From the UNHRC in Geneva to Colombo’s streets the heat is on

  • Govt. roasts in its own subterfuge, corruption, waste and mismanagement while the Defence Ministry is accused of tapping phones and monitoring e-mails
By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

The Government is facing a challenging time both domestically and internationally. While in the cool climes of Geneva, things are hotting up over a possible resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), domestically, the Government is in a tight spot, after the recent fuel hike that has resulted in almost daily street protests.

They were the two issues that dominated Parliament sittings last week, with the UNP and the JVP/DNA opposition taking up the two issues, with the Government on the defensive to ward off pressure, both from the international community as well as opposition political parties.

It was Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who brought up the issue of HR, questioning the Government why it had not presented the National Action Plan on HR, which the government would be circulating among member states at the ongoing UNHRC sessions.

Chief Government Whip Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the National Action Plan on HR has been formulated after any months of consultation, but said it was not “part of the legislative processes.” The Government however, would move legislative amendments in the House, if the need arose to give full implementation to the contents of the action plan, he said.

“The Leader of the Opposition should be paying tribute to the Government, instead of throwing brickbats at an excellent document that will ensure and assure the constitutional guarantees of our people,” Minister Gunawardena said.

As no Government statement, in or out of Parliament, seems complete without a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition or others in opposition, the Chief Whip accused the former of working to a “secret agenda, to vilify the Government” and in doing so “tarnishing the image of the country in the eyes of the international community.”

HR action plans aside, UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera made a disturbing charge against the Government, that the Defence Ministry is engaged in tapping phones and monitoring personal e-mails of people, including members of the clergy, businessmen, Opposition politicians, senior ministers as well as editors and journalists.

He said he had a list containing names of 687 persons whose phones were being tapped and e- mails being intercepted using the latest surveillance technology. “You talk of commitment to safeguarding the fundamental rights of the people. What is happening in reality is shameful,” he said.

UPFA’s Thilanga Sumathipala, who spoke after Mr. Samaraweera, said that phone tapping by intelligence services was a normal occurrence in most countries, and that it was a way in which they could tackle threats to national security. “We successfully defeated the L TTE due to the superiority of our intelligence gathering system,’ he said.

However, there was no proper response from the Government to the serious charges made by MP Samaraweera. Meanwhile, DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake who moved an adjournment motion on Thursday, to raise concerns about the worsening situation in the country’s economy, said the economy has collapsed due to financial mismanagement.

“The country is in a debt trap due to government policies, and it is the people who have to pay the price,” he said. UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake who seconded the motion, said that economic policies are decided upon in the interest of a few individuals, and not in the interests of the people.

Senior International Monetary Cooperation Minister Sarath Amunugama said the Opposition is attempting to make political capital by using the fuel increase, but was not taking note of the positive developments in the economy.

“The growth rate of the economy is around 8%. The newly built airport, harbours and expressways are a boon to the country. The Opposition should not forget these facts,” he said.

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