An open appeal to the UN HRC in connection with the Universal Periodic Review in November, 2012 on Sri Lanka urging it to prevail upon Sri Lanka to stop the dismantling the devolution of powers that have been conferred on the Provincial Councils by the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of journalists and human rights defenders, makes this urgent and open appeal to the members of UN Human Rights Council in the context of the up coming second session of the Universal Periodic Review. The human rights situation of Sri Lanka is to be reviewed during this session commencing on 1st November 2012.
One of the major human rights issues if not the major one in Sri Lanka, relates to the rights of the Tamil and Muslim communities who constitute the principal minorities in the country to exercise devolution of powers. Post independence as well as post war, the Sri Lankan State has time and again failed to keep its promises of a political solution to the just grievances of the Tamil people and has unilaterally abrogated all agreements reached with the democratically elected representatives of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
At the last session of the UPR which was held on May 2008 the Government of Sri Lanka made a voluntary pledge to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Now even though it is time for the next session is around the corner, the Tamils of the Northern Province have not yet been allowed to enjoy even the limited devolution of powers envisaged by the 13th Amendment.
At least on three different occasions the Government of Sri Lanka has pledged to implement the provisions of the 13th Amendment.
On 13th May 2008, during the last Sessions of the UPR –
103. Sri Lanka will take measures for the effective implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. (A/HRC/8/46)
On 3rd May 2009 in the joint communiqué of GoSL President and UN SG:
President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka. (SG/2151)
27th May 2009 in the UNHRC resolution supported by the GoSL:
Welcoming also the recent reassurance given by the President of Sri Lanka that he does not regard a military solution as a final solution, as well as his commitment to a political solution with implementation of the thirteenth amendment to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. (A/HRC/8/46)
In spite of these pledges the present GoSL has started on a major campaign to dilute the devolved powers granted to the Provinces through the Divinaguma Bill. On the top of this development the President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the powerful Defense Secretary has launched a campaign to abolish the 13th Amendment. This campaign is gathering momentum among the Sinhala hardliners. President’s other brother Basil Rajapaksa. Minister of Economic Development has openly stated that the 13th Amendment could be removed or dilated through a referendum.
Although 13th Amendment does not provide a final and complete political solution to the national issues of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, abolishing it may herald a completely centralised State which will remove even the little powers provided to the minority communities in the country to exercise powers to manage the affairs of their respective provinces. At the same time it may considerably shrink or close the space for Tamil and Muslim political parties to engage in any meaningful provincial governance. Such an eventuality will make a serious dent on the attempts to bring about a genuine reconciliation in post war Sri Lanka.
In the circumstances NfR appeals to all members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to prevail on Sri Lanka at the up coming UPR session to make a strong commitment to address Tamil and Muslim people’s political aspiration through a lasting and sustainable political solution. As a first step in this direction GOSL should renew its pledge to implement all the provisions of 13th Amendment within a clear time frame and bench marks.