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Ceylonese bishop defends govt against UN criticism: The Church of England Newspaper, September 13, 2013 p 6. September 12, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, UN.

The Church of Ceylon’s Bishop of Kurunegala, the Rt. Rev. Shantha Francis has chastised critics of administration of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, saying Tamil and Sinhalese citizens of the island nation enjoyed full and equal civil rights.

The bishop’s comments as reported by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) on 26 August 2013 came at the start of a six day visit by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay to the country.

Speaking at a 31 August press conference Ms. Pillay stated that democracy activists lived in a climate of fear. Some who who met or wanted to meet her during the visit had been threatened by security forces, she said, and critical voices in Sri Lanka are “quite often attacked or even permanently silenced”.

Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director endorsed Ms. Pillay’s findings. Her “take on the human rights situation during her visit very much echoes our own findings. Being critical of government policy in Sri Lanka is highly risky, and the extent to which people are being harassed into silence is shocking.”

However, the SLBC said Bishop Francis had likened the president to King Dutugemunu, a second Century BC Sinhalese king who drove out Tamil invaders.

The bishop rejected claims there was no freedom in Sri Lanka, saying the government’s economic development programme benefited Sinhalese and Tamils, while “freedom of democracy is now prevailing in the country.”

Sri Lanka was “fortunate” to have a president who treated all ethnic groups equally, the bishop is claimed to have said. However Amnesty International’s Polly Truscott declared: “The UN and Commonwealth must respond effectively to these latest concerns raised by Pillay.”

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