NPC Election has infused political momentum in the Region - Ambassador Amza tells the EU Parliament
By Sri Lanka Embassy, Brussels
Sept 19, 2013
Sri Lanka's Head of Mission to the European Union, Ambassador P.M. Amza, addressing the Meeting of the European Parliament's Delegation for the Relations with the Countries in South Asia, (DSAS), on 17 September, said, “the Northern Provincial Council elections scheduled on 21 September, for the first time since the establishment of the Provincial Council system in Sri Lanka in 1987, has infused political momentum into the once war-stricken region and there are 12 political parties and 28 independent groups, in the fray comprising a total of 906 candidates vying for 36 seats. After 25 years, 714,488 people registered as voters in Northern Part, will be exercising their franchise freely, and at the invitation of the Elections Commissioner, 23 international observers representing the Commonwealth and the SAARC countries will be observing this regional election process”.

The Ambassador made the above remarks, when an oral report was presented to the Parliament, on the five-days visit undertaken to Sri Lanka from 15-19 July 2013 by a multi-party delegation of the Parliament comprising six-elected members and six officials. Ambassador Amza also commended the EP Deligation’s Statement that they held discussion in Sri Lanka in the spirit of “constructive engagement”. He applauded it as a pragmative approach contrary to the previously stated EU position of cautiously re engaging with Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador said the Government of Sri Lanka was particularly pleased to welcome the Delegation to the country, as it manifests the continued engagement between the EU Parliament and the Government of Sri Lanka. The visit was also constituted within the framework of the policy of the Government to provide unhindered access to those interested to witness the efforts made in post-conflict Sri Lanka, he added.

A similar cross-party Delegation were in Sri Lanka in February 2011, and also a Bureau visit took place in April 2012. The Ambassador expressed hope that with this recent visit, the Delegation may have got the opportunity to assess first-hand, the progress made in the conflict ravaged Northern Sri Lanka, since their last visit in 2011, and also to observe for the first time, the situation of the Sri Lankan community of Indian Origin, in the Central Region, who are contributing to the country's tea industry.

Highlighting several progressive steps taken by the Government in the recent months, to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation, the Ambassador said, the Government incorporated 53 more recommendations from the LLRC report in July, covering human rights, land issues, International Humanitarian Law, and it is a proof that, "implementation will not be diluted on the basis of the lowest common denominator", as speculated in the Delegation report issued following the visit in 2011. "This is rather an evolving domestic process based on the priorities of the country and her people" the Ambassador noted. He further said that the Government, has assured Rs. 763 million budgetary commitment for 2013 alone, to implement the recommendations already translated into the national road map. He alluded that these considered efforts amply demonstrates the commitment of the Government to uphold the domestic mechanism and the progress made so far is now being shared with the public through a dedicated website.

Responding to a comment, the Ambassador said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights undertook a week-long visit to the country from 25 August, in response to the invitation extended by the Government to her in April 2011, and as acknowledged by the High Commissioner herself, the Government granted her unfettered access. There were 14 independent meetings scheduled in her programme by the UN. The Ambassador said that the Government has requested specific information on the allegations regarding people being threatened, following their meetings with the High Commissioner, as it is in the interest of the Government, to investigate into it.

He further went on to explain that action has been taken in keeping with the Government's commitment to improve the human rights, inter alia including appointment of a three-member Commission in August this year, to investigate on the missing persons related to the conflict, with the mandate of reporting within six months. Continued Engagement with the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in clarifying the reported cases. Formulating a draft amendment to the penal code criminalizing enforced disappearances. Establishing the Special High Court in Anuradhapura in early September, to expedite the cases related to the detainees taken into custody under the PTA, and also to take up cases related to abuses against women and children. Reintegrating a further 107 rehabilitees to the society, leaving only 234 individuals in the protective rehabilitation and another 91 waiting for due legal procedures, out of a total of 12220.

Referring to the challenges faced by the plantation sector and the vulnerability of the people living there, the Ambassador stressed that the current situation has to be looked at against the historical context of this community. He said the enfranchisement of these Sri Lankans of Indian Origin fully accomplished only in the year 1988 when the Act to Grant Citizenship to the Stateless Persons (special provisions) was passed in the Parliament, and efforts have been made by successive Governments to improve the social, economical and political betterment of this community.

Further, responding to comments expressed on that Sri Lanka is drifting towards a society with religious intolerance and rancour, he said, unfortunately what has not been reported is that whenever such incidents have occurred, as it is happening in elsewhere in the world, the parties involved have promptly reached amicable settlements.

He also said there are concerns, and scepticism on the role of the military. However, what is hardly been acknowledged outside the country is the constructive role played by the Sri Lanka Army, in demining, reconstruction and in rebuilding work, using its own human and material resources, at a time where there is a dearth of such resources. Demobilization of the military is in progress and need time to be carried out in a rational manner, taking into account the future socio-economic wellbeing of the military personnel and the national security and strategic concerns of the country, Ambassador Amza told the EU Parliament.

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