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UNHR Deputy Chief encourages SL to repeal PTA

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Presenting the oral update on Sri Lanka during the 53rd Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif said that she would like to encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

She said the government has committed to replace the PTA with legislation that adheres to international standards, but the new Anti-Terrorism Bill that was gazetted in March contains sweeping provisions that will limit freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and even labour rights.

She said that following strong pushback from civil society, the draft bill has now been recalled for additional consultations.

The Deputy High Commissioner encouraged the government to repeal the PTA and in the meantime to implement a strict moratorium on its use considering that the ordinary criminal code and other auxiliary laws already provide adequate tools for law enforcement.

“The office stands ready to provide support to the government and people of Sri Lanka in order to advance reconciliation and accountability and human rights for all,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said the past months have unfortunately witnessed an old reflex of using draconian laws to curtail opposition and control civic space.

“With a heavy-handed approach to protests far too often including the arrest of protest leaders and forceful crowd control measures as well as the persistent use of the military in police functions.”

“Recent arrests made over statements made during comedy performances and of Members of Parliament engaged in protests exemplify this concern.”

“In March of this year, the Human Rights Committee expressed deep concern about the misuse of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act against journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors,” Al-Nashif said.

She urged the international community to use accepted principles of universal and extraterritorial jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, as long as the accountability deficit remains in the country.

She also called on them to support the relevant accountability processes in third states as well as the fair application of targeted sanctions against credibly alleged perpetrators of rights violations in Sri Lanka.  

She also encouraged the dialogue that the President has initiated with Tamil political parties and welcomed his promise to stop land acquisition for archeological, forestry or security purposes, an increasing source of local conflict and an increasing source of local conflict and tension.

She noted that plans for more inclusive memorialization and other forms of dealing with the past have been announced and that the Supreme Court has issued an important order for compensation to be paid to the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.  

“However, these intentions need to materialize into new laws, policies and practices that will make good on these promises and bring about tangible change,” she emphasized.

She said the announcement of plans for a Truth Commission or similar reconciliation mechanisms requires attention. “Sri Lanka has witnessed too many ad hoc commissions in the past that failed to ensure accountability. The Office of Missing Persons has not achieved the results that provide satisfaction to victims.”  

“What is needed is a coherent plan that connects the different elements of truth, redress, memorialization, accountability and creates the right enabling environment for a successful and sustainable transitional justice process,” the deputy UN rights chief said in the oral update.

Meanwhile, the Core Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka has also submitted a resolution to the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council.

The Core Group includes Canada, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, the US and the UK.

In their report, they said that it is important for Sri Lanka to protect its democracy by ensuring the independence of the Commissions while maintaining voter confidence in the country’s electoral systems.

(Source: Ada Derana)

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Draft constitution for Sri Lanka cricket board presented to president

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The draft constitution for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, prepared by the Judge Chitrasiri Committee, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (15). 

The draft was handed over by Committee Chairman, retired Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chitrasiri, alongside other committee members.

The initiative to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide suitable recommendations led to the appointment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on November 6, 2023. 

Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the sub-committee included Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara, and Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles.

After extensive discussions with stakeholders involved in cricket, the sub-committee presented its report to the Cabinet on January 8, 2024. 

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Possible extension of president’s term by one year discussed

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The “Maubima” newspaper has reported ongoing discussions about the possibility of extending the term of office of the President by one year through a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without the need for a referendum.

According to the report, parties loyal to the President have consulted legal experts, who believe there is a legal pathway to extend the presidential tenure from five to six years. 

This mirrors the constitutional change made by the 19th Amendment in 2015, which reduced the presidential term from six to five years without a referendum.

Pratibha Mahanama (lawyer), a former professor at the University of Technology Jamaica, has been cited in the news paper report, stating that just as the term was reduced without a referendum in the past, it can now be extended with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, Article 83(b) of the Constitution stipulates that any bill extending the term of office of the President or Parliament beyond six years must be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and be subjected to a referendum.

The newspaper further mentions that if the President fails to secure a two-thirds majority, the extension could still be put to a national referendum as a matter of significant national importance.

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IMF acknowledges progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that there is sufficient progress for Sri Lanka’s Debt Restructuring process to move forward.

However, the IMF further said Sri Lanka’s economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife- edged hence the country need to sustain the reform momentum.

Meanwhile, joining the IMF press briefing on Sri Lanka’s second review of EFF program held virtually this morning (14), IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka Peter Breuer stated that the IMF fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and they adapt to the relevant process.

Furthermore, he mentioned that the elections may affect the timing of IMF’s missions they conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward.

“We of course fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and we adapt to that process. So, this may affect a little bit the timing of our missions that we conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward”, he said.

“The elections have not been called yet. We will await that and discuss with the authorities how we can adapt our schedule to that of the elections”, Mr. Breuer added.

In response to a question raised by a journalist whether there is scope to adjust the programme and reduce taxes by a newly appointed government following the elections, the IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka expressed that it is significant how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka.

He further said: “I just pointed you to these two charts [in the IMF report] to tell the story how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka. Re-building these revenues is an important objective of the programme in order to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from the crisis.”

“Of course here we should bring revenue closer to the expenditures that the government is facing to reduce the gap between expenditure and revenue, and that will help to make the debt sustainable again and force Sri Lanka to be able to finance itself at interest rates it can afford and the debt are sustainable.”

“More broadly speaking, we are willing to listen to different views of how the programme objectives can be reached. These need to be realistic and achievable within the time frame of the programme”, he added.

Moreover, the IMF representative also stated that the ‘Public Financial Management’ law has now been sent to Parliament, which will help to strengthen the fiscal framework and enhance fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Breuer highlighted that the law will help to ensure that the funds are being spent by the government as intended.

(adaderana.lk)
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by adaderana.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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