Out of a total of 99 countries that will speak on Sri Lanka’s progress on human rights development at the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Universal Periodic Review(UPR) sessions, more than 90 countries will speak positively on the county’s HR performance and achievements, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunathilaka Amunugama said yesterday.
He said Sri Lanka will not announce any voluntary pledges to the UNHRC at the forthcoming UPR session that it cannot fulfill later and it will answer questions raised by other countries during the process as a sovereign nation.
Meanwhile, most of the members of the Sri Lanka’s delegation to the UPR, have already left for Geneva to attend the next month’s UPR sessions. Plantation Industries Minister and Sri Lanka’s Special Presidential Envoy on Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe,will lead Sri Lanka’s UPR delegation.
The delegation comprise Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinghe, External Affairs Ministry(EAM) Monitoring MP Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, EAM’s UN division Multilateral Affairs Director Shashikala Premawardena, officials from ministries of Justice, Defense, Rehabilitation ministries and the Attorney General’s Department.
Minister Samarasinghe has flown to Geneva for the sessions from New York after attending a UN meeting and having met the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters in New Yew York, according to Amunugama. UPR sessions for Sri Lanka will begin on Thursday (November 01) 2012. The country’s human rights record will be reviewed during the sessions.
Asked if Sri Lanka was confident to answer all the countries that are listed to ask questions at the UPR, EAM Secretary Amunugama said, Sri Lanka’s UPR delegation is confident to answer their questions and will answer them as time permits.
“There will be 99 countries asking questions, there will be much less time to answer them all within the allocated time,” he explained. Asked if it was due to that the delegation might find some questions difficult to answer, he said, “there will be some questions that calls for long elaborate answers. However we attend the present UPR with a lot of confidence because we have fulfilled most of the country’s voluntary commitments to the UNHRC at the last UPR in 2008.”
“One of them is the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights,” he said ” We will field questions that are raised against us as a sovereign nation and added that the questions will added.
It has been reported in the foreign media that the United States, Canada, Mexico , Spain, Czech Republic and Spain had submitted questions to the Council regarding the situation of Sri Lanka not holding elections for the Northern Provincial Council , and its status on the Victim Protection Bill at the UPR.
Amunugama said, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position is very clear on the matter of holding elections in the Northern Province next year. “Before one can hold an election, there is work to be done concerning civilians in the Northern Province to make conditions conducive for an election. There is the election register that has to be made to make the voters eligible for voting,” he said.
“There are people who had newly settled in the Province after the war had ended. There are thousands of Muslim and Tamil citizens who have been living in other areas who are originally from the Northern Province for the last three decades. Their names have to be entered in electoral registers,”
Besides , necessary infrastructure have to be established in the Province to hold an election, explained Amunugama.” Unless we can meet all this requirements , it will be unfair to hold an election in the Province.”
“Commenting on the status of the Witness Protection Bill , he said these things will have to be done in keeping the the country’s legal system. We can very well explain our position on these matters to UN member countries if they are interested,”he said.
According to reports from Geneva, Sri Lanka has been given an extended period of time at this year’s UPR. He said there will be 90 countries to speak positively on Sri Lanka’s achievements in the areas of resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs and clearing of land mines among other things.