20 September, 2020

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Human Rights Day: I Observe The Alarming Silence Of Decent People

By Deepika Udagama

Dr. Deepika Udagama – Chairperson – HRCSL

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”

The above quotation is from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. It has gone on to become the most respected secular document in the world, translated into more than 500 languages and dialects. Constitutions, including our own, have adopted parts of it, it is often cited in courts of law, parliaments and invoked by millions of people in distress.

I have been deeply moved and profoundly influenced by the Declaration. Millions around the world have had the same experience.

The Declaration celebrates its 70th anniversary next year and global commemorations have already begun. Sri Lanka too should join in the celebrations and reflect on lessons we can learn from this document if we wish to seriously work toward a decent and humane future for ourselves and our children.

The idea of human rights has been around for millennia. The Declaration broke new ground by proclaiming a set of ‘universal human rights’, rights which all of us are entitled to as human beings. The idea of universal human rights does not respect the arbitrary boxes we have created for ourselves– race, ethnicity, caste, class, sex, etc. The rights recognised also cover all aspects of human existence. They span the right to life, freedom from torture, freedom of expression to the right to just and favourable conditions of work and the right to education and medical care.

The Declaration was adopted for humankind to rekindle faith in itself after the brutalities of two devastating world wars in the first half of the 20th Century. One cannot say in all honesty that brutal tendencies of human kind are behind us. Yet today we have a frame of reference to reassure ourselves of the ideals we have set for ourselves and the need to work to achieve those ideals. The genius of the drafters of the Declaration is that they have succeeded in capturing the essence of what it means to be human anywhere in the world and articulate that essence in the form of rights that have a resonance in our everyday lives.

Two statements from the exquisitely worded Preamble to the Declaration are, in my opinion, of great significance:

First, ‘Whereas it is essential, if man (sic) is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…’

Secondly, ‘The General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive … to promote respect for these rights…’

The first is the call on governments to protect human rights by the rule of law if they do not wish to see political uprisings against tyranny and oppression. That is the fundamental tenet of human rights—that governments bear the primary responsibility to protect people’s rights. The expectation of peoples all over the world is just that. Sri Lankans are no exception. Sri Lankans have invested heavily in political change to secure and freely exercise their rights. A major demand for change was the right to live free from fear. Being able to live in an equal and inclusive society was another.

Our Commission’s observation, by and large, is that, the largest accomplishment of the government in the past two years is to create a free environment for people to exercise their rights, in particular free expression, association and assembly. The climate of fear has dissipated. Demonstrations and strikes have become daily fare.

There are, of course, exceptions such as the constant complaints we receive from the North about surveillance of civil society activities allegedly by intelligence authorities. Yet, we also see an openness in the North and East about discussing violations and the like that was previously absent. Significantly, we have not received complaints of enforced disappearances or of politically motivated extra-judicial killings. The enactment of the Right to Information Act, legislative recognition of the need to increase women’s political representation, ready ratification of human rights treaties are also significant achievements.

Thankfully, the Commission has yet to witness an attempt at political interference in its work.

However, custodial violence, torture in particular, continues to be a problem. Radical police reforms are needed to address those serious concerns. Due process rights in law enforcement and administration of justice need to improve, including the abrogation of PTA. Hate speech is not addressed expeditiously paving the way for bigots to spread tribal venom. Disappointment is rife about the failure to address impunity issues relating to violence against journalists and similar political crimes. Also, the long delay in establishing promised transitional justice mechanisms is greatly disappointing. We are encouraged though by news that the Office of Missing Persons may be set up soon.

So, the challenge is to consolidate the improvements and to continue to press for progress in other areas.

Improving human rights in a country, however, is not a one way street. We cannot only expect governmental behavior to change. As the second statement in the Declaration quoted above calls for, have even a reasonable number of ‘individuals and organs of society’ in Sri Lanka striven to work toward respecting others’ rights? Are we, as citizens and community and professional bodies of this country, invested in creating a decent and peaceful society? Do we have a vision of a democratic and inclusive future we want to leave for our children?

In my opinion, the moral compass of a society becomes clearer when there is freedom to enjoy rights. So, have we done well? What does our conscience tell us?

Amidst some progress I observe the alarming silence of decent people; the brashness of tribal voices that once again wish to unleash ethnic violence; that they get a lot of press, not the peace makers; of the many who think only of their rights and benefits and not of the larger good; of professional bodies that play politics and abandon ethical obligations; of a partisan media culture that one is hard pressed to understand given the oppression and violence they were once subject to; of opinion makers who think of winning an argument for the moment, and abandon responsibility for the future.

