Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

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Archive for October, 2012

A pro active approach to the rights review in Geneva

Posted by harimpeiris on October 31, 2012

The universality of human rights, adopted by the United Nations of which Sri Lanka is a proud and long standing member in good standing demonstrates its practical application this week, when Sri Lanka’s human rights track record is being scrutinized at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism where all the one hundred and ninety three member countries of the UN have their human rights track records scrutinized once every four or five years.

The universal nature of human rights is clearly spelt out in the UN’s universal declaration of human rights and its provisions are also basically enshrined in Sri Lanka’s own constitution, giving domestic effect to its international treaties and obligations. The counter argument to the universal nature of human rights is state sovereignty and the rights of a people to determine their own parameters in human rights. However, there are limits to which a state may go, especially in the violation of basic human rights. Accordingly even as Sri Lanka generally bristles at the thought of an international review of its own domestic action on basic rights, it still seeks to project the image of a state defending and upholding human rights. Accordingly members of the Attorney General’s Department and various other sundry government defenders will go to Geneva and claim, entirely unconvincing and in fact untruthfully that Sri Lanka is a sterling defender of human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

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13th Amendment abolition violates the Mahinda Chinthanya

Posted by harimpeiris on October 23, 2012

The Mahinda Chinthanya way forward, the 2010 election manifesto and indeed political vision and action plan of President Mahinda Rajapakse has an importance and seriousness which exceeds the average election manifesto in a democratic society.

Now an election manifesto itself is an important document, because from it flows, the concept of a mandate to rule, the consent of the governed that forms the core value of a democratic system of government amongst a sovereign people. A free and sovereign people, including Sri Lankans do not give their leaders including President Mahinda Rajapakse, a blank check to govern according to various whims and fancies but support at periodic elections a stated set of policies and principles, which then forms the mandate by the people to their government.  However, the Mahinda Chinthanya in Sri Lankan society has now been elevated, almost entirely by the government’s own propaganda machine to the same status that Chairman Mao’s “little red book” occupied in the pre Deng reforms China as the political guide book to life. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Divineguma to the Judiciary; the government faces a challenge

Posted by harimpeiris on October 17, 2012

For the Rajapakse Administration which pushed through the 18th amendment to the constitution with barely a squeak of protest from society, the furor over the Divineguma bill must be hard to comprehend. The Bill is challenged in Court, the ruling is a defeat for the government and there is now a serious public debate over the issues concerned, with trade unions joining with protests and opposition to the Bill.

The timing of the furor over the Divineguma Bill comes at a fairly bad time for the government, faced as it is with serious confrontations with the judiciary, protests by FUTA and university students and a general increase in discontent in society. Such discontent is not easily quelled, especially from an Administration, loath to make any real policy concessions or governance changes to accommodate dissent or diversity of opinion. The cosmetic time buying exercises merely postpones relatively briefly the day of reckoning. Read the rest of this entry »

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An assault on the judiciary amid rising dissent

Posted by harimpeiris on October 10, 2012

Last weekend, Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Secretary Manjula Tilakaratne was brutally assaulted by an armed gang outside St.Thomas College, Mt.Lavina where he was waiting after dropping his son there for a sporting event. The assault occurred after Mr.Tilakaratne on the instruction of the JSC had issued a much publicized press statement, that there were attempts by the Executive to interfere in the independence and the work of the Judiciary. The statement itself followed a refusal by the JSC, comprising the Chief Justice and two senior judges of the Supreme Court to respond to presidential summons, supposedly to discuss budgetary allocations for judicial training.

The attack on Mr.Tilakaratne was preceded by Cabinet level discussion his statement and pronouncements by government spokesmen that disciplinary action is being considered against him. Further the JSC and Mr.Tilakaratne was being vilified in sections of the State media and Mr.Tilakaratne publicly stated that following such state media vilification, he and his family’s personal safety was now at grave risk. Despite this obvious security risk, his security provided by the judicial security division (JSD) was withdrawn over the weekend, leaving him exposed as a sitting duck for the seemingly well planned and executed operation against him. The result was that many held the government responsible for this outrageous attack, notwithstanding the predictable condemnations of the same and the judiciary struck work for two days, closing down the Courts. The tensions between the judiciary and the government are clearly rising. The stoning of the Mannar Magistrate, the strong stand against the same by the Bar Association, now the assault on the JSC secretary, the state media campaign of vilification, all point to rising tensions between the judiciary and the executive. Where this will end is uncertain but for the government some caution and reflection is in order. Read the rest of this entry »

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