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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.
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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.”

Ceylon bishop repudiates UN rights resolution: The Church of England Newspaper, March 30, 2012 p 7. April 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
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Bishop Shantha Francis

The Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala has denounced a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to investigate civilian deaths in the closing weeks of the country’s civil war.

In a report released by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Bishop Shantha Francis defended his country’s human rights record.  Speaking at a press conference held at Christ Church Cathedral in Kandy last week, Bishop Francis said Sri Lanka did not need to heed the advice of overseas Tamils or supporters of the defeated Tamil Tigers in protecting human rights.

On 22 March 2012, by a vote of 24 to 15 with 8 abstentions, the UNHRC adopted a resolution directing the U.N. high commissioner for human rights to report back next year on whether the Sri Lankan government had responded to its findings that both sides in the 26 year long civil war had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The report also found that tens of thousands of civilian refugees were killed in the final weeks of the war when the government shelled rebel-held territory in the north of the island.

The resolution called on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka, which had also called for an investigation into accusations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Sri Lanka’s special envoy on human rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, told the HCR the resolution was “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed” and walked out of the session after the vote.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the coalition government welcomed the vote on Sri Lanka saying it underscored the importance the British government gave to supporting a lasting peace on the island.  “We urge the Sri Lankan Government to take the necessary steps to implement the recommendations of their Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as soon as possible,” the minister said.

However, Bishop Francis urged his countrymen of all religions and ethnic backgrounds to rally round President Rajapaksa and to repudiate foreign interference in Sri Lanka.  He added that it was presumptuous for Britain to lecture Ceylon on human rights as the Western imperialist powers had repeatedly violated the rights of his country’s people during the colonial era.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.