UPDATE: Poland brings in new restrictions in battle against coronavirus

Poland has ramped up its battle against the coronavirus, announcing that from Tuesday citizens, except families, will be allowed to move around in groups of no more than two.

Health Minister Łukasz Szumowski said a ban was also being imposed on people leaving their homes except for vital journeys such as heading to work, to a shop or a pharmacy.

The ban, which will be in force until April 11, does not apply to volunteers helping senior citizens. Szumowski said police would be monitoring whether people are abiding by the new restrictions.

On public transport, every other seat on buses or trams will have to remain unoccupied.

Previously, public gatherings of more than 50 people had been banned.

The new restrictions were announced after a meeting of a government crisis management team on Tuesday.

Szumowski appealed to Poles to remain at home and abide by the restrictions, adding that otherwise “we will not be able to save human lives.”

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned: “Any breach of these standards, of these restrictions which we are additionally imposing today, can be lethally dangerous.”

He added that the new measures were being introduced in order to “buy time” in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

Authorities reported on Tuesday that two more patients had died in Poland after contracting the coronavirus, bringing the country’s death toll to 10. A total of 901 people have tested positive for the Covid-19 disease in Poland.

The country has declared a “state of epidemic” and temporarily closed its borders to non-residents in a move to curb the spread of the virus.

The first infection was confirmed by Polish authorities on March 4, while the country’s first coronavirus fatality was announced on March 12.

 

Source: https://www.polskieradio.pl/395/7784/Artykul/2479811,UPDATE-Poland-brings-in-new-restrictions-in-battle-against-coronavirus

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Sri Lanka urges foreign states to extend visas of visiting Sri Lankans

Sri Lanka urges foreign states to extend visas of visiting Sri Lankans

 

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha has requested foreign governments to facilitate the appropriate extension of visas for Sri Lankans currently visiting their countries, and facing difficulty to return to Sri Lanka on account of the travel bans that have and will become applicable as part of the control measures on COVID- 19. He noted that the Government of Sri Lanka had on Tuesday (17 March) announced a one-month extension of all types of visas for those foreign nationals presently in the country, from the date of expiry of their present visas. He said such reciprocal arrangements were a common practice, and hoped that this could be facilitated for Sri Lankans, to minimize the anxieties faced by those travelling, in these exceptional times.

 

Foreign Secretary Aryasinha made these observations today (18 March), when he addressed a group of Ambassadors from Western Hemisphere, as part of the series of briefing sessions to keep the diplomatic community informed of the developments with regard to measures taken by Sri Lanka to control the spread of COVID-19.

 

While appreciating the supportive role played by the respective governments on assisting the Sri Lankan communities in their countries, the Foreign Secretary shared with the envoys present, the current status regards foreign nationals in Sri Lanka and some difficulties experienced by Sri Lankans overseas. He said, recognizing the concerns at present, all Sri Lanka diplomatic outposts now serve as emergency response units, where only limited consular and other services are continued to be offered amid the current challenges.

 

Concerns of foreign missions in Colombo over their citizens, facilities at the quarantine centres, and proper communication channels, were effectively responded to by the local stake holders present. The meeting also reached consensus on the smooth departure of foreign nationals, notwithstanding the closure of the airport for those seeking to enter Sri Lanka.

 

The envoys expressed appreciation for the efforts of the government in handling the situation, including extension of visas for their nationals, and assured that the request to reciprocate the same for Sri Lankans travelling in their countries will be communicated to their respective governments.

 

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

 

18 March 2020

URGENT AND IMPORTANT

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka has announced that according to instructions received from Sri Lanka Health Authorities all international Airports in Sri Lanka will be closed for operation of inward international commercial passenger flights (i.e arrivals) with effect from 0400hrs on 19 March 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka) until 2359hrs on 25 March 2020 (local time in Sri Lanka). The closure will be reviewed by the Sri Lanka Authorities.

