Sri Lanka Brief
NewsLetter to Sirisena from civil society: Your statements on CC and HRCSL are appalling.

Letter to Sirisena from civil society: Your statements on CC and HRCSL are appalling.

by

19th February, 2019.

Dear President Sirisena,

We, the below signed citizens and civil society organizations of Sri Lanka are dismayed and alarmed by your recent statements, including in the Parliament (6th February, 2019), pertaining to the Constitutional Council (CC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL). The Constitutional Council and the Human Rights Commission are among two institutions, whose strengthening and safeguarding of independence were key demands of the civil society in 2015. In addition to your constitutional duty to safeguard these institutions, you received a clear mandate from the people which underscored this responsibility when you were elected in 2015. Working towards delivering on these promises through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution during the early days of your Presidency, still remains as your key achievement. This makes your current statements all the more appalling.

Critical and constructive engagement with any institution, including the independent commissions, is a necessary part of improving effectiveness and governance, and is welcome. But your recent statement, parts of which are baseless and sound vindictive, does more damage than good. Independent commissions, like the HRCSL, play a crucial role in protecting the citizens from the arbitrary actions of the State. That is precisely why they are set up. Not to act as guardians of the State as insinuated in your recent speech in Parliament. Their independence from the government must be respected. They must be supported and provided with an enabling environment to protect and promote the rights and freedoms of citizens, particularly those most marginalized and vulnerable. This is a necessary feature in a democracy. In this context, your recent statements from the responsible and powerful position as Head of the Executive, criticizing the HRCSL for doing its work, we believe only serves to undermine the good work of the HRCSL. It misrepresents an essential characteristic of the HRCSL – its independence.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has become an institution that we Sri Lankans can be proud of. It is a much improved and effective institution now than it was before 2015. It has become more accessible and has gained the confidence of different segments of the society. Their interventions in the right to education of children in Kuliyapitiya and Kekirawa, rights of differently abled students, budgets for differently abled to have public access, rights of women in the informal sector, redress for the affected communities following the Salawa fire, transgender identity, redress to student protesters when attacked by Police and hearing out the Principal of a girls school in Badulla who was harassed by the Chief Minister, being a few examples. They have also been a strong voice on the issue of Police torture, arbitrary arrests, the right to memorialization of the war dead, violence motivated by religious hatred, the inclusion of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) in the Constitution, the review of article 16 etc., They have made rights based interventions on law reforms, access to lawyers and criminal procedure, as well as on abortion and death penalty. The benefits of their robust actions and interventions have been felt by many marginalized segments of the society, as it should be. And there are others, like the Muslim women subject to discriminatory personal laws for instance, who are awaiting their rights based intervention.

It is in recognition of the work of the current set of Human Rights Commissioners, that the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) had granted ‘A’ status to HRCSL last year. This upgrading helped uplift the image of Sri Lanka’s human rights record as well.

We demand that an enabling environment and required support be provided to independent commissions like the HRCSL to perform their duties. We believe that the President is duty bound to support and respect the independence of such institutions, and to not undermine them.

Signed by;

