Govt using Geneva challenge as a political battle cry - UNP

Govt using Geneva challenge as a political battle cry - UNP

March 18, 2014   03:13 pm

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Recent developments in the North raise serious concerns about the human rights record of the ruling regime, while also creating doubt as to whether it is intentionally provoking international action in order to gain petty political milage, the UNP said today.

In a statement issued over the recent arrest of several activists, the party says that the fact that so many individuals, political parties and the international community have raised concerns regarding their arrest, “illustrates the pathetic lack of credibility of the Sri Lankan judicial system.”

On March 16 authorities arrested Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist, along with Father Praveen in Kilinochchi. Police say they were arrested under terrorism charges.

This comes on the wake of the arrest of Balendran Jeyakumari and her young daughter on suspicion of harbouring a criminal.

Jeyakumarai and her 13 year old daughter have been at the forefront of protests calling on authorities to come clean on the plight of her son who had surrendered soon after the war, the UNP said.

If any of these individuals are guilty of a crime they should be held responsible after being afforded a due judicial process, the United National Party said, adding, however, that there is “a serious question of this due process” in Sri Lanka when the Chief Justice of the country was impeached through a two-week process which was “deeply flawed”. 

“The arrests under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and the breakdown of law and order in this country do not speak well of the independence and efficiency of either the judiciary or the police,” it charged.

The UNP says that these arrests come particularly at a time when the attention of the world has been drawn to Sri Lanka.

“One of the main complaints made against the regime in Geneva is that it has systematically harassed human rights defenders and those who have sought redress to their grievances through international players,” the statement said.

The fact that human rights activists are being arrested when deliberations at the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka are taking place, shows that the Rajapaksa regime has little regard for international opinion and scrutiny, the party said.

The UNP says it has repeatedly called on the ruling government “not to play political games with the future of this country”.

“Despite these calls it is clear that the regime sees the human rights issue and the impending resolution at the Human Rights Council, as a political opportunity.” From the President downwards the regime has made the Geneva challenge into a political battle cry aimed at the provincial council elections due on March 29, the UNP said.

“The timing of the election itself suggest the political motivations.”

The opposition party further said that carrying out such ill-timed arrests in this backdrop seriously begs the question whether the ruling regime in fact wants the international community to take actions against it.

“It is baffling to us, as a responsible opposition how anyone could wish to make political mileage at the cost of the country and its people,” the UNP said.

Full Statement:


Recent developments in the North raise serious concerns about the human rights record of the ruling regime, while also creating doubt as to whether it is intentionally provoking international action in order to gain petty political milage.

On 16 March Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist, was arrested with Father Praveen in Kilinochchi on terrorism charges. Police say they were arrested under terrorism charges.

This comes on the wake of the arrest of Balendran Jeyakumari and her young daughter on suspicion of harbouring a criminal. Jeyakumarai and her 13 year old daughter have been at the forefront of protests calling on authorities to come clean on the plight of her son who had surrendered soon after the war. The boy, who had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE, had surrendered to the military. Whilst officials claim there is no record of his arrest, he appeared in a photograph that was published in a government report.

The fact that so many individuals, political parties and the international community have raised concerns regarding the arrest of Jeyakumari and her daughter, along with that of Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen, illustrates the pathetic lack of credibility of the Sri Lankan judicial system.

If any of these individuals are guilty of a crime they should be held responsible after being afforded a due judicial process. However, there is a serious question of this due process in Sri Lanka when the Chief Justice of the country was impeached through a two-week process which was deeply flawed.
 
The arrests under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and the breakdown of law and order in this country do not speak well of the independence and efficiency of either the judiciary or the police. The involvement of the military and the Ministry of Defence while there is a much touted Ministry of Law and Order also do not bode well to credibility of the administration.
 
These arrests come particularly at a time when the attention of the world has been drawn to Sri Lanka. One of the main complaints made against the regime in Geneva is that it has systematically harassed human rights defenders and those who have sought redress to their grievances through international players.

The regime is particularly accused of harassing individuals who spoke to Human Rights Chief Navi Pillai during her visit to Sri Lanka in September 2013.

The fact that human rights activists are being arrested when deliberations at the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka are taking place, shows that the Rajapaksa regime has little regard for international opinion and scrutiny. The UNP has repeatedly called on the regime not to play political games with the future of this country. Despite these calls it is clear that the regime sees the human rights issue and the impending resolution at the Human Rights Council, as a political opportunity. From the President downwards the regime has made the Geneva challenge into a political battle cry aimed at the provincial council elections due on March 29.The timing of the election itself suggest the political motivations.

In this backdrop to carry out such ill-timed arrests seriously begs the question whether the ruling regime in fact wants the international community to take actions against it. It is baffling to us, as a responsible opposition how anyone could wish to make political mileage at the cost of the country and its people. As we have said before those who will suffer the most due to international action will be the ordinary people of this country, and not the current political masters who have secured their wealth and futures.

The UNP once again call on the people of this country, particularly in the South, to realise the gravity of the human rights situation. We have been misled numerous times by thinking that human rights are an issue of merely the people of the North. It is because of our silence towards the atrocities in the North that the terror of Weliweriya came to our doorstep in the South; it is because of our apathy at the killings of journalists in the North that Editors of national newspapers were killed in broad day light in the streets of Colombo; it is because of our inaction that this regime has been able to get away with crushing all our collective rights.

It is now time to change the narrative. It is time to demand that Jeyakumari Balendran, Ruki Fernando and countless others be offered their due process of justice. As recent history has amply demonstrated, what the Rajapaksa regime gets away in the North it then repeated in the South. 




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