by Shamindra Ferdinando
Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva says a statement made by Lord Naseby on Sri Lanka in the House of Lords on Oct 12 isn’t directly relevant to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sri Lanka’s human rights record in Geneva.
Leader of the Sri Lankan delegation for UPR, Dr de Silva said so when The Island inquired from him whether he would take up Lord Naseby’s declaration made on the basis of British military dispatches from Colombo during the war that 7,000 to 8,000 persons had perished and of them one fourth were terrorists. Lord Naseby strongly contradicted UN claims that over 40,000 civilians had been killed as alleged by the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) in March 2011.
Dr Silva said he would discuss with the delegation including Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam the Permanent Representative to the UN, AG’s department officials and others and agree with his remarks.
The delegation will also include the President’s Office representatives.
Ministerial sources told The Island that Lord Naseby’s statement hadn’t been taken up at the cabinet in spite of heavy reportage of the development.
Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena told The Island that Lord Naseby’s disclosure pertaining to the Vanni death toll and that the previous government never intentionally targeted the civilian population had completely changed the ground situation. As the Lord Naseby requested from Premier Theresa May’s government, Sri Lanka should request Geneva to revisit the case. The JO parliamentary leader pointed out that Geneva adopted Resolution 30/1 on the basis of lies. “It’s a Resolution based on lies”, he said.
Dr. de Silva said: “As you know, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process which involves periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states. It is an innovation of the Human Rights Council that is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides for an opportunity for all states to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. It also includes sharing best practices. The ultimate objective of the UPR is the improvement of the human rights of all people, in all countries.
“The UPR has completed two cycles where all member states have been reviewed, with about 42-48 states being reviewed every year. The reviews take place during the UPR Working Group that meets thrice a year. The order of the review remains the same as in the first cycle.
“This is the third cycle of the UPR and during the current 28th UPR Working Group sessions that is being held from 6-17 November the following countries including Sri Lanka were being reviewed-Argentina, Benin, Czech Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine and Zambia.
“It was the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights that had led the Sri Lanka delegation at the first cycle in 2008 and the Minister of Plantation Industries that had led the delegation for the second cycle in 2012 as Special Envoy for Human Rights.
“As you know, the National Unity Government does not have a separate human rights ministry and as you would appreciate, the UPR concerns the implementation of human rights locally in Sri Lanka. It is an important part of this government’s policy to take care of the human rights of all our citizens. We recently launched the National Human Rights Action Plan for 2017-2021 period that involved wide local consultations.
“The report to the UPR itself was prepared with wide local consultations for the very first time including in Galle, Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna and Kalmunai as well as online consultations and consultations by post. The National Unity Government is committed to the promotion, protection and strengthening of human rights of all citizens, as a National Policy, and we view human rights as a local issue of implementation of national Policy. Therefore, I am leading the delegation as the Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs. Of course, the delegation will consist of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Department and the President’s Office as well”, the Deputy Minister sa