The sword of Damocles continues to hang over Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Despite the main co-sponsor of Resolution 30/1 pulling out of the Council on grounds of “political bias” against Israel, other Western countries, notably Britain and Germany have weighed in to continue with the big stick to [...]


UNHRC: Sri Lanka – Yes; Yemen – No


The sword of Damocles continues to hang over Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

Despite the main co-sponsor of Resolution 30/1 pulling out of the Council on grounds of “political bias” against Israel, other Western countries, notably Britain and Germany have weighed in to continue with the big stick to get Sri Lanka to be on its best behaviour as a respecter of human rights and transitional justice, reconciliation, rehabilitation etc.

Sri Lanka has been given time till March next year to show how well it has progressed in terms of responding to the charges levelled against it at the UNHRC. This week, at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s ambassador had to pledge his country’s “constructive engagement and dialogue” with the Council and to provide “unfettered access and necessary cooperation” to visits by Working Groups of the Council to see how it is progressing according to the will of the Council.

Sri Lanka has conceded that the “technical advice” provided by these Working Groups has been considered “seriously and some of which have been already implemented”. The OMP (Office of Missing Persons) is cited as an example.

A draft 77-page Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) to replace the existing PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was rushed through Cabinet this week so that Sri Lanka’s envoy to the UNHRC can include the fact in his speech in Geneva and tick another of the boxes that contain the demands of the Council.

The draft CTA is consistent with human rights safeguards and international standards, and the draft law was discussed with several “stakeholders” including the UN Counter terrorism Executive Directorate, the OHCHR and the International Red Cross, says our ambassador. A de-facto moratorium preventing new arrests under the PTA remains in effect. So these are the “stakeholders’ of terrorism in Sri Lanka.

Several other laws seem to be entering Sri Lanka’s statute books based on the dictates of the UNHRC, though many of them are for the good of the country. It is just that it would have been better if the country’s legislators drafted these laws on their own volition without having some Western powers dogged with their own problems of combating terrorism, breathing down this country’s neck.

Why is it that Germany and Britain are maintaining a ‘deafening silence’ over the crisis in Yemen unfolding right now. That country is being ripped apart in a pro-US/Saudi anti-Iran proxy war with more than 6,600 civilians killed and thousands of people’s lives hanging on a thread right here and now.

Of course, the UNHRC is expected to have an “interactive dialogue” on the issue on September 26 while the poor Yemenis are getting bombed to smithereens by pro-West forces in the process.



Animal Welfare Bill stuck in a ‘black hole’

Hindu Religious Affairs Minister D.M. Swaminathan deserves plaudits for bringing a long overdue proposal to the Cabinet to ban animal sacrifices in Hindu temples. This, however creditable it may be, is only the beginning and it is now the duty of the Government to speedily draft the enabling legislation and for Parliament to pass it into law.

This ritualistic practice in the name of one of the oldest religions is decried even by Hindu religious groups. Credit is due to animal rights activists who took the matter to the highest Court in the land.

The gruesome sacrifices at the Bhadrakali Amman Kovil in Chilaw every year were a disgrace to humanity and successive Governments turned a blind eye to what some traditionalist termed “an ancient custom” to “appease the gods” and invoke the wrath of Goddess Kaliamma on their enemies. The temple was the site of a bloodbath of animals and birds to invoke harm on other human beings.

At the time, the activists could only cite the Cruelty to Animals Ordinance and the Butchers Ordinance and the violation of its provisions. The local Police, however, looked the other way. They were beneficiaries of the meat that was distributed by the temple.

The Law Commission had in 2006 drafted the Animal Welfare Bill which after many twists and turns, was passed by Cabinet in 2016. Pressure from certain groups (primarily the meat industry) had been a stumbling block. Even after Cabinet approval, the meat industry, including the poultry industry, and some professional veterinary associations continued to make representations relating to slaughter of animals for food consumption, transport of poultry, use of animals for experiments, de-population of poultry or destruction of animals for disease control) Then in 2017, the Rural Economy Ministry revised the Bill by adding a new clause which excludes the vast majority of animals from the scope of the Bill thus depriving them of the protection afforded to animals by the Bill. Now, the Bill is in the hands of the Livestock Ministry, a clear conflict of interest.

Over the years, lack of political will, bureaucratic indifference, vested interests and personal agendas have hampered the progress of the Bill. It is not only in Hindu temples that the slaughter of animals takes place outside the law. In the name of religious festivals, all local council and national laws are broken. Slaughter of animals takes place even in private homes for these festivals.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) has an alternate policy of CNVR (Catch- Neuter-Vaccinate-Release) and the sending of stray animals to the gas chamber is a thing of the past. Recently, the Kandy Municipal Council did the correct thing during the annual perahera season by rounding up stray cats and dogs when the city was filled with visitors who had come to watch the pageant. The animals were vaccinated and released to where they were picked up from after the pageant ended and the crowds had dispersed.

Some countries that do not have a socio-cultural heritage of showing loving kindness to animals as Sri Lanka claims to have, give Constitutional rights to animals as “sentient beings” with a Right to Life.

Meanwhile, the Government is purchasing 2,500 rifles to sort out the elephant-human conflict. To shoot whom remains the question, but that is another story.



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