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

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
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.

AppleAndroid