During the above mentioned restricted period, the following will be permitted:

  1. Aircraft Departures with passengers originating from Colombo, Stop overs, transit passengers or visiting tourists.
  2. Emergency Diversions to BIA
  3. Freighter Operations and humanitarian flights to BIA
  4. Technical landings at BIA
  5. Inbound ferry flights (without passengers) at BIA

Limitation of Consular Services

Please be informed that the official working hours of the Embassy of the DSR of Sri Lanka in Poland has changed as follows due to the Corona Virus outbreak.

Every working day from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm

Vis

NOTICE – SUSPENSION OF VISA ON ARRIVAL

This Mission wishes to inform that a meeting presided by the highest office has decided to suspend the ETA on arrival for foreigners.

01. Accordingly

i. With effect from 12.00 noon (Sri Lanka Time), 14th March 2020, the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) on arrival, for foreigners who hold ordinary (or) normal passports will be temporarily suspended until further notice.

ii. A foreigner who holds Diplomatic (or) Official passport is exempted from above suspension at (1).

iii. Citizens of Singapore, Maldives and Seychelles are also exempted from above temporary restriction at (1).

02. Foreigners, who intend to visit Sri Lanka for purposes deemed necessary are required to secure visa prior to their arrival in Sri Lanka, through the following channels:

a. Online through ETA website (www.eta.gov.lk)
b. Sri Lanka Diplomatic Missions and Posts abroad and
c. Heads of the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

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FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS DIPLOMATIC COMMUNITY ON COVID- 19 PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena briefed the Diplomatic community on the situation of the COVID-19 epidemic and the preventive measures the Government of Sri Lanka contemplates taking. The Foreign Minister apprised that adequate preventive measures to curtail the transmission of the virus have been taken by the Government. While appreciating the role of the media he urged the media to be cautious in disseminating the correct information to the general public so as not to give into panic unnecessarily, whilst being agile to the dangers of the virus.

The panel headed by Foreign Minister Gunawardena included officials of the Ministry of Health, the Resident Representative of the World Health Organisation, IOM, Department of Immigration, Airport authorities  and officials of the Sri Lanka Army.

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha in his opening remarks informed Sri Lanka’s preparedness and the resultant successful evacuation of Sri Lankan students from Wuhan. The Secretary appreciated the cooperation of the Chinese Government towards this end. He also said that no foreign national will be allowed to be discriminated on account of unfounded fear of the virus, a sentiment clearly expressed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Foreign Secretary Aryasinha also stated that a few sporadic alleged incidents of selective treatment does not reflect the general situation in the country.

Director General of Health Dr Anil Jasinghe stated that the threat of COVID-19 has reached a level of public health emergency of international concern and as a result, the Health Ministry has embarked on a vigorous plan to strengthen the domestic health facilities. As an initial step, 17 hospitals across the country have been designated and well equipped to deal with the likely COVID-19 pandemic. The Director General also stated that since the situation is fluid, the COVID-19 case definition is also redefined and as of today, passengers from Iran, South Korea and Italy are considered to be potential carriers of the virus. The Government, as a precautionary measure has decided to quarantine those who are travelling either from or through the above mentioned three countries. The DG also confirmed that despite the decision to quarantine, the date of operationalisation of the plans are yet to be decided since the construction of quarantine facilities are underway.

Resident Representative of the WHO Dr Razia Narayan Pendse highlighting the gravity of the situation across countries, pointed out that a combined Government and society approach is the need of the hour to manage any likely outbreak of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. She added that an inter-agency collaborative approach to reverse any adverse situation is critical at this point of time. Dr Pendse said she could clearly witness the much needed political will, and the multi-sectoral collaboration and cooperation, which have been prevalent so far towards resolving the challenges. The Representative was appreciative of the roles of the authorities of Foreign Relations, Health, Defence and Immigration and stated that educating the general public, expansion of surveillance, and strengthening of preparedness are important aspects to interrupting the transmission of the virus.

