Budget 2024 first reading was passed amidst uproar in Parliament on Tuesday. President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government have promised that by April next year the much-needed, though limited, reliefs will be given.
But most of the people appear to have lost confidence in the government with SLPP also split into many sections while the United National Party (UNP) of President Wickremesinghe is split in the middle with most of the members still backing Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa.
Despite these divisions among the ruling elite, we hope that they will keep their promises and serve the people instead of plundering public money as pronounced in the historic Supreme Court Judgement last week.
In such a situation of a crisis within crisis and conflicts within conflicts, it is difficult to give priority to the vital issue of Human Rights which many people are denied all over the world including in Sri Lanka. Therefore we need to reflect deeply on the 75th anniversary of what the United Nations calls one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges-the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
In a statement to mark this historic event on December 10, the world body says this landmark document enshrines the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
According to the UN, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, and sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.
A year-long initiative focusing on universality, progress and engagement, will culminate in a high-level event in December 2023, which will announce global pledges and ideas for a vision for the future of human rights.
The 2023 Theme is “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”. The UN says in the decades since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, human rights have become more recognised and more guaranteed across the globe. The UDHR has since served as the foundation for an expanding system of Human Rights protection that today focuses also on vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants.
However, the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained assault in recent years. As the world faces challenges new and ongoing – pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial system, racism, climate change – the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that do not leave anyone behind.
According to most independent political analysts, the explosive wars in the Middle East between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas and the nearly two-year-long war which Russia launched on Ukraine have eroded human rights.
In the Middle East especially Hamas launched brutal attacks on Israeli people near the Gaza Strip and some 1,400 people were murdered in cold blood with Israel hitting back by launching a merciless attack on Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Tragically the worst affected were children. Hopefully, some kind of solution has been worked out through the intervention of Qatar with Hamas agreeing to release about 50 civilians mostly women and children whom the terror group is holding hostage while Israel in turn will release 150 Palestinian prisoners while there will be a humanitarian pause or a ceasefire for a month or more.
Whether the Hamas terror group or Israel’s hardline Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have had a change of heart or merely playing politics is not clear to most independent analysts but let us think positively and hope for the best.