The Universal Declaration is clear in its message: The possibility of living free and dignified lives in a society comes as a package deal. It has to be a collective effort. If others’ rights are violated, it will eventually affect me. Our efforts must not be limited to demanding from our elected government that it discharge its paramount duty to protect our rights. We too are obligated as citizens, to sincerely believe in, and live by, human rights values.

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  • 13
    2

    The alarming silence of decent people……Dr.Deepika

    I am reminded of that famous quote by Pastor Niemoller during the Nazi regime in World War 11.

    First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came out for the Trade-Unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade-Unionist.
    Then they came for me and there was none left to speak out for me!

    • 5
      1

      Dr. Deeptika Udagama, Chairperson, HRCSL

      RE:Hunam Rights Day: I Observe The Alarming Silence Of Decent People

      Thanks. Yes, “All human being are born free and equal in dignity and rights” with 46 Chromosomes.

      Unfortunately, many “decent” people have been silent, and selectively applied the above statement, resulting in racism and belief based discrimination and conflicts.

      Yes, Sri Lanka should also join in the celebrations, and declare that

      .1. , “All human beings with 46 chromosomes are born free and equal in dignity and rights”

      2. One set of human beings cannot have rights over another set with 46 chromosomes.

      3. In the Land of Native Veddah Aethho (Aetto) illegally occupied by the foreigners, Paradeshis, Paras, cannot have rights above the other Paras, irrespective of their homeland of origin or beliefs , or the Native Veddah Aethoo.

      The pope’s sad silence on ethnic cleansing in Burma

      https://nypost.com/2017/11/28/the-popes-sad-silence-on-ethnic-cleansing-in-burma/

      A suffering refugee summed it up best: “It’s so sad to see that even the holiest man cannot cite our identity.”

      So said Kyaw Naing, a Rohingya stuck in a confinement camp in Rakhine state, to the Associated Press of Pope Francis’ remarks Tuesday in Myanmar, a k a Burma.
      The pope called for peace without naming the victims of an ongoing ethnic cleansing.

      Most Rohingya have lived in the country for generations, certainly since the birth of the modern Union of Burma in 1948. But the military dictatorship (which also imposed the name “Myanmar”) rescinded the citizenship of this ethnic and religious minority.

      Though it has ceded some power to civilians, the military retains overall control — and went berserk after militant Rohingya rebels attacked government forces last year.

      Regime forces have burned villages down, raped women, beheaded children and even burned innocents alive. More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to next-door Bangladesh.

    • 5
      0

      This is common to this sad nation – they the decent and edcuated ones prefer to stay away not criticising.
      Time has come them to come up and say, that the way media prostitutes have been doing the job for former allies should finally be stoped.
      Human rights of the basic levels had been violated by former hedgemonic men, neverthless them to be backed by the media of the day should LOUDLY be discussed.

      This way only, we can make away the people the ground situation.

      Why a large amount of decent and knolwedgeble ones to be that passive should be questioned, if not today when they would come out from their sloth life.

    • 4
      4

      What people are you talking about? Singhala, Tamil, Muslim?

      The 3 groups approach human rights issues separately. Why do we have TNA, SLMC+ACMC and JHU?

      NGOs never take up human rights issues of Muslims and Singhalese. Muslim and Singhala IDPs from Jaffna are still not resettled. Why should they care about NGOs then?

    • 1
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      Every decent, yet pathetically submissive human beings amongst us in this country, must remind him/herself those immortal lines made famous by Edmund Burke (1729-1797) which ring true for all time:

      “THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING.”

  • 7
    7

    The alarming silence of NOT SO DECENT people who misled the country calling themselves the Friday Forum. Disgusting and you have the brass to say it.

    • 6
      3

      Percy the pathetic

      This is about human rights
      No reason for you to be alarmed if you are not the national torturer’s loyal assistant.
      In case if you wanted to know what this nonsense about Pastor Martin Niemoller poem here is the one I read earlier:

      First They Came
      Pastor Martin Niemoller

      First they came for the Communists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Communist
      Then they came for the Socialists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Socialist
      Then they came for the trade unionists
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a trade unionist
      Then they came for the Jews
      And I did not speak out
      Because I was not a Jew
      Then they came for me
      And there was no one left
      To speak out for me.

      BTW there will be someone out there who will try his best to save your bum/neck (no difference in your case) when the next national hangman (possible/potential candidate Dr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa DSc) drag you out of your bed takes you to the local abattoir.

      Remember these words “Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me.”

      • 0
        1

        The next national hangman who will drag you down to the local abattoir should be in place to meet your next arch terrorist who will blow us into pieces.
        Soma

        • 1
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          somass

          Don’t worry you should go about doing what is best for you, organise the next riot burn down business premises, homes, loot, kill, rape, ………………………….. backed/protected by the national hangman and under the direction of your local saffron clad thugs.

          You need the extra windfall income to satiate your family’s ever increasing wants.

    • 0
      0

      You are certainly Spot ON

    • 0
      0

      Percy, you are taking a great chancy leap into the unknown from the top of the Empire State Building when you label the Friday Forum as “NOT SO DECENT”.

      Please redefine that word for our greater awareness.

      • 1
        1

        Friday Forum is a bunch of losers who are now silent in the face of massive unprecedented corruption in the country. Some of them have got lucrative appointments from YAHAPALANAYA and have sold themselves. They are a disgraceful lot, but yet there are boot lickers who follow them in the name of justice and FairPlay!!

        • 1
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          Percy the pathetic

          You are mad at everyone because in your imagination all others are making millions/billions and you are being left out of the loot.

          You should recruit more people to your cause, “Let Me Have a Share of the Loot”, such as Dayan, Wimal, somass, .. Hela, ……………..

        • 0
          0

          Percy,

          Disgraceful in what sense, may I ask?

          Have you tried to direct your concerns to them (other than through insults) with a view to correcting what you think is wrong , or are you just another pathetic critic not lifting a finger to help the cause but merely criticizing for the sake of it?

  • 4
    1

    Percy Mahendra.
    The BS carrier of despot MR and Gotabayay

  • 2
    0

    Should not this outfit hold bi-annual Seminars in the vernacular for various agencies – the Trade Union Office
    bearers in State & Private sectors as a routine, if they have not undertaken such action?

  • 1
    2

    Alarming silence of decent people!

    Why are decent people silent when the discriminating rule; 25% of candidates must be women (for LG elections); come to effect?

    Does the rule provide for equality? Isn’t it discriminating 2 sympathize women (or any other selected group?

    In the same way isn’t it discriminating to give more political opportunities for youth; that amounts to discriminate on ageism, for the senior people to suffer.

    It’s not the decent that silent, it’s the stupid.

  • 3
    0

    Or as the Good Book (- I am a Hindu-) says, they also serve who only stand and wait. The good Sinhalese (including Christians) have stood by and watched a large number of their Tamil and Muslim Bretheren slaughtered. The good Tamils watched while the Tigers killed innocent Sinhalese. Only through the punishment of the miscreants can we build up a society in which such things do not recur. What good of a Human Rights Commission, which has existed through all these travails, stood and waited through all these massacres.

  • 0
    0

    From Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ~ “All human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights”
    Introduction to Religious Studies 101 will say that this is the basis of all religions – Buddhism 2500 years, Christianity 2000 years, Islam 1200 years, Hinduism much longer.
    The fact that this was restated with pomp and pageantry shows how much we learn off sermons.
    Thank you Deepika for raising our awareness – it must reach our religious leaders.

    Dr Deepika Udagama ~ “Human Rights Day: I Observe The Alarming Silence Of Decent People”
    Only NM Perera had tears in his eyes when he addressed Parliament following the 1958 pogrom.
    Over the past seventy years the silence of the ‘decent people’ is alarmingly deafening.
    By the way Deepika are you implying “Silent people are decent?”

  • 3
    0

    Did you ask to explain, why the silence from the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka?

    There is no protection or human rights under military occupation – which is what is happening on the ground in the NE.

    There will be no Human Rights without Political RIghts.

    For now, let us remember all those who were victims of abuse and genocide in Sri Lanka, and those who fought bravely against genocide in the two wars of the last century. Let us remember all those involved in the many other conflicts worldwide since 1945, and to those who are still fighting for peace, dignity and freedom. May the flames in our hearts glow until justice is served, and the message that impunity is no longer tolerated is heard by all.

    It is also about learning from the past and resolving conflicts to ensure that the world is a better place to live, in the future. All the sacrifices made will ensure our Tamil freedom struggle leads to the freedom it deserves – Tamil Eelam.

    • 1
      0

      M.V.
      I am the only Sinhalese who is dreaming of Tamil Ealam so that those +50% Tamils (Tamil speaking people) who are presently occupying the Sinhala majority provinces can be relocated.
      I bow my head to you if you can convince a single Tamil family to move out and resettle in the envisaged Ealam territory in preparation for the Dreamland. Those who are waiting UNTIL Ealam is formed are no heros or patriots. Try with Sumathitharan to begin with.
      Soma

      • 0
        0

        somass

        You are the only person who has already started planning the next riot against the others.

  • 2
    0

    It seems the wheel of the God may turn slow but it does surely. Nagananda’s call to the Smart Patriotic Intellectual sons of the Mother to come to the war front has brought out a second daughter too.
    Nagananda, Desmond De Silva… the civil right lawyers charge to talk. Saravanamuttu, Jehan PhDs are donated to talk. Deepika is paid to talk. How easy is that! So she abandons the Friday Falsedom and jumped into the wagon of Yahapalanaya Commission. Yuan oiling these days is making much more slippery everybody’s’ hand. Thankfully, the Commission has yet to witness an attempt at political interference in its work. What cover up by her of her master’s! How much she nervous to talk against her master’s! If there .1% honesty can be attributed to that talk, it was long ago Deepika would have boarded the same bus Dilrukshi was put on sent out. What a difference between Yasmin Sooka and Deepike Udagama in honesty!

    -of opinion makers who think of winning an argument for the moment, and abandon responsibility for the future. The Universal Declaration is clear in its message: The possibility of living free and dignified lives in a society comes as a package deal. It has to be a collective effort. If others’ rights are violated, it will eventually affect me. Our efforts must not be limited to demanding from our elected government that it discharge its paramount duty to protect our rights. We too are obligated as citizens, to sincerely believe in, and live by, human rights values. The SLHRC is on the attack on the opinion Makers. Further, it is preaching “don’t bug angelical sincere Aanduwa a lot, but just believe it a lot”.

  • 1
    0

    Probably she has uplifted herself to JFK’s level :”Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That is why they say in Tamil, Piglet lean what to eat from what the pig eats. These people just echoing what Ranil, Sagala, Ravi, Marapana, Champika… and other Yahapalanaya heroes speaks out. Crooks! Yahapalanaya and its paid acolyte coolies like SLHRC in the full swing protecting the criminals for their personal advantage. They are not on the attack of human rights violators. Though the UNHRC, OISL, UNSG’s expert panel, Amnesty International, HRW, ICG, ITJP…. all have given the specific details of them, not just names of the daylight human right violators, but not even their least knows IDs are indicated by these crooks to the media as the violators. These people are protecting the criminals that much. But Ranil and Deepika are is on the attack of media because they are attacking the Yahapalanaya. If the media freedom is there who is blocking Deepika and Ranil not to mention the mistakes, crimes, violations, tyrannies done by the perpetrators? Why can they point it out to the people why the media is wrong? What kind of advantage they claim the media is having than the government on telling the truth? Why ther are on the attack on the media?
    Deepika came here only to answer Naganada’s call but misinterpreting the UN’s declaration to suite her and her masters’ need.
    The idea of universal human rights does not respect the arbitrary boxes we have created for ourselves– race, ethnicity, caste, class, sex, etc. The rights recognized also cover all aspects of human existence. Madame UN’s declaration “does not respect the arbitrary boxes we have created for ourselves under name of Lankawe sovereignty” Fix your sentence, please Madame!

  • 4
    0

    Cant shout on one day only, when human rights are silent during the rest of the year

  • 3
    0

    I would like to quote from a speech delivered by late Martin Luther King Jr.

    “We have to regret not for the bad deeds of the wicked people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

  • 2
    1

    I am sorry to say this but you and your staff have not set a good example

  • 2
    0

    Oh! Come of it! How can the so called decent folk talk? The situation is the same as before. This lady was talking in terms of “We the people …..” while in opposition. Now you all are in the seat of power. Aiyo! Deepika! Why don’t you look at the way the complaints made to you are dished out? Take the log of complaints. Calculate the average time to dispense a case. Same as court cases, taking ages. My God! unlike the so called high profile stuff all others don’t catch your attention. They are effectively swept under the carpet. Some call it the Sri Lanka No Human Rights Commission. So SAD!

  • 0
    1

    Perhaps Deepika was taking a nap when the University students were beaten recently or when the Hambanthota protesters were beaten with iron bars, And how about the Muslim women’s rights, the Muslim marriage laws?

  • 0
    0

    Dr ,Dr ,Dr Deepika Udagam well said that Universal Declaration of Human Right is most “secular” document has been produce by UNO in 1948? Until toady UNO was unable to delivered, what they promised to the People of World. Cuba was not that recognized until recently by USA Imperialism.
    What type of human rights you can expected from UNO?