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

6 March 2020

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මාධ්‍ය නිවේදනය

COVID-19 කොරෝනා වෛරස වසංගතය වැළැක්වීමේ පියවර පිළිබඳව විදේශ අමාත්‍යවරයා රාජ්‍යතාන්ත්‍රික ප්‍රජාවට දැනුම් දෙයි

COVID-19 කොරෝනා වෛරස වසංගත තත්ත්වය සහ එය වැළැක්වීම සඳහා ශ්‍රී ලංකා රජය විසින් ගැනීමට අපේක්ෂා කරන පියවර පිළිබඳව විදේශ සබඳතා අමාත්‍ය දිනේෂ් ගුණවර්ධන මැතිතුමා රාජ්‍යතාන්ත්‍රික ප්‍රජාවට විස්තර කළේය. මෙම වෛරසය සම්ප්‍රේෂණය වීම අවම කිරීම සඳහා ප්‍රමාණවත් වැළැක්වීමේ පියවර රජය විසින් ගෙන ඇති බව විදේශ අමාත්‍යවරයා ප්‍රකාශ කළේය. මාධ්‍යයේ කාර්යභාරය අගය කළ එතුමා, වෛරසයෙන් එල්ලවන අන්තරායන් පිළිබඳව සැලකිලිමත් වන අතරම, නිවැරදි තොරතුරු සාමාන්‍ය ජනතාව වෙත බෙදා හැරීමේ දී ඔවුන් අනවශ්‍ය ලෙස කලබලයට පත් නොවන ලෙස ප්‍රවේශමෙන් කටයුතු කරන ලෙස මාධ්‍යයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටියේය.

විදේශ අමාත්‍ය ගුණවර්ධන මැතිතුමාගේ ප්‍රධානත්වයෙන් යුත් කමිටුවට, සෞඛ්‍ය අමාත්‍යාංශයේ නිලධාරීන්, ලෝක සෞඛ්‍ය සංවිධානයේ නේවාසික නියෝජිතවරිය, සංක්‍රමණය සඳහා වූ ජාත්‍යන්තර සංවිධානය, ආගමන හා විගමන දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව, ගුවන්තොටුපල බලධාරීන් සහ ශ්‍රී ලංකා යුද හමුදා නිලධාරීන් ඇතුළත් විය.

විදේශ ලේකම් රවිනාථ ආර්යසිංහ මහතා සිය දේශනය ආරම්භ කරමින්, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පවතින සූදානම සහ එහි ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙස ශ්‍රී ලාංකික සිසු සිසුවියන් සාර්ථක ලෙස වූහාන් නගරයෙන් ඉවත් කර ගැනීම පිළිබඳව දැනුම් දුන්නේය. මේ සඳහා චීන රජයෙන් ලද සහයෝගය ලේකම්වරයා අගය කළේය. ජනාධිපති ගෝඨාභය රාජපක්ෂ මැතිතුමා සහ අග්‍රාමාත්‍ය මහින්ද රාජපක්ෂ මැතිතුමා විසින් පැහැදිලිවම ප්‍රකාශ කරන ලද පරිදි, මෙම වෛරසය පිළිබඳ පදනම් විරහිත බිය නිසා කිසිදු විදේශීය ජාතිකයෙකුට වෙනස්කම් කිරීමට ඉඩ නොදෙන බව ඔහු කියා සිටියේය. අතරින් පතර සිදුවූයේ යයි කියනු ලබන එවැනි වෙනස්කොට සැළකීමේ සිදුවීම් කිහිපයක් මඟින් රටේ සාමාන්‍ය තත්ත්වය පිළිබිඹු නොකරන බව ද විදේශ ලේකම් ආර්යසිංහ මහතා ප්‍රකාශ කළේය.

