Response of the GOSL to the US State Department Country Reports

“The Government’s response reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that all human rights must be accorded equal weight. Sri Lanka’s socio-economic indicators compare well with those of other medium income countries.”

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has issued today (31/03/2008) the detailed Response of the Government of Sri Lanka to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices–2007 that had been released by the US Department of State relating to Sri Lanka, on 11th March 2008.

In a letter forwarding the Government’s response, addressed to US Ambassador Robert Blake, the Foreign Minister has referred to the preliminary response that had been conveyed to him when he was called into the Ministry on 14th March 2008. At that meeting the Minister expressed the concern of the Sri Lankan Government on the substance of the report which presented a distorted view of the actual situation in Sri Lanka during the year 2007 and appears to have been based on unsubstantiated allegations. The Foreign Minister regretted that none of the positive steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to address the concerns on human rights had been reflected in the US State Department Report on Sri Lanka. Minister Bogollagama conveyed the expectation that the US Report would stand corrected in light of the facts contained in the Government response.

The Government response stated that the US Report carried several serious and baseless allegations against various officials of the Sri Lankan Government, while pointedly ignoring the many steps adopted by the Government to protect the sanctity of human life, and uphold fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Throughout the report, it had been observed that the approach of the US Report towards Sri Lanka was critical and judgmental, and such a slant undermined the objectivity and impartiality of the report.

The preamble of the response of the Government highlighted the fact that Sri Lanka is a vibrant multi-party democracy which accords the highest importance to the preservation and promotion of human rights, in keeping with the Government’s constitutional obligations and the rule of law. In recent decades, LTTE terrorism has affected Sri Lanka’s economic and social progress and the welfare of its people. However, it was possible for the Government to clear the Eastern Province last year from the LTTE presence and enable the people of the area to enjoy the fruits of democracy. The Government is determined to clear the remaining pockets in the Northern Province of the LTTE menace and restore the democratic process in those areas as well.

Minister Bogollagama underlined the failure of the US Report to reflect the difficult environment in which the Government operates, namely, promoting and protecting human rights whilst fighting a terrorist organization banned by the US, India, UK, EU and Canada, and described as ‘among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world’ by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Government response referred to a recent FBI report, which described the LTTE as a terrorist organization which ‘has perfected the use of suicide bombers, invented the suicide belt, pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, murdered some 4,000 people in the past two years alone, assassinated two world leaders – the only terrorist organization to do so.’

It was pointed out in the Government response that the US Report did not refer to the terrorist attacks committed by the LTTE against civilians including women and children, in sufficient detail. In particular, the indifference shown in the report towards the murders of school children by the LTTE, and neglected to reflect the facts in their proper context, could be seen as deeply offending to the feelings and sentiments of the families of the victims and the general public of Sri Lanka.

The Government’s response reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that all human rights must be accorded equal weight. Sri Lanka’s socio-economic indicators compare well with those of other medium income countries. In the 2007 Human Development Index, Sri Lanka ranked 99 out of 177 countries, the highest in South Asia. Amongst countries affected by conflict, Sri Lanka is unique in that the administrative machinery and infrastructure facilities in uncleared areas affected by the conflict, are funded and maintained substantially by the Government, despite the fact that some of these funds are known to be siphoned off by the LTTE.

Moreover, it was pointed out that Sri Lanka is a Party to the seven core international human rights instruments. Sri Lanka is also a State Party to other related instruments including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 relating to armed conflict and international humanitarian law. Furthermore, Sri Lanka enacted enabling legislation in 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006) to fully implement obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The Government of Sri Lanka expressed its deep appreciation of the pro-active measures taken by the US Government to stop the procurement of weapons by the LTTE as well as to curb fund raising by the LTTE and its front organizations.

The Government’s response underscored the fact that Sri Lanka and the US, are thriving democracies and have a shared and abiding interest in promoting and protecting human rights and therefore it should be the common endeavour of the two countries to engage in a constructive dialogue, which would further strengthen the existing bilateral friendly relations.

The response of the Government concluded with the expectation that the US Congress would take cognizance of the matters presented in its submission so that they would be able to understand the issues in a more balanced manner and also take necessary action to prevent the recurrence of such erroneous and biased reports being presented to it in the future.

- Sri Lanka Guardian
Anonymous said...

US HR report on SL tells two things:

1) Our foriegn policy and politics aren't smart enough.

2) We have a problem at home.

It is interesting US is asking high standards from SL not fulfilling their own when it comes to Iraq and Afganisthan. If we had right politics in place, they would not have raised such issues.

For example: What do we expect if SL starts an illicit affair with Iran?

Do we have the right people placed at Washington to tackle these issues? Perhaps no. It is also possible the diplomats can't do anything with our poor HR record in Sri Lanka.