Tuesday, 9 July 2013 00:42
Urges Secretary General to demand Lanka adheres to Commonwealth values
Asks Sharma to refrain from rubber stamping emerging dictatorship with CHOGM 2013
Waves red-flag about oppressive squads operating in the north ahead of poll
Says witch-hunt against Shirani B. continues
Four months ahead of a major Commonwealth summit scheduled to be held in Colombo, Opposition Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera has written a strongly-phrased letter to the body’s Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, calling on the Secretariat to demand that Sri Lanka makes greater progress towards upholding the 16 core values of the Commonwealth.
Samaraweera’s letter, in which he tells Sharma that he finds it difficult to share the Secretary General’s optimism about Sri Lanka, notes that “the day-to-day political reality in Sri Lanka is that the Government continues to violate with impunity all 16 values of the Commonwealth Charter in varying degrees and we in Sri Lanka experience ﬁrst hand the present Sri Lankan Government’s contempt for democratic values, the rule of law and the sanctity of life.”
Claiming that the witch-hunt against former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake continues following her flawed impeachment, Samaraweera told Sharma that the Bribery Commission that is now a presidential appendage continues to pursue a case against her.
“Today, it is a well known secret that all judicial transfers and appointments are decided at ‘Temple Trees’, the ofﬁcial residence of the Executive, in violation of the Latimer House principle which states that ‘Judicial appointments should be made on the basis of clearly deﬁned criteria and by a declared process,’” Samaraweera’s letter said.
“Another Latimer House Principle states that the ‘interaction, if any, between the Executive and the Judiciary should not compromise judicial independence’. Yet, the new Chief Justice prefers to demonstrate his devotion and servility to the Executive by being a frequent visitor not only to the President but to his brother, the defence secretary,” the letter said.
Citing incidents of continued media suppression, Samaraweera noted that the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Sri Lanka as the fourth most dangerous place in the world for journalists to work in. “Also, the Government which purportedly claims that it values Commonwealth principles, has sought and received Chinese expertise to monitor, hack and block websites which expose human rights violations and corruption. In fact, the Defence Secretary recently identiﬁed social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a serious threat to national security and plans are afoot, according to reliable sources, to ban social media as well as to introduce the draconian code of ethics for the media, recently approved by Cabinet, after the summit in November,” the letter said.
Samaraweera told the Commonwealth Secretary General that despite the show of development in the north, the plight of the Tamil people has deteriorated and the militarisation continues unabated. “A special unit under the commander of the area has been formed to suppress democratic activities: During a visit to the area some months ago, even a meeting attended by the Leader of the Opposition was attacked by this squad. While the Government is reluctantly preparing to hold Northern Provincial Elections thanks to intense international pressure, there are reports that members of this squad are intimidating and threatening candidates who are hoping to seek nomination from opposition parties,” he said in the letter.
The UNP Parliamentarian said that emboldened by its apologists in the international community, the regime continues with arrogance to violate the core values of the Commonwealth Charter.
“If such changes are to be implemented prior to CHOGM in November, all Sri Lankans I am sure, will congratulate and thank you for the ‘Commonwealth soft power and behind the scenes contribution’ in restoring the credentials of one of Asia’s oldest democracies. However, holding of the summit without such a proven commitment to the values and principles of democracy would not only call into grave question the value, credibility and future of the Commonwealth, it will also be the granting of the Commonwealth seal of approval to an emerging dictatorship in Asia,” Samaraweera concludes.