සෞඛ්‍ය අධ්‍යක්ෂ ජනරාල් වෛද්‍ය අනිල් ජාසිංහ මහතා ප්‍රකාශ කළේ COVID-19 වෛරසය පිළිබඳ තර්ජනය ජාත්‍යන්තර අවධානයට ලක්වන මහජන සෞඛ්‍ය හදිසි අවස්ථා මට්ටමකට පැමිණ ඇති බවත්, එහි ප්‍රතිඵලයක් ලෙස සෞඛ්‍ය අමාත්‍යාංශය දේශීය සෞඛ්‍ය පහසුකම් ශක්තිමත් කිරීම සඳහා ප්‍රබල සැලැස්මක් දියත් කර ඇති බවත්ය. මෙහි ආරම්භක පියවරක් ලෙස, දිවයින පුරා නම් කරන ලද රෝහල් 17 ක්, එළඹිය හැකි COVID-19 වසංගත තත්ත්වයට මුහුණ දීම සඳහා හොඳින් සූදානම් කොට තිබේ. තත්වය වෙනස්වන සුළු බැවින් COVID-19 තත්ත්වය පිළිබඳ අර්ථ දැක්වීම ද යලි නිර්වචනය කොට ඇති අතර, අද වන විට ඉරානය, දකුණු කොරියාව සහ ඉතාලිය යන රටවලින් පැමිණෙන මගීන් වෛරසයේ වාහකයන් වියහැකි ලෙස සළකනු ලබන බව සෞඛ්‍ය අධ්‍යක්ෂ ජනරාල්වරයා ප්‍රකාශ කළේය. පූර්වාරක්‍ෂක පියවරක් ලෙස, ඉහත රටවල් තුනේ සිට හෝ එම රටවල් හරහා පැමිණෙන මඟීන් නිරෝධායනය කිරීමට රජය තීරණය කොට ඇත. එසේ නිරෝධායනය කිරීමේ තීරණයට එළඹී තිබුණද, දැනට එම නිරෝධායන පහසුකම් ඉදිකිරීමේ කටයුතු සිදු වෙමින් පවතින බැවින්, එම සැලසුම් ක්‍රියාත්මක කිරීමේ දිනය මෙතෙක් තීරණය කොට නොමැති බව ද සෞඛ්‍ය අධ්‍යක්ෂ ජනරාල්වරයා තහවුරු කළේය.

ලොවපුරා රටවල පවතින තත්ත්වයෙහි බරපතලකම අවධාරණය කරමින්, ලෝක සෞඛ්‍ය සංවිධානයේ නේවාසික නියෝජිත වෛද්‍ය රාසියා නාරායන් පෙන්ඩ්සේ මහත්මිය පෙන්වා දුන්නේ, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ඇතිවිය හැකි COVID-19 වෛරසය පැතිර යාමේ තත්ත්වයක් පාලනය කිරීම සඳහා, රජයේ සහ සමාජයේ ඒකාබද්ධ ප්‍රවේශයක් මේ මොහොතේ දී අවශ්‍යව ඇති බවයි. ඕනෑම අහිතකර තත්වයක් ආපසු හැරවීම සඳහා අන්තර් නියෝජිතායතන සහයෝගීතා ප්‍රවේශයක් ද මෙම අවස්ථාවේ දී ඉතා වැදගත් වන බව ද ඇය පැවසුවාය. මෙතෙක් පැවති, අභියෝග විසඳීම සඳහා අත්‍යාවශ්‍ය වන දේශපාලන අභිමතාර්ථය සහ බහු-ආංශික සහයෝගීතාවය සහ එකමුතුකම පැහැදිලිව දැකගත හැකි බව වෛද්‍ය පෙන්ඩ්සේ මහත්මිය පැවසුවාය. විදේශ සබඳතා, සෞඛ්‍ය, ආරක්ෂක සහ ආගමන හා විගමන බලධාරීන් ඉටුකරන කාර්යභාරය පිළිබඳව ප්‍රශංසා මුඛයෙන් කථා කළ නියෝජිතවරිය, සාමාන්‍ය ජනතාව දැනුවත් කිරීම, සුපරීක්‍ෂණය පුළුල් කිරීම සහ සූදානම ශක්තිමත් කිරීම, මෙම වෛරසය සම්ප්‍රේෂණය වීමට බාධා කිරීම සඳහා වැදගත් අංගයන් වන බව ප්‍රකාශ කළාය.

