine reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka are extremely tenuous.”

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