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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More