Wednesday, 08 September 2021 17:45

Civil Society Lobbies Political Leaders On Reconciliation Issues

With the approach of the September session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, there has been an increase in interest on the part of the government in obtaining the views of civil society in regard to human rights issues. A delegation of civil society members, many of them drawn from NPC and functioning as a loose grouping going by the name of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus met with a number of government leaders, including former Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Justice Minister Ali Sabry, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The group also met with former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

The primary purpose of these meetings was to urge a multi-partisan national approach to deal with these crises. As members of Civil Society involved in reconciliation, human rights and governance the group sought support on the several matters with a focus on national reconciliation. These included the following issues:

  • Burial grounds in each district: Permit the burial of Muslim victims of Covid in every district and not only in Ottamavadi in the Eastern Province, which burial ground is difficult to access for the vast majority of the Muslim population and the burial ground itself is completely filled up.
  • NGO legislation to be discussed: Ensure that the draft legislation pertaining to NGOs is first discussed with civil society/NGOs prior to being sent to the Legal Draftsman. Make the draft legislation public so that it can be scrutinized by the public and responses to it made.
  • Repeal of PTA Legislation: Support legislation to repeal or amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act to ensure that any legislation on combating terrorism complies fully with the
    State’s international human rights and humanitarian law obligations. Seek the release of prisoners held under the PTA without trial.
  • Conduct Provincial Council elections: Call for the conduct of provincial council elections immediately. The Provincial Council system and the associated provisions for decentralized governance and participatory decision-making should to be strengthened.
  • Freedom of expression and Right of Association: Protect the democratic right to hold alternative opinions, to dissent and to public protest in keeping with the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association which are constitutionally protected rights.

Those who took part in these meetings were Ven. Kalupahana Piyaratana, Rev Asiri Perera (Retd. Bishop), Fr. C.G. Jeyakumar, Prof. T. Jayasingam, Prof. Tudor Silva, Rev. Mr. Hilmy Ahamed, Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchi, Mr. V. Kamaladhas, Dr. Joe William, Mr. Sanjeewa Wimalagunarathna, Dr. Dayani Panagoda, Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa, Mr. Javid Yusuf, Dr. P. Saravanamuttu and Dr. Jehan Perera.