Sri Lanka is making constant efforts to restore human rights of all its citizens but being a democracy it is not easy to always make changes at great speed, the country’s envoy to the 28th session of UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group said yesterday.
Delivering Sri Lanka’s statement to the third cycle of UPR review of Sri Lanka today in Geneva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva said promoting and protecting human rights is constant work in progress and not something that can be done overnight despite the most sincere of commitments and the most fervent sense of determination.
“In a democracy, however, it is not easy to always make changes at great speed, or navigate change in a rapid manner, or along a straight and preconceived path. Shifts and changes in the international domain, economic impacts, natural disasters, political developments, all this affects and impacts on our best intentions,” he said.
Highlighting the significant progress Sri Lanka made since the second UPR in 2012, especially, after the unity government came to power in 2015, Dr. de Silva said Sri Lanka is making constant efforts to identify administrative and training requirements, and reform that is necessary to be undertaken, to make its institutions stronger in order to improve the country’s human rights record.
“Our broad vision, and our determination to make changes for the benefit of all our citizens remains firm, and we are open to listen to others with equanimity, heed advise, and take positive steps towards change,” he said.
He said Sri Lanka’s achievements over the past 35 months should be viewed in the context of a developing nation that is firmly committed to taking steps to ensure non-recurrence of conflict through reform, heal the mistrust among communities and restore faith in state institutions, and restore the standards and norms of good governance, transparency and efficiency in the functioning of institutions at all levels.
The envoy remarked that unfortunately, each step taken to reconcile the nation and acknowledge the legacies of the country’s difficult past is contested.
“Our efforts to protect and promote human rights are often attacked by opponents as inviting foreign interference. Our efforts to ensure harmonious relations between the different ethno-religious communities, and our commitment to constitutional reform, are often attacked by opponents as attempts to create divisions. Yet, we persevere with strong determination,” he said.
Welcoming the robust criticism and debate about Sri Lanka’s journey towards the full enjoyment of human rights, the Deputy Minister said since the island’s public sphere features some degree of misinformation, manipulation and prejudice, Sri Lanka has sought to tread cautiously and prudently with a view to building and sustaining national consensus on the importance of protecting and promoting human rights, and advancing reconciliation.
“At this historic moment when the two main political parties are working together, we want to ensure that we tread cautiously to take steps that would ensure that the reform that we initiate is sustained in the long-term,” Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said.
The report of the UPR review will be prepared by the troika which consists of Burundi, Republic of Korea and Venezuela. The recommendations section will be distributed Friday, November 17 and the adoption of recommendations will be done on the same day.
Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva’s full statement can be viewed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.