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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Twelve Questions for Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe:

Sri Lankan Human Rights Defenders Network have heard with great interest the speech made by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe at the UN Human Rights Council on February 27. We are concerned about the silences and misrepresentations that we have found there.

We give below our list of Twelve Questions for Minister Samarasinghe and others in his delegation.
We urge the members of the Council to continue to engage with the representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka, in Geneva and in Colombo, to ensure that questions of accountability and justice in Sri Lanka remain on the formal agenda of the Council.
Twelve Questions for Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe:
We have abolished Emergency Regulations:
1.    Given that Sri Lanka has ‘rooted out and destroyed domestic manifestations of separatist terrorism’, why does the Prevention of Terrorism Act still remain in place?
In delivering its Concluding Observations on Sri Lanka, in November 2011, the Committee against Torture pointed out the ‘ sweeping nature of these PTA regulations, which unduly restrict legal safeguards for persons suspected or charged with a terrorist or related crime, as pointed out by the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture’. In addition, the Committee noted that ‘ the President continued to invoke Section 12 of the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40) to allow the armed forces to retain policing powers in all 25 districts (Presidential Order of 6 August 2011)’. The Committee also noted that ‘ with the lapsing of the state of emergency, the limited safeguards contained in Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions and Powers) Regulation, No. 1 of 2005, which applied when arrests were made by armed forces, apparently are no longer in effect under the new PTA regulations (e.g. a person arrested by a member of the armed forces had to be handed over to the police within 24 hours) (arts. 2 and 16)’. [1]
There is a gradual improvement in the law and order situation:
2.   How can there be an improvement when in 5 months between October 2011 and February 2012, 28 abductions have been documented, as well as the discovery of 7 dead bodies in public places, and the killing of a fisherman demonstrating against increased fuel prices in Police firing?

We have made advances in implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)
3.   What justification can be given for the failure to implement the recommendations of the Interim Report of the LLRC which was handed over to the President in September 2010?
a) Why has it not been possible to provide a list of all those detained during the last weeks of the war, even 3 years after the end of the war?
b) When the LLRC recommends an ‘independent’ investigation of the Channel 4 video and the allegations contained it, why has a Military Tribunal been appointed for this task?
The National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in September 2011.
4.  Why has the National Human Rights Action Plan not been presented to Parliament, and why is there no mention of the role of the National Human Rights Commission in its implementation?
A Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) is contemplated to achieve multi-party consensus in respect of constitutional changes, to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Sri Lankan people enabling them to work in unison and with a sense of national identity for a better tomorrow. 
5.  Why have attempts to discuss possible devolution plans with the Tamil National Alliance failed? Why are Opposition parties not participating in the Parliamentary Select Committee? Why is there no mention of the consensus built through the All Party Conference of 2006 chaired by Government Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana?
Sri Lanka constructively engaged in the consideration of the 3rd and 4th Combined Periodic Reports on Sri Lanka to the Committee Against Torture in December 2011.
6.  Why has the former Attorney General Mr. Mohan Peiris not responded to a question raised by Mrs. Sandhya Ekneligoda regarding a statement made by him to the Committee against Torture that he knew the whereabouts of ‘disappeared’ cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda?  
The rapid and orderly process of resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has been recognized and commended internationally.
7.  Why is there a silence regarding the fact that 50% of the resettled IDPs in Kilinochchi District live under the poverty line and that according to official statistics[2], their conditions have worsened between October 2010 and March 2011?  
Why were only 100 houses out of the 50,000 to be built with Indian assistance ready for handing over to the beneficiaries in January 2012?
What is the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) which was created in 2009 and which continues to play the primary role in approving and deciding projects in the North and deciding whether and where each humanitarian organization is able to work in the North.
An enumeration to ascertain the number of persons in the Northern Province and to scientifically identify the number of persons who lost their lives in the conflict, is now complete 
8. Why did the National Census carried out in the North not ask the question about war-related deaths?
 In keeping with the recommendations of the LLRC, the military has been withdrawn from aspects of civilian life, and are now confined to security-related matters. 
9.   Why is the NGO Secretariat functioning under the Ministry of Defence, with the authority to determine projects and beneficiaries in the north?
Why are both Governors of the North and Eastern provinces and the Government Agent of Trincomalee District retired Sinhala military officials?
With regard to rehabilitation of LTTE ex-combatants, out of nearly 12,000, less than 900 remain in rehabilitation centres.
10.  Why is there no information about the situation of these ex-combatants who have returned to their homes in view of reports that they are subject to constant surveillance and harassment by the security forces?
In accordance with established practice of post-conflict decommissioning, the government has institutionalized a process with legislative oversight, to continuously record specific details on the number of weapons recovered, in order to bring about an end to the possession of unauthorized weapons.
12. Why is there no attempt to demobilize, disarm and reintegrate members of non-LTTE armed groups who continue to harass the civilian population of the north and east?
The Trilingual Policy, announced by the Government in January 2012, will further consolidate the implementation of the Official Languages policy and make a valuable contribution to building bridges between the communities and strengthening national unity. 
12.  Why is the full LLRC report not yet available in Sinhala and Tamil, more than 3 months after being presented to the President in November 2011.

[1] CAT/C/LKA/CO 3-4
[2] “Food Security in the Northern, Eastern and North Central Provinces – A Preliminary Briefing Paper of Food Security Assessment Findings,” United Nations World Food Programme, Ministry of Economic Development and Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, May 2011, pg.21-22[2]


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