News / Asia

UN Rights Chief: Sri Lanka Drifting Toward Authoritarian Rule

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2013.
Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2013.
Reuters
— Four years after it crushed a long separatist rebellion, Sri Lanka may be sliding into an authoritarian system as President Mahinda Rajapaksa gathers power around him, the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday.

The report by Navi Pillay, said the largely Buddhist South Asian state also was seeing a surge of violence against religious minorities - Christians, Muslims and Hindus - while the Colombo government stood by.

Pillay said she had found great disquiet “about the degree to which the rule of law and democratic institutions in Sri Lanka are being undermined and eroded.”

She said a newly created Ministry of Law and Order would come under Rajapaksa's direct control, as had happened with the Defense Ministry, and that recent changes to the Sri Lankan constitution had weakened checks and balances on his rule.

She said this year's removal of an outspoken chief justice had eroded the long-standing independence of the judiciary.

The report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, was rejected as “unsubstantiated” and biased by Sri Lanka's ambassador in Geneva, Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, who said it was inspired “by parties with a vested interest.”

This was an allusion to Western states which the Rajapaksa government accuses of waging a vendetta against it since its  defeat in 2009 of Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the country amid allegations of atrocities against civilians by the army.

Rajapaksa's administration, which suffered a severe rebuff in elections in the Tamil-populated north of the country last weekend, is highly sensitive to criticism of its human rights record ahead of a Commonwealth summit on the island in November.

There have been calls from international rights groups, echoed by some governments, for the venue to be switched because of what they say are continuing disappearances and killings of opponents and critics of the president.

In an interview with Reuters in Geneva, the father of a student killed with five others during the civil war in 2006 in the northern city of Trincomalee said victims would get justice only via international investigations, rejected by Rajapaksa.

“Sri Lanka is not a human rights country,” said the man, Dr. K. Manoharan, after delivering a 50,000-signature petition on behalf of Amnesty International to Aryasinha.

Pillay spoke of “high levels of harassment and intimidation meted out to human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists” and of “white vans” that picked up dissenters around the country.

The former International Criminal Court judge said inquiries ordered by the Colombo government into alleged atrocities at the end of the war with Tamil Tigers had produced few results.

Aryasinha told the Geneva rights council that Rajapaksa was committed to democracy and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid