Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva yesterday noted before the UN Human Rights Committee that Sri Lanka does not shy away from making considered choices and stressed on the fact that it is set at differentiating, in the best interests of its people.
He made these remarks in response to a question raised by the Committee during the second and final day of the reviewing of Sri Lanka's human rights record, as to why the Prevention of Terrorism Act is still in existence in the country.
Ambassador Aryasinha stated that it should be recognised that notwithstanding security concerns, the government has taken measures to speedily resettle almost all the IDPs, re-integrate a majority of the ex-LTTE combatants and even allowed the emergency to lapse although many at the time thought it was too premature.
"In spite of the raised concerns, the government has taken calculated risks," he said adding that however even reluctantly due to the information that indicate the possible resurgence of terrorism in Sri Lanka the PTA has to be remain in enforcement and reminded the Committee that many governments who have been faced with the threat of terrorism has made similar measures.
He also requested the Committee to judge Sri Lanka in proportion to the challenges that Sri Lanka has continued to face as a country emerging from a three decade long terrorist conflict.
Ambassador Aryasinha also commented on concerns raised regarding attacks and threats against media freedom, freedom of expression and on journalists. He stated that the spread of social media networks and online news outlets that are widely critical of the government have contributed to the diversity and increased the speed of propagation of news.
He went on to state that in a country where no one was spared the horrors of terrorism, the government of Sri Lanka has succeeded in restoring to the entirety of Sri Lanka's population the most important right - the right to life.
Meanwhile, he also requested the Committee to practice sensitivity regarding the questions raised by some of the Commissioners.
He raised issue with the term ‘Tamil Homeland’, which he said implied that part of Sri Lanka belonged to one community. “This is the basis on which the separatist conflict was fought for thirty years,” he said; adding that no mandate had ever been given at any election for a division of Sri Lanka and that a citizen from any community was free to choose his or her place of residence.
He also spoke of the references made to restrictions imposed by the security forces in the North against holding memorial events. Ambassador Aryasinha said that citizens had the freedom to commemorate any event with the exception of Mullivaikkal day.
“I don’t know whether the member who mentioned it remembers that Mullivaikkal day is celebrated to commemorate the LTTE leader who met his death on that day. Whether it is the normal norm that terrorist leaders and the places they died are venerated and commemorated in civilised society is a question I leave to the learned ladies and gentlemen to answer,” he said, adding that while Sri Lankans were allowed to mourn all those who had died, no glorification of terrorism would be allowed. (Lakna Paranamanna)