UNHRC 48th Sessions and Resolution No. 48/1 of 23rd March 2021 on Sri Lanka

September 12, 2021

HE Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
(via email: mbachelet@ohchr.org)

UNHRC 48th Sessions and Resolution No. 48/1 of 23rd March 2021 on Sri Lanka

Dear High Commissioner,

This week or later you are scheduled to present an oral submission to the Council in regard to progress or compliance made by the Sri Lankan government as per UNHRC Resolution No.48 /1 of 23 March 2021. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunewardena said the resolution lacked authority as the nations that had voted in favour were outnumbered by those that had voted against it or had abstained.

This type of argument shows that Sri Lanka has scant respect bordering contempt for resolutions passed by the UNHRC. It takes refuge under various subterfuges to disown responsibility for human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity, 

In February 2020, the government of Sri Lanka, led by newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, formally withdrew from the resolution process at the Human Rights Council. Instead, the government announced that it would pursue “an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process.” This promise as usual remains on paper.

It may be recalled since 2012 the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) is taking the UNHRC for a ride in regard to several resolutions passed by the UNHRC. Except for a brief period from 2015 – 2018 when the late Mangala Samaraweera as Foreign Minister. In October 2015 Resolution 30/1 was co-sponsored by the government and unanimously adopted by  HRC members. Mangala Samaraweera was savagely criticised and accused of betraying the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in safeguarding the sovereignty and unity of the country.

Release of state and private lands occupied by armed forces

The release of land belonging to the Tamil people has come to a dead end. During the last 22 months, the army has released only about 200 acres in the Kilinochchi district. The progress made in releasing during the tenure of Sirisena – Wickremesinghe rule has been halted. Now the armed forces are making desperate attempts to seize private lands to build camps. especially in the Jaffna and Mullaitheeevu districts. Strong opposition by the people has temporarily thwarted such nefarious efforts.

The following table shows details of both state and private land released between 2015 – 2018 and land still under occupation by the armed forces. A total of 28.990 acres (37.85%) of land is still occupied by the armed forces. The armed forces claim that these lands cannot be released for security reasons.

         TABLE 1 
Statistics showing land released and not released between January 2015 and January 2019
 Period State Private Total 
Land under occupation by the armed forces -January 201567,1419,45376,594
Land released January 2015 – January 201941,6775,92747,604
Percentage 62.0762.762.15
Balance land NOT released as at  January 201925,4643,52628,990
Percentage 37.9337.337.85
Land not released January 2009 – January 201567,1419,45376,594
Land released January 2015 and January  2019- 41,6775,92747,604
Land not release at end of January 201925,4653,52628,991
Percentage 37.9337.337.85

Lands in the eastern province identified as Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka

In 2020, Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced a pan- Sinhala-Buddhist task force consisting of Buddhist monks, Head of the Derana media network and civilians to “preserve the historical heritage of Sri Lanka” in the island’s eastern province.  This Task Force is headed by the Defense Secretary and war crimes accused Major General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne to build a secure country and a disciplined society.

Gazette notifications have been published declaring several Buddhist heritage sites and the takeover of thousands and thousands of acres of land belonging to Tamils and Muslims in all 3 districts. A naval sub-unit has been established to protect Buddhist sites.

The Eastern province, which has been claimed by the Tamil people as being historically inhabited by the Tamils, has come under decades of intense Sinhalisation and colonisation from state-sponsored settlement schemes.

Buddhist Viharas and statures of Buddha  built in and around Hindu Temples

Several Buddhist Viharas and statues of Buddha have sprouted in the North-eastern provinces where Hindu temples have existed for centuries. Hindus are prevented from performing their religious rituals by the army. Several cases are pending in courts challenging the construction of Buddhist Viharas and statues of Buddha where there are no Buddhists.

Genuine socio-economic peace, equity, reconciliation and justice will remain a distant dream for now.  The Sri Lankan government will continue to defy UNHRC  unless member states seriously consider imposing economic /travel sanctions that will hurt the rogue state.

Yours sincerely,

Veluppillai Thangavelu
Canada Tamil National Alliance.

About editor 3016 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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