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கோவிட் – 19 தடுப்பு நடவடிக்கைகள் குறித்து வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள் அமைச்சர் இராஜதந்திரிகளுக்கு விளக்கினார்

கோவிட் – 19 தொற்றுநோயின் நிலைமை மற்றும் அதனைத் தடுப்பதற்காக இலங்கை அரசாங்கம் முன்னெடுத்து வரும் நடவடிக்கைகள் குறித்து இராஜதந்திரிகளுக்கு வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள் அமைச்சர் தினேஷ் குணவர்தன விளக்கினார். வைரஸ் பரவுவதைக் குறைப்பதற்கு போதுமான தடுப்பு நடவடிக்கைகள் அரசாங்கத்தால் முன்னெடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதாக வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள் அமைச்சர் தெரிவித்தார். ஊடகங்களின் வகிபாகத்தைப் பாராட்டிய அதே வேளையில், தேவையற்ற முறையில் அச்சத்தை ஏற்படுத்தாமல், வைரஸின் ஆபத்துக்கள் குறித்து அவதானமாக இருக்கும் அதே நேரத்தில், பொது மக்களுக்கு சரியான தகவல்களை வழங்குவதில் ஊடகங்கள் எச்சரிக்கையாக இருக்க வேண்டும் என அவர் கேட்டுக்கொண்டார்.

வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள் அமைச்சர் குணவர்தன அவர்களின் தலைமையிலான குழுவில் சுகாதார அமைச்சின் அதிகாரிகள், உலக சுகாதாரத் தாபனத்தின் வதிவிடப் பிரதிநிதி, இடம்பெயர்வுக்கான சர்வதேச அமைப்பு, குடிவரவுத் திணைக்களம், விமான நிலைய அதிகாரிகள் மற்றும் இலங்கை ராணுவ அதிகாரிகள் இடம்பெற்றிருந்தனர்.

இலங்கை மாணவர்களை வுஹானில் இருந்து வெற்றிகரமாக வெளியேற்றுவது குறித்த இலங்கையின் தயார்நிலை மற்றும் அதன் வெற்றிகரமான பெறுபேறு குறித்து வெளிவிவகார செயலாளர் ரவிநாத ஆரியசிங்க தனது ஆரம்ப உரையில் தெரிவித்தார். இந்த நோக்கத்திற்காக சீன அரசாங்கம் வழங்கிய ஒத்துழைப்பிற்கு செயலாளர் பாராட்டுக்களைத் தெரிவித்தார். ஜனாதிபதி கோட்டாபய ராஜபக்ஷ மற்றும் பிரதமர் மகிந்த ராஜபக்ஷ ஆகியோரால் தெளிவாக வெளிப்படுத்தப்பட்ட வகையில், வைரஸைப் பற்றிய ஆதாரமற்ற அச்சத்தின் காரணமாக எந்தவொரு வெளிநாட்டுப் பிரஜைக்கும் பாகுபாடு காட்டப்பட மாட்டாது என அவர் தெரிவித்தார். தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்ட சிகிச்சை தொடர்பில் அவ்வப்போது கூறப்படும் சில சம்பவங்கள் நாட்டின் பொதுவான நிலைமையை பிரதிபலிக்கவில்லை என வெளிவிவகார செயலாளர் ஆரியசிங்க குறிப்பிட்டார்.

கோவிட் – 19 இன் அச்சுறுத்தல் சர்வதேச அக்கறைக்கான பொது சுகாதார அவசர நிலையை எட்டியுள்ளதுடன், இதன் விளைவாக, உள்நாட்டு சுகாதார வசதிகளை வலுப்படுத்துவதற்கான தீவிரமான திட்டத்தை சுகாதார அமைச்சு மேற்கொண்டுள்ளதாக சுகாதாரப் பணிப்பாளர் நாயகம் வைத்தியர் அனில் ஜாசிங்க தெரிவித்தார். ஆரம்பக் கட்டமாக, நாடு முழுவதும் 17 வைத்தியசாலைகள் நியமிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதுடன், கோவிட் – 19 தொற்றுநோயைக் கையாள்வதற்கு ஏற்ற வகையில் அவற்றுக்கு முறையாக சாதனங்கள் பொருத்தப்பட்டுள்ளன. நிலைமை பரவும் வகையில் இருப்பதால், கோவிட் – 19 இன் வரைவிலக்கணமும் மீள விபரிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளதுடன், இன்றைய நிலவரப்படி, ஈரான், தென் கொரியா மற்றும் இத்தாலி ஆகிய நாடுகளைச் சேர்ந்த பயணிகள் வைரஸை சாத்தியமான வகையில் கொண்டு செல்பவர்களாக கருதப்படுகின்றார்கள் என்றும் பணிப்பாளர் நாயகம் மேலும் குறிப்பிட்டார். ஒரு முன்னெச்சரிக்கை நடவடிக்கையாக, மேற்கூறிய மூன்று நாடுகளிலிருந்து அல்லது அதன் வழியாக பயணிப்பவர்களை தனிமைப்படுத்துவதற்கு அரசாங்கம் தீர்மானித்துள்ளது. தனிமைப்படுத்துவதற்காக தீர்மானிக்கப்பட்டுள்ள போதிலும், தனிமைப்படுத்துவதற்கான வசதிகளை நிர்மாணிக்கும் பணிகள் இடம்பெற்று வருவதால், திட்டங்களை செயற்படுத்துவதற்கான திகதி இன்னும் தீர்மானிக்கப்படவில்லை என்பதையும் பணிப்பாளர் நாயகம் உறுதிப்படுத்தினார்.

உலகெங்கிலுமுள்ள நிலைமையின் பாரதூரத் தன்மையை எடுத்துக்காட்டிய உலக சுகாதாரத் தாபனத்தின் வதிவிடப் பிரதிநிதி வைத்தியர் ரசியா நாராயண் பெண்ட்சே, இலங்கையில் கோவிட் – 19 பரவுவதை நிர்வகிப்பதற்காக ஒருங்கிணைந்த அரசாங்கம் மற்றும் சமுதாய அணுகுமுறையொன்று காலத்தின் தேவையாக உள்ளதாக சுட்டிக்காட்டினார். எந்தவொரு பாதகமான சூழ்நிலையையும் மாற்றுவதற்கான முகவர்களுக்கிடையேயான கூட்டு அணுகுமுறையொன்று இந்த நேரத்தில் முக்கியமானது என அவர் மேலும் குறிப்பிட்டார். மிகவும் தேவையான அரசியல் விருப்பத்தையும், சவால்களைத் தீர்ப்பதில் இதுவரை நடைமுறையில் உள்ள பல்துறை ஒத்துழைப்பு மற்றும் கூட்டாண்மையையும் தன்னால் தெளிவாக அவதானிக்க முடிவதாக வைத்தியர் பெண்ட்சே தெரிவித்தார். வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள், சுகாதாரம், பாதுகாப்பு மற்றும் குடிவரவு அதிகாரிகளின் வகிபாகங்களைப் பாராட்டிய பிரதிநிதி, பொது மக்களுக்கு கல்வியறிவூட்டுதல், கண்காணிப்பை விரிவுபடுத்துதல் மற்றும் ஆயத்த நிலையை வலுப்படுத்துதல் ஆகியவை வைரஸ் பரவுவதைத் தடுப்பதற்கான முக்கிய அம்சங்களாகும் என மேலும் குறிப்பிட்டார்.

