15 July, 2024


Sri Lanka Cannot Be Business As Usual: ITJP

In her statement to the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has rightly called for renewed attention on Sri Lanka, citing developments that form “a very negative trend”.  However, the human rights situation under the new Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka is a lot more worrying than the High Commissioner can elaborate on in such a brief statement. 

Yasmin Sooka – Executive Director – International Truth & Justice Project

“Member states in the global north still seem to think it’s business as usual with Sri Lanka despite the erosion of human rights and the imposition of a majoritarian ethnic and religious  state,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. “The international community needs to heed the call by the High Commissioner for renewed attention on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.”  

The High Commissioner’s statement critically raises the recent appointment to key government jobs of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity.  These  include the Secretary of Defence, Kamal Gunaratne, whose role in the 2009 war is highlighted in the report of the UN OHCHR investigation into Sri Lanka (OISL) which has been elaborated on by the ITJP based in part on the Sri Lankan army’s own situation reports.  

It is also worth reiterating that the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, who is also the Acting Chief of Defence Staff, Shavendra Silva, was designated in 2019 by the United States government due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings. He remains in office and has been put in charge of managing the country’s COVID response. 

“Diplomats in Colombo routinely meet Lt. Gen. Silva, even exchanging gifts, under  the rubric of “humanitarian disaster relief”.   They need to be put on notice about the people they are shaking hands with and sharing photo opportunities with, all of which leaves victims feeling more insecure and unprotected than ever,” said Ms. Sooka. 

In addition, former military officers have been appointed as the foreign secretary, health secretary, agriculture secretary, Chief of Staff to the President, not to mention in several of the Presidential Task Forces.

The militarisation of the bureaucracy is only one concern. Perhaps equally worrying is that nearly a quarter of the cabinet ministers are alleged by Sri Lankan media either to have been recently investigated for / or to have court cases pending against them for alleged corruption, assault or murder. In addition, administrators and key advisors have been appointed despite past allegations of involvement in corruption and in one case a conviction. 

Those investigated under the last government have suggested they were the victims of a process of political victimisation and some complained to a Presidential Commission. It is important for those investigated and indicted under the previous government, that these allegations are tested in court in a process that’s seen to be fair and transparent. Until that has happened these individuals should not be included in key parliamentary oversight roles or bodies that recommend or scrutinise other appointments. Furthermore, those who have been convicted should not be serving in public office. It is astonishing that one MP from the President’s party who is on death row after being convicted for murder was even allowed to attend parliament. 

Also at issue is the concentration of power in the hands of one family: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Defence), Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa (who controls three key ministries including Finance), Namal Rajapaksa (Youth and Sports Minister), Chamal Rajapaksa (Irrigation Minister and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management);  his son Shasheendra Rajapaksa (a state minister). Within these ministers’ responsibilities are also at least 118  Departments, Statutory Institutions  and Public Corporations all under the control of one family. 

On top of this, is the creation of Presidential Task Forces that appear to bypass parliament  and have vaguely drafted but potentially sweeping powers. A recent gazette notification stated that the new Government ministries had been ordered to “coordinate and implement activities in relation to subject areas of all Ministries” with the Task Forces. No explanation was given for why an additional layer of government was needed which answers only to the President.

The UN High Commissioner also spoke of “the surveillance and intimidation of victims, their families, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers” in Sri Lanka, which is extremely worrying as it inhibits the ongoing monitoring of the  human rights situation there. 

“With the space for civil society working on human rights and transitional justice closing down almost entirely, engagement by member states with the Sri Lankan Government must be on the basis of  protecting human rights and human rights defenders and  ensuring  that Sri Lanka is held accountable to the committments it made in 2015 to its citizens and in accordance with their international obligations. Failing to do so deepens impunity in Sri Lanka and erodes any notion of the rule of law,” commented Ms. Sooka. (By ITJP)


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Latest comments

  • 19

    SL is a failure of the UNHRC.

    All human rights violators (and even more) are back in power in SL.

    • 23


      Sri Lanka is a proud failed state.

  • 28

    Srilankens would never learn it from their past experiences.

    They thought current leaders were that good at containment of COVID even if their subjective statistics of the numbers would not be recognized as the truths by international community.
    If any bulath hapayas like PASQUAL would spread blatant lies about the statistics, promoting the Rajakashe crime politics, not many respect the basics of microbiology ( or school biology) would not get misled by their false numbers.
    It is believed that SRILANKA s COVID death rates should be 10 times more than current numbers.
    However, they belong to the countries/community clusters are common is what I happened to read in world press.
    They dont care much about the statistics of Myanmar, Sudan or far poor AFRO countries, that have not performed enough tests, but go on saying that they maintained it.
    With this being the ground reality of the country, what more harms cant be expected in the days to come ??????????????????

    • 12

      Mr. leela ge …..,
      Prize for the funniest sentence of the year goes to…..
      “””However, they belong to the countries/community clusters are common is what I happened to read in world press””‘
      I am proposing another prize for anyone who can understand it.

    • 9

      Mr. leela ge …..,
      Myanmar Coronavirus Cases : 3,636
      Total Deaths : 39 ( 1.07% )
      Yesterday’s death count : 3
      Yesterday’s new cases : 307
      Recovered : 832 ( 23% )
      Sudan Coronavirus Cases : 13,535
      Total Deaths : 836 ( 6.18% )
      Yesterday’s death count : 1
      Yesterday’s new cases :19
      Recovered : 6,759 ( 50% )

      Sri Lanka Coronavirus Cases : 3,271
      Total Deaths : 13 ( 0.40% )
      Yesterday’s death count : 0
      Yesterday’s new cases : 9
      Recovered : 3,021 ( 92% )
      Data – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sudan/

      • 16

        Pasky the hoodwinked –
        Do you have any belief in the statistics and the figures given by the Rajapuk media juggernaut.?
        I and 20 million do not believe so.
        Arent they the world’s best leading criminal bullshitters.?
        Do any of them or any of their gang ever speak or write the truth.?

      • 17

        S C Passcal

        “Sri Lanka Coronavirus Cases : 3,271
        Total Deaths : 13 ( 0.40% )”

        Sri Lanka Rana-Virus cases about 400,000
        Total Deaths 1971 18,000 + 1987-91 130,000, over 30 years about 120,000
        Total death due to Rana Viruses 268,000.

  • 23

    Human rights violation in Srilanka is nothing new. To my knowledge it commenced from the time we got the freedom from Britain in 1948. Britain was partly responsible in aiding and abetting the Human Rights violation. It may be due to Britain not properly assessing the temperament of the Sinhalese politicians towards the the Tamils despite the fact, Tamils have brought to the notice of Britain, the possible and probable discriminatory policies of the Sinhalese government with the passage of time after the independence. This may be excused on the basis that Britain was not sure of the behavior of Srilanka. But there is no excuse for Britain to have supported the massacre of the Tamils during the civil war and there after cry foul as if they are innocent. All the western nations and India are responsible for H>R violation in Srilanaka. That is why they are only shedding crocodile tears today and not taking any tangible steps to remedy the situation..

    • 6

      Kanapathy Varunan,
      Actually, British should be held responsible for the massacre of Native Sinhalayo by LTTE Tamil terrorist barbarians for three decades.
      Brits allowed Tamil Diaspora to operate from Britain to raise funds to buy arms to Tamil terrorists. As far as British were concerned, LTTE were ‘GOOD TERRORISTS’ who created problems to their former colony. IRA were ‘BAD TERRORISTS’ because they created problem to Britain.

      “But there is no excuse for Britain to have supported the massacre of the Tamils during the civil war and there after cry foul as if they are innocent”.

  • 22

    SL is now probably confirmed in the eyes of the world as another third world country with a despotic regime as in some African & South American countries. Nevertheless, SL is happy to show 2 fingers to the ‘hostile’ nations who, we are expected to believe, are jealous of our potential but at a time of dwindling FOREX reserves & economic disaster brought about by COVID 19, obviously, such a reputation is ‘bad for business’ when it comes to export markets for SL goods, trade deals & foreign investment in SL, not to mention the much needed aid for development. Even tourism now is focused on ecological sustainability & ethical consideration when it comes to distribution of profit from tourism, therefore, the flood of tourists expected once the quarantine issues are over, are yet to be seen.

    Current SL foreign policy seems to be based on the dependence of India, who is keen to have SL in its good books to keep away the threat of Chinese presence in the Indian ocean & China it self, ever willing to loan the money at commercial rates with strings attached to tighten the stranglehold of its debt trap. Happy days in the horizon?

    • 4

      I guess you are referring to ‘White World’. Rest of the countries in the world will not bother what kind of a regime Sri Lanka has.
      The neo-colonialists in the ‘White World’ will be happy even with a despotic regime provided the leader/s will be willing to dance according to their tune. They did business with many despotic regimes in Africa and South America who became their puppets.
      Those guys in the ‘White World’ hatched the ‘Regime Change’ project to remove Mahinda Rajapakshe because they feared that he will not dance according to their tune. They came to that conclusion based on the response from Mahinda Rajapakshe to those two white dumbos who came and asked him to stop the military operation against LTTE Tamil terrorist barbarians when they realized that Sri Lanka Armed Forces will eliminate LTTE.

      “SL is now probably confirmed in the eyes of the world as another third world country with a despotic regime as in some African & South American countries.”

      • 13

        Eagle Eye

        Don’t you think the majority of developed countries are in the ‘white world’ you describe? SL desperately needs foreign investment, aid, technical support & markets for exports, so do you think the SL can manage with doing business with the rest of the world only? Bangladesh has overtaken SL in apparel exports, ‘made in Bangladesh’ labels are in practically all garments sold in the US & UK

  • 22

    A rogue state is thumbing its nose on the UNHRC co-sponsored Resolution, after all the encouragement, appeasement, extension and persuasion for Sri Lanka to do the right thing. It’s a shame to even associate in any shape or form, with Sri Lanka.

    For the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, rape, murder, enforced disappeared, tortured, prisoners, IDPs, and under military occupation, the QUESTION is – “Is UNHRC Relevant to the Victims”.

    Never again, or Next one coming soon!

    Refer Sri Lanka to the ICC or the UNSC, to at least stop another tyrant / state structural genocide

    • 5

      Manicka Vasagar,
      Racist Chelvanayakam dragged poor Dalits who were hired to do dong key work for Malabar Vellala Demalu to Nandikadal. It looks like racist Vigneshwaran is trying to drag Dalits to Pundekadal.

  • 8

    Yasmin Sooka,
    If you are concerned about human rights first you pay attention to human rights of low caste Dalits in Yapanaya who have been oppressed by Malabar Vellala Demalu (Ceylon Tamils after 1911).
    Jane Russell, in her study of communalism under the Donoughmore Constitution ( 1931 – 1947), documents how the Vellalas manipulated the system to keep the non-Vellalas out of the power elite.
    Kanai K. Daniel, a Turumban, dramatised graphically the suffering and the exploitation of the low-castes by the Vellalas.
    In order to divert attention from the oppression carried out by Malabar Vellala Demalu, they portray Sinhalayo as the arch enemy of Demalu while the real enemy of low caste Demalu in Yapanaya are Malabar Vellala Demalu.

  • 4

    ‘Sri Lanka Cannot Be Business As Usual’

    Didn’t they say that last year? Year before,……

  • 14

    Eagle Eye

    Don’t you think the majority of developed countries are in the ‘white world’ you refer to? SL desperately needs foreign investment, aid, technical support & markets for exports, so do you think SL can manage doing business with the rest of the world only? Bangladesh has overtaken SL in apparel exports & its garments are found in UK, Europe & USA. Do you think SL can compete in export markets with other East Asian producers without concessions from importers or do you think China & the rest of the world will be fighting over for SL products? Already the SL passport is at the bottom with those of African countries ruled by despots, requiring strict immigration scrutiny. A country’s standing in the world has a direct influence on its citizens internationally. You maybe having the ‘frog in the well syndrome’ if you are so blinded by your ‘patriotic’ feelings.

    You may prefer to ‘dance to the tune of China’ but I prefer fair justice & democratic rights for all citizens in all countries.

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