    Year 2002 Iraq was an invaded by USA and UK Army ,but UNO was powerless to act and did not having any power of authority to punishment against those two countries? The war crime against USA and UK was unheeded by UNO “human right declaration.” ?
    Three Millions of Iraqis were displace . Three hundred of thousands Iraqis were killed by USA and UK army of are the ” champions” of “World Human rights”?
    Hundred thousand of Men, Women and children of Iraqis are in streets in many countries as Refugees. The citizens of People of Iraqis has not that an invaded USA or UK? The same People of Iraqis has nothing to do with 9/11 attack against USA which is that” God blessing country” has been protected by New Testament of Bible. Only the crime committed by People of Iraqis that they were born as Islam or Muslim under the leadership Saddam Hussan governances?

    Is that UNO Human Right Declaration allows, a USA and UK to used force against another Independent and sovereignty country? Obviously not
    that UNO has ignore a ABC of Human Rights of World by since “1948 declaration”?
    The people of World Born Equal, but by living many years after “1948 UNO declaration” as an Unequal footing !@

  • 0
    0

    When a Country’s nationals minds have been clouded with Superstition & myths to institutionalize
    Them by covering the truth ,so as to manipulate them to rule to the gains of the ones in power ,by which the naive Sheep is willing to live in eternal denial that the Wolf in sheep clothing is their Shepard .hence human rights,Hence compassion or justice.

  • 0
    0

    This morning a Tuk Tuk driver whom I happen to know for some time talked his mind out for the 2nd time of the same subject and wanting me to think of it nothing beyond a friendly joke ,well I asked myself ,,,should I take it for what he says or take it on the bump or hmmm ,on my bum! ? From someone who had borrowed money from. me and never returned and now its almost 3years an extortion ,which I as a minority is to take it on the bump huh! He was of cause laughing away and warning to be ready with bags packed as his Hero with the red scarf is on his way to complete the Rohingya style genocide on Muslims , we are freely referred to as hambayas and Thambiyas to by strangers and people known to us, well strangers due petty issues ,others ,you ate expected to take it on the bump .after what ate friends for. The 3wheel guy has displayed honestly what most majority ate expecting their Hero who ended LTTE to do with The Muslims. Time will tell us.

  • 1
    0

    Unfortunately Human Rights and Fundamental rights depends on the race you belong to, in Srilanka. Silence is not always Golden.Silence at the wrong time can bring disaster.

  • 0
    0

    How can a nation sincerely exercise , rights of all people from all communities ,I am definitely not referring just to Sri Lanka ,but all Nations ruled in similar manner. The judicial itself is not fully independent ,nor the protectors of the people The Police, The Central Bank and the so-called set up Commissions. All these are handle by every government that cones to power ,the biggest mockery is Its done in the name of Democracy, . hate ,prejudice , murder ,kidnap ,extortion , bribery ,corruption and abuse of grants and everyone gets away with what is rightfully the peoples rightful dues except the small people who may break a traffic law ,a small tax issue etc,with all this ,we the people yet insist to bring in the same men and women under the same constitution ,,( How can it be done without the participation of good men and women from.the public not allowed to moniter independentlly under a commission? !)either we do not now why we vote or we are totally insane and enjoy being abused.

  • 0
    0

    Let’s get real, no one can be prosecuted ,not a Single Rajapakshe or for that matter not even any ordinary citizens who have commuted any crime. Because if you have to be fair you will need to start waking up the every single dead criminal who got away , which is not possible . To prosecute The Rajapakshas or any other would be political revenge & against fair justice…. Cont…

  • 0
    0

    If The people continue to believe in the lies spread by politicians and hate mongering groups ,they alone would be responsible for the plundering of this Country by corrupt Politicians ,their families, theirs officials and their exclusively selected business man ,as long as you believe the Muslims are multiplying and going to take over the country without personally verifying facts ,that alone is enough to keep the people occupied and drown in poverty and set the path for sri Lanka to remain in debts forever ,all aid ,grants etc will be freely robbed in broad day light.,instead of paying back our debts and distributing and lifting our people economically. Politicians want elections even if we have to sell our country to find the money to pay for it an utter waste ,instead of creating a good and transparent constitution by a referendum in Parliament ,which will save millions People are to be blamed

  • 0
    0

    Can we have a full detail account of every cent spent from all the financial grants ,aids and yes what have you done with the billions of dollars we got from world bank ,then the money from the private assets sold to Chins and India ,how much of debts were paid back ? How much is remaining ! ? Have the grants been given to all citizens or distributed among proxies and put in panama ,Dominica or Dubai? Poor people more worried of the Muslim Myth , while the country is robbed for the second time.

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