வெளிநாட்டு உறவுகள் அமைச்சு

கொழும்பு

06 மார்ச் 2020

 

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STATEMENT OF SRI LANKA AT INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE OF THE 43RD SESSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF ON 02 MARCH 2020 IN REGARDS TO THE REPORT OF HIS VISIT TO SRI LANKA

Madam President,

Sri Lanka takes note of the report of Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief following his visit to Sri Lanka from 15 to 26 August 2019, which has been presented to this Council today (A/HRC/43/48/Add.2). The advanced unedited report of the Special Rapporteur (SR) was shared with Sri Lanka, for comments, on 3 February 2020, with a deadline of 28 February 2020, i.e. last Friday, leading to an Interactive Dialogue thereon today – Monday.

However, within the limited time available, Sri Lanka wishes to provide some general observations on the SR’s report. We request that our full observations, which will follow, be published as part of the report.

Sri Lanka received the SR in August 2019, barely 4 months after the country had suffered a series of horrendous terrorist attacks by certain local groups inspired by ISIS which targeted innocent civilians at worship and at hotels on Easter Sunday, causing the death of 258, including 45 foreign holiday makers. The facilitation of the visit, at a time of numerous national challenges, was a manifestation of the Government’s policy of open and constructive dialogue with UN human rights mechanisms.

The people of Sri Lanka have lived amicably despite racial and religious differences for centuries, and continue to do so. Having suffered the scourge of separatist terrorism for nearly three-decades, they had been enjoying their hard-won peace and freedom, and had embarked on the path of reconciliation and national healing over the last decade. However, the Easter Sunday attacks reminded us that we are fighting a common adversary in terrorism, radicalization and extremism, which is a global threat.

In this context, we consider it unfortunate that the SR’s report has, to a large extent, sought to judge the space for freedom of religion or belief in Sri Lanka through the few months that followed the Easter Sunday attacks. As may be recalled, the scale of these attacks brought about a national emergency in Sri Lanka which called for prompt action by the State to identify and neutralize terrorist elements in different parts of the country in the interest of safety and security of all communities, while maintaining the delicate balance between national security and human rights. In the aftermath of the attacks, the Government immediately took all possible measures to prevent any retributive acts of civil unrest, maintain law and order, and most importantly to ensure the safety and security of all people, particularly the Muslim community. The constructive and reconciliatory approaches and calls made by the civil and political leadership of the country which helped contain the situation were widely acknowledged and appreciated. The Muslim community particularly took proactive measures to cooperate with the security agencies in their investigations and search operations. Suspects who were arrested were afforded their legal safeguards and independent institutions were provided access to monitor their situation.

The incidents of mob violence that occurred 3 weeks after the terrorist attacks were not communally motivated but caused by unruly elements. These mobs were efficaciously neutralised by the Government through a number of arrests and by bringing to justice alleged perpetrators. The country fast returned to normalcy, reassuring the safety and security of all Sri Lankans and visitors to the country. Through giving effect to relevant legal provisions and following necessary legal processes, order and rule of law has been firmly re-established. The security forces of Sri Lanka merit particular commendation for their prompt and professional action in this regard.

Therefore, the Government rejects the inaccurate references in the SR’s report to “serious concerns” regarding “Sri Lankan security forces colluding with mobs and not acting to prevent or stop the violence”; the “lack of response from the authorities against this violence”; and the claims that “acts of violence are indulged by the silence and inaction from the authorities”. It is regrettable that these inaccurate accounts have been included in the report, even after they have been fully rebutted and explained by the Government soon after the alleged incidents.

It is also regrettable that the report has sought to portray instances where criminal investigations have been conducted to prevent acts of terrorism in accordance with the law, as an endeavor to violate the freedom of religion or belief.

With regard to references to restrictions on dress code, it is noted that the regulation concerned was a temporary measure under the Emergency Regulations aimed at preventing concealing of identity, in view of the imminent security threat that existed at the time. In this regard, we wish to draw the attention of the Council that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[1] itself has permitted limitations by law to the freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs for the purposes of protecting public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Sri Lanka also categorically rejects the inaccurate assertion in the report that the ICCPR Act has not been applied to protