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Commissioners appointed for the Office of Reparations

Following the passage of the Office for Reparations Act No. 34 of 2018 on 09th October 2018, the Constitutional Council have appointed commissioners for a three-year period, the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) said in a statement today.  
Accordingly, the following members have been appointed.

1- Ms. Dhara Wijethilake – Chairperson
2- Mr. A. A. Fathihu – Member
3- Col. (Rtd.) W.W  Rathnapriya Bandu  – Member
4- Dr. J. M Swaminathan – Member
5- Ms. Sumithra Sellathamby– Member

The Commissioners were selected in an open and competitive process conducted by the Constitutional Council (CC) of Sri Lanka and were nominated by them to the President for appointment.

An allocation of LKR 700 million was made for the establishment and staffing of the Office for reparations through Sri Lanka’s National Budget for 2019. 

The Office for Reparations is an independent authority tasked with formulating, designing and implementing reparations policies aiming to redress victims who suffered violations in the course of past conflicts in Sri Lanka. The Office for Reparations can provide individual or collective reparations and make recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers.

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UN torture prevention body visits Sri Lanka

A delegation of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday for an 11-day visit.

The SPT will examine the treatment meted out to people deprived of their liberty in the Indian Ocean island nation and the safeguards in place for their protection from torture. It will hold meetings and discussions with ministries and government officials in addition to meeting members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and various civil society organizations.

Article 1 of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) mandates the creation of the SPT. The objective is to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by an independent international body to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Sri Lanka ratified OPCAT in 2017.

Under OPCAT, the mandate of the SPT is to visit places of detention in states and to advise and assist states concerning the establishment and functioning of national torture preventative mechanisms. It has unrestricted access to all places of detention, installations and facilities and to all relevant information relating to the treatment of persons and to conditions of detention. 

The SPT is empowered to undertake private and confidential interviews with both persons deprived of their liberty and any other person who, in the SPT’s opinion, may supply it with relevant information. The SPT also co-operates with international, regional and national organizations and institutions working to strengthen protection against torture and ill-treatment.

“During our visit we will be exploring the steps Sri Lanka needs to take to effectively prevent torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty,” said Victor Zaharia, who heads the delegation. “We will also advise the authorities on the full implementation of their treaty obligations, including how they can best establish a national independent body to visit places of detention,” he added.

Eighty-nine countries have ratified OPCAT as of March 2019.

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Thousands of cattle exported to Sri Lanka being housed in 'horrific conditions'; 500 already dead

The Australian company behind a live export programme which allegedly left hundreds of cattle dead says it is unlikely to ship any more animals from New Zealand under the scheme.

Animal export company Wellard is contracted to deliver 20,000 dairy cows to Sri Lanka under a programme set up to improve the country's fresh milk supply. 

It has so far shipped 2000 cattle from New Zealand and a further 3000 from Australia. About 500 of the 5000 animals are reported to have died.  

cattle 1Cattle exported from New Zealand and Australia to Sri Lanka are being housed in horrific conditions, a programme broadcast in Australia alleges. 

Six cattle from New Zealand died on the voyage to Sri Lanka, data from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) shows.
A spokesperson for the Western Australian company said it was unlikely any more cattle would be sent from New Zealand under the programme.
"Any future consignments of cattle, which will only occur after changes have been made to the programme, are likely to be from Australia," a spokesperson for the company said.

"This shipment was subject to all of our usual export approval procedures. Our verification services inspectors were involved in our usual role ensuring animal welfare requirements were met before and during transport.

"We are of course very concerned to hear of any animals in poor conditions, and it's even more worrying to hear of people living in poor conditions and struggling to care for animals that are their livelihood", the company sai.

In a tweet on Thursday, Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor said he had instructed MPI to conduct a "thorough review" of all proposed live exports from New Zealand to ensure animal welfare obligations would be met.

But animal welfare group Safe said it was time O'Connor stopped "sitting on his hands" and put a stop to live exports of breeding animals.

"O'Connor has a choice. He can choose whether New Zealand continues to export vulnerable cows into such appalling conditions," Safe ambassador Hans Kriek said

"Wellard is planning to export a further 15,000 cows, but O'Connor can choose to protect New Zealand's reputation and refuse to export any more cows."

New Zealand's largest company Fonterra contracts a number of Sri Lankan farmers to supply it with milk, although there is no suggestion these farmers are involved in animal maltreatment.

Wellard said it would check with its Sri Lanka representative as to whether any of the exported cows ended up on Fonterra supply farms.

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Executions will not end drug-related crime: Amnesty International

Executions will not end drug-related crime in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International said today, in a new briefing that makes the case against President Maithripala Sirisena’s plan to revive the death penalty 43 years after the last execution was carried out on the island.