Individuals

  1. Abdul Ramees
  2. Anberiya Hanifa
  3. Anithra Varia
  4. Anuratha Rajaretnam
  5. Ashoka Bandula Weerawardhana – Member, Sub-Committee on Disability, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
  6. B. Gowthaman
  7. Bhavani Fonseka
  8. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
  9. Chandrika De Silva – Writer
  10. Channaka Jayasinghe
  11. Christopher M. Stubbs
  12. Deanne Uyangoda
  13. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  14. Dilan Ramanayake
  15. Dinesh Rajawasan
  16. Dinushika Dissanayake
  17. Dorin Rajani
  18. Dr. Malathi de Alwis
  19. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  20. Dr. Sepali Kottegoda, D.Phil (Sussex)
  21. Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne
  22. Emil van der Poorten – In defence of civil and civic rights
  23. Ermiza Tegal – Attorney-at-Law
  24. Faaiz Ameer
  25. Farah Mihlar
  26. Gayathri Gamage
  27. Godfrey Yogarajah
  28. Herman Kumara
  29. Ishan Jalill
  30. Jansila Majeed – Activist, Mullaitivu
  31. Jeanne Samuel
  32. Jiffry Packeer Mohideen
  33. Joanne Senn
  34. Juwairiya Mohideen
  35. K. Hemalatha
  36. K.T. Rohini
  37. Kalani Subasinghe
  38. Kasunjith Satanarachchi – Member, Third Youth Parliament, Representative of the disability community
  39. Kaushalya Ariyarathne – Attorney-at-Law
  40. Keshini D. Sumanasekera
  41. Kurushanthan Mahaluxmy
  42. Lakshman Gunasekara – Journalist
  43. Lal Wijenayake – Co-Convenor, Lawyers for Democracy
  44. Luwie Ganeshathasan
  45. M.S. Jaleel
  46. Mala Liyanage – Human Rights Activist
  47. Marina Daniel
  48. Mario Gomez
  49. Marisa de Silva
  50. Minoli de Soysa
  51. Nagulan Nesiah
  52. Nilshan Fonseka
  53. P. Muthulingam
  54. P. Selvaratnam
  55. P.M. Mujeebur Rahman (LLB)
  56. P.N. Singham
  57. Prabodha Rathnayaka – Attorney-at-Law
  58. Priyantha Peiris
  59. Prof. Ajit Abeysekera
  60. Prof. Chandraguptha Thenuwara
  61. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  62. Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
  63. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, (Retired)
  64. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
  65. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
  66. Riza Yehiya
  67. Rohini Hensman – Writer and Researcher
  68. Ruki Fernando
  69. Ruvan Weerasinghe – University of Colombo
  70. Ruvini Jayaratne
  71. S. Easwary
  72. S. Nirmaladevi
  73. S. Niventhini
  74. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole – Member, Elections Commission
  75. S. Sameer
  76. S. Suthanthini
  77. S. Tharshan
  78. S.L.A. Azeez
  79. S.M. Anifa
  80. Sabra Zahid
  81. Sampath Samarakoon
  82. Sandun Thudugala – Activist
  83. Santhush Fernando – Attorney-at-Law
  84. Sarah Arumugam – Attorney-at-Law
  85. Selvaraja Rajasegar
  86. Setunga Mudalige Philip
  87. Shenali De Silva
  88. Shreen Saroor
  89. Sivasuthan
  90. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-Law & General Secretary, Free Trade Union Centre
  91. Sudarshana Gunawardene – Attorney-at-Law
  92. Sunanda Deshapriya
  93. T. Rajendran
  94. T. Thayaparan
  95. Thiyagaraja Waradas – Univeristy of Colomobo
  96. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
  97. Udaya Kalupathirana
  98. V. Shamini
  99. V. Sinthuka
  100. V. Subramaniam – Member, Sub-Committee on Disability, Human Rights
    Commission of Sri Lanka
  101. V. Thayalini
  102. Vanie Simon
  103. Zahabia Adamaly – Member, Sub-Committee on Disability, Human Rights
    Commission of Sri Lanka

Organisations

  1. Affected Women’s Forum (AWF), Akkaraipattu
  2. Alliance Development Trust (ADT)
  3. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  4. DAISY Lanka Foundation
  5. Disability Organisations Joint Front
  6. Human Rights Office (HRO), Kandy
  7. INFORM – Human Rights Documentation Centre
  8. Institute of Social Development (ISD), Kandy
  9. International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES)
  10. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
  11. Mentally Handicapped Children and Families Education Project
    (MENCAFEP), Nuwara Eliya
  12. Muslim Women’s Development Trust (MWDT), Puttalam
  13. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
  14. Rights Now – Collective for Democracy
  15. Rural Development Foundation
  16. Sri Lanka Council for the Blind
  17. Vallamai Travelers, Jaffna
  18. Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
  19. Women’s Action Network (WAN)

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