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Sri Lanka undergoes review process at the UN Human Rights Council
Fri, Nov 2, 2012, 03:44 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Nov 02, Colombo: The much-anticipated second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sri Lanka's human rights record got underway Thursday afternoon at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
President's Special Envoy for Human Rights, Plantation Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe led the Sri Lankan delegation that included the Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary to the Justice Ministry Ms. Kamalini de Silva, former Attorney General Mohan Peiris, and Additional Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath.
Addressing the assembly Minister Samarasinghe stated that it is Sri Lanka's consistent stand that the UPR provides the best opportunity to raise questions and seek clarifications about the present situation in the country.
He told the group Sri Lanka is prepared to answer the questions some 99 countries are expected to raise on the developments the country made during the last four years following the first review in 2008 and expressed hope to forge a greater understanding of realities in Sri Lanka through the interactive dialogue.
Speaking of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NHRAP) put forward by the government last year based on the recommendations made in 2008 UPR, the Minister said the plan addresses 8 areas - civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, children rights, labor rights, migrant worker rights, the prevention of torture, women's rights and the rights of the IDPs (Internally Displaced persons).
Explaining the developments in each area, the Minister noted that 2008 UPR took place at a critical juncture in the history of the country and within a year a 'sea-change' occurred with the rescue of nearly 300,000 civilians in May 2009.
Pointing out that Sri Lanka, like any post-conflict polity, faced challenges of truly daunting magnitude and scope, Minister Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka was not complacent but tried "our utmost to prevent and forestall acts of destabilization" from within and outside the country.
He told the assembly that there are still some elements that support the LTTE's cause of "dismemberment and separation" of the country and promised to defeat them by the ongoing strategy of democratization, reconciliation, reconstruction and development.
"Conflict touches the lives of everyone. When armed continues for as long as 30 years - as it did in Sri Lanka - it affects generations of people," Samarasinghe said.
"It is for this reason that the government has placed such primacy on non-repetition of the mistakes of the past and on genuine reconciliation….We are aware that reconciliation is not an easy exercise, nor is it one that can be achieved overnight," the Minister pointed out.
Addressing the issue of military presence in the conflict-affected North, the Minister stressed that there has been a significant reduction of the military strength in the North since the end of the conflict.
"There is no intrusive military presence impacting civilian life - in Jaffna or Wanni. On the contrary the military has successfully completed a great deal of work to assist civilians return to their normal lives in the aftermath of the conflict," he said.
He said the government has expended an enormous amount of resources, time and effort in restoring normality to the conflict affected areas by developing infrastructure, providing basic needs of such as water, sanitation, and electricity, and restoring livelihoods by reviving fishing industry and agriculture.
The Minister emphasized that economic development must now seamlessly follow the humanitarian assistance and early recovery phases and expected the international community extend their understanding and cooperation to Sri Lanka's efforts in developing a stable and prosperous country.