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

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora