South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Legislative focus in the month of May predictably fell on the government’s move to amend the Emergency Regulations, promulgated under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO). It is noteworthy that Sri Lanka had been ruled under Emergency for over two decades.

The decision to amend the regulations generated a significant amount of legislative debate both on the merits and demerits of the existing Emergency Regulations and the implications of the proposed amendments on the rights of citizens.

In the aftermath of the conclusion of the Parliamentary Elections on April 26, a highly concerned international community continued to raise concerns with regard to the Sri Lankan human rights situation.

Forced to contend with the grave possibility of losing the GSP+ concession that is decidedly tied to the human rights record of the beneficiary state, the government resorted to defending the socio-economic impact in the event of such a withdrawal while the opposition used this as a platform to generate heated parliamentary debate in relation to the projected loss of millions of jobs particularly those in the apparel industry.

In addition, the legislative sessions also delved into the appointment of a UN expert panel to probe war crimes allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces during the final phase of the war.

These concerns were reflected in parliamentary debates immediately after the convening of the Seventh Parliament causing the Government to immediately be on its back foot, two convincing electoral victories notwithstanding.

The United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) appeared to be taking several quick steps to demonstrate to the international community of its conscious efforts to restore normalcy and reconfer civil liberties upon the citizenry, a year after the war.

Among the significant steps taken during the single month to demonstrate fresh commitment were the relaxation of Emergency Regulations, the presidential pardoning of prominent journalist J. S Tissainayagam who was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and the appointment of a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to augment a healing process post war.

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