The briefing, Sri Lanka: Halt Preparations to Resume Executions, highlights how the death penalty is being used in circumstances that violate international law and standards, has failed to act as a unique deterrent to crime in other countries, could claim the lives of people who may have been convicted through unfair trials, and could disproportionately affect people from minority and less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

“There is no evidence that implementing the death penalty will end drug-related crime. Executions are never a solution. Indeed, they may result in people being put to death following unfair trials. The death penalty is also a punishment that disproportionately affects people from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s briefing highlights the lack of evidence that the death penalty has unique deterrent effect on crime. Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that the absence of executions has not resulted in an increase in crimes, previously subjected to capital punishment.

The briefing highlights countries that have abolished the death penalty, or amended drug laws, including Iran where recent legislative amendments have resulted in a significant decrease in executions of people convicted of drug-related offences. Similarly, in Malaysia, the government announced a moratorium on executions and a review of the country’s death penalty laws, after having introduced some sentencing discretion for the offence of drug trafficking in 2017.

Amnesty International also highlights how the trials of those facing execution could have failed to meet international fair trial standards, due to torture and forced “confessions” being routinely practiced in Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system, as noted by the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and UN experts.

“There is no coming back from an execution. There is no criminal justice system that is perfect. The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated, and the injustice that ensues can never be redeemed,” said Biraj Patnaik.

Furthermore, the briefing also highlights that evidence from other countries shows that defendants from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, belonging to racial, ethnic or religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable to being sentenced to death.

Amnesty International calls on the Sri Lankan government to halt its current execution plans and establish an official moratorium on the implementation of death sentences, with a view to abolishing the death penalty altogether.

“No criminal justice system is capable of deciding fairly who should live or who should die. Sri Lanka has not implemented this ultimate cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment for more than four decades. It should continue to honour a tradition that chooses life instead of vengeance,” Patnaik added.

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AIIB approves US$ 280 million loan aimed at improving living conditions in SL

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said on Friday it has approved loans worth $280 million for its first two projects in Sri Lanka, aimed at improving living conditions in the country.

A $200 million loan will improve housing conditions for low-income communities in Colombo by building affordable housing and redeveloping land while another loan of $80 million will be used to reduce the risk and damage from landslides in Sri Lanka, Xinhua news agency quoted an AIIB statement as saying.

Investment in the Urban Regeneration Project will support the construction of about 5,500 housing units and other related infrastructure in Colombo.

The housing units will be provided to individuals and families currently living in under-served settlements that are impacted by poor sewer and solid waste management systems and dilapidated housing structures.

"Providing affording housing will improve the quality of life for those in need in Colombo," said AIIB Vice President and Chief Investment Officer D.J. Pandian.

"Smarter urban planning will also enable the city to attract more foreign investment and increase its potential as an economic hub for the country."

The investment to reduce landslide risk will support the design and construction of mitigation or protection measures where landslides have already occurred or are at risk of occurring.

It will also support the review and strengthening of the policy and regulatory systems for landslide management at local and national level.

"With global warming contributing to increased risk of both the number and intensity of climatic events in Sri Lanka, landslide mitigation efforts are an important part of ensuring the sustainability of vital infrastructure," said AIIB Director General Supee Teravaninthorn.

"Our involvement in this project will help us to develop capacity in disaster mitigation, so we can support other members in the planning and implementation of climate-resilient and major disaster prevention projects."

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Foreign Ministry censors statements made by the Finance Minister

For long years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been sending clippings from the local newspapers on a daily basis to all Sri Lanka Missions overseas. However, since of late, the Missions have come to notice that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs leaves out statements made by the Minister of Finance from these daily news clippings.

The Finance Minister recently issued two statements on matters related to human rights and the resolutions adopted by the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka. One statement that was carried in the press on 20th March was in response to a statement made by the Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

In the second statement that was carried in the press on 02nd April, the Minister of Finance said that he felt that it is his duty, as the person who held the portfolio of Foreign Affairs when the original 30/1 resolution was adopted on 01st October 2015, to respond to some of malicious arguments being made and misrepresentation of facts relating to the recent 40th session of the Human Rights Council.

The censorship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has led some to wonder whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not want its Missions to find out the truth about important matters pertaining to the human rights of all citizens as well as matters pertaining to Sri Lanka’s engagement with the world which is the primary task of the network of Missions overseas. Some have been wondering whether the Foreign Ministry knows that the 52 day political crisis has ended. Perhaps the Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana and his Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha think that the Foreign Ministry belongs to an imaginary SLPP Pohottuwa Government, and the 52 days have not quite ended for them as yet.

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18 Indian fishermen arrested for poaching in Lankan waters

Sri Lanka Navy has arrested at least 18 Indian fishermen and seized three dhows (vessel) for allegedly poaching in the country's territorial waters. The Navy arrested the fishermen in the seas 16 nautical miles west of Point Pedro during a Naval patrol.

Eighteen Indian fishermen were arrested from Tamil Nadu for allegedly breaching the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and illegally fishing in Sri  Lankan waters, the Navy said.
Three dhows used by them were also been taken into naval custody and brought to SLNS Uttara in Jaffna, Colombo Page reported.
After a medical test, the fishermen will be handed over to the Assistant Director of Fisheries in Jaffna for further investigation, the Navy Media Unit said.

In January 2018, Sri Lanka increased by over 100 times the fine on foreign vessels to deter them from fishing in its waters, amid the dispute over the frequent entry of Indian fishing trawlers into the country's maritime territory.

The main aim of the move is to prevent illegal fishing activities in the Sri Lankan waters and protect the fisheries and aquatic resources of the country's coastal belt. 

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Don’t End Death Penalty Moratorium: HRW

The Sri Lankan government should drop plans to resume executions, which would end an unofficial 43-year moratorium in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 31, 2019, President Maithripala Sirisena said that a date had been set to resume carrying out the death penalty in drug trafficking cases.

Sirisena renewed calls for the death penalty following a visit to the Philippines in January, during which he called President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” an “example to the world.” In March, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, reported to the UN Human Rights Council that up to 27,000 people have been killed in the Philippines’ anti-drug campaign. The UN, nongovernmental organizations including Human Rights Watch, and the media have linked the killings of alleged drug dealers and users to the police and police-backed vigilantes.

“There is no reason to bring the death penalty back to Sri Lanka after a four-decade moratorium,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Sirisena’s decision to restore the death penalty because he was inspired by the Philippine’s murderous ‘drug war’ may be the worst possible justification and would violate international law.”

The death penalty has not been carried out in Sri Lanka since 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners – 1,215 men and 84 women – are on Sri Lanka’s death row after having been convicted for capital offenses, including 48 for drug crimes. In February, the government began advertising in local newspapers for a hangman, seeking male candidates between ages 18 and 45 with “excellent moral character” and “a very good mind and mental strength.”

The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty has been repeatedly debunked, Human Rights Watch said. In 2015, the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Šimonović, stated that there was “no evidence that the death penalty deters any crime.” Even with respect to murder, an Oxford University analysis concluded that capital punishment does not deter “murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”

The UN has also opposed the use of the death penalty for drug-related crimes. In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit the use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses, and called on countries to take an overall “human rights-based approach to drug and crime control.” In its 2014 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board, the agency charged with monitoring compliance with UN drug control conventions, encouraged countries to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses.

Imposing the death penalty for drug offenses would violate Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is party, states in article 6 on the right to life that the death penalty “may be imposed only for the most serious crimes.” The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the covenant, said in a 2018 general comment that “most serious crimes” applies “only to crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing. Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death, such as … drug … offences, although serious in nature, can never serve as the basis, within the framework of article 6, for the imposition of the death penalty.”

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in South Asia to cease carrying out the death penalty. In December 2018, Sri Lanka joined 120 countries at the UN General Assembly that voted in favor of a resolution on the “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty.” Only 35 countries voted against the resolution. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is inherently cruel and irreversible.

“The Sri Lankan government should publicly recommit to its moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to permanently abolishing the practice,” Ganguly said. “Executions, whether imposed by a judge or carried out unlawfully by the police, are not the way to address drug offenses.”

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Sri Lanka's growth to recover gradually but commitment to reforms remains essential

Sri Lanka’s economic growth is projected to pick up to 3.6% in 2019 and further to 3.8% in 2020 from 3.2% in 2018, a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report says.ADB’s flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2019, forecasts a gradual recovery supported by a turnaround in the construction sector and continued growth in services.

The agriculture sector, which picked up pace in 2018 after two years of weak performance, is expected to continue growing at the same pace assuming weather conditions remain normal.

“While the economy is projected to recover over the next two years, for Sri Lanka to sustain and accelerate growth, fiscal and structural reforms remain essential,” said the Senior Country Economist at ADB’s Sri Lanka Resident Mission Mr. Utsav Kumar. “Addressing policy constraints will be critical to avoiding repeated macroeconomic pressures and to generating sustained sources of foreign exchange earnings.”

Proposals announced in the 2019 budget will support private expenditure and thus growth. The public investment to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is expected to pick up and will be an impetus to investment and the construction sector. Overall, the budget aims to keep the primary balance in surplus in 2019 and 2020 and reduce the fiscal deficit further, thereby maintaining the path of fiscal consolidation.

Headline inflation, as measured by the national consumer price index, is expected to inch up to 3.5% in 2019 and further to 4.0% in 2020 stemming from a pickup in economic activity, base effect for inflation, and a strengthening in nonfood and core inflation observed since late 2018 and early 2019.

The current account deficit will drop to 2.5% of GDP in 2019 and increase marginally in 2020. A recovery in agriculture exports, continued increase in tourist earnings, and a slowdown in vehicle imports will contribute to a decline in current account deficit. Though the impact of Brexit on the overall Sri Lankan economy is estimated to be marginal, a downside risk to the garment sector emanates from a no-deal Brexit scenario involving a possible tariff escalation between Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. The large repayments on account of external debt servicing and political uncertainties may affect market sentiment and exert pressure on the Sri Lankan rupee.

A key policy challenge for the Sri Lankan economy is recurrent weather-related disasters in 2016 and 2017 that have had multiple impacts as evidenced by slow economic growth, high domestic food prices, a high oil import bill, high government spending, and high number of food-insecure households limiting daily minimum calorie intake. With a large proportion of the population close to the poverty line, gains made in poverty reduction over the past two decades may be at risk from exposure to disasters. Sri Lanka needs to focus on areas prone to disasters and to move toward a more disaster-resilient economy by preventing and mitigating consequences of weather-related hazards. Efforts also need to be made toward mobilizing funds for risk reduction and adaptation, establishing the right policy framework, and building institutional capacity.

(Modern Diplomacy)

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Dubai Cares’ programme to benefit 30,000 Sri Lankan children

More than 30,000 children in Sri Lanka will benefit from the new literacy programme launched in their districts, thanks to the partnership of Dubai Cares and Save the Children.

A delegation from Dubai Cares recently visited Sri Lanka to launch the programme that aims to improve children’s literacy levels in the Northern and Southern Provinces of Sri Lanka where there is a critical need to improve the quality of education.

The $1 million (Dh3.6 million) project has three main pillars mainly assessing students’ current literacy levels; building the capacity of teachers, school administrators and government in supporting children’s literacy skills; and working with the community to promote reading awareness and strong language development.

The new programme was driven by the success of the first programme of Dubai Cares in Sri Lanka. It is also expected to indirectly benefit 7,500 children, 1,000 teachers and 13,900 parents through teacher training and community-based activities.

Commenting from the field on the importance of the new programme, Abdullah Ahmad Al Shehhi, Chief Operating Officer at Dubai Cares, said Dubai Cares is encouraged by the success of its first programme in Sri Lanka, which demonstrated the high impact of Literacy Boost within the country’s education system.

“By building up on the success of the first program, we are helping to tackle the education gaps through expanding our reach to more districts throughout the country, as well as supporting the Ministry of Education to phase-in Literacy Boost in every primary school in Sri Lanka.”

Dana Jawad Amr, Programmes Officer at Dubai Cares, added: “From student assessments to capacity-building for teachers and administrators, we are proud to support the creation of skills-based curricula that can embed literacy components and be used by teachers effectively in their pedagogy.”

The Dubai Cares delegation also met with Vijayakala Maheswaran, State Minister of Education in Sri Lanka, and Save the Children’s in-country and global teams, including Helen l’Anson, Country Director.

I’Anson said the Literacy Boost approach helps children improve key reading skills through a mix of school, community and home-based activities.

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Sri Lanka takes 'Bakmaha Divuruma' pledge to create a drug free country

Sri Lankans across the country took the 'Bakmaha Divuruma', a national pledge to eradicate the drug menace to confirm their total commitment to control and eliminate the illegal drugs from the country. 

The inaugural event of this programme was held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena today (03), at the Independence Square in Colombo, with the participation of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, MPs and Heads of Tri-Forces. The public attended the ceremony in large numbers as well.

Those who gathered at the Independence Square pledged to commit themselves to make the country free of illicit drugs for the sake of the future generation, to successfully conduct drug prevention programmes, to take steps to shun drugs as an individual, and to contribute for the great collective efforts to free the Sri Lankan public from drug menace.

This event was live streamed through electronic media, and it was simultaneously telecast to institutions, public offices, schools and the general public.

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President inaugurates "INNOVATE SRI LANKA 2019” exhibition

In the process of overcoming economic and social challenges presented before the country, president Maithripala Sirisena said that the intervention of intellectuals is more important than the role of the politicians.  

The president made this remark while participating in the inaugural ceremony of the “INNOVATE SRI LANKA 2019” exhibition held at the BMICH.

This exhibition is organized simultaneously to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Innovation, Invention and Venture Creation Council of Sri Jayawardenapura University.

The president inspected many exhibits accompanied by the Vice-Chancellor of the Sri Jayewardenepura University Prof. Sampath Amarathunga and Vidyajyothi Dr. Bandula Wijey, an international ambassador for Science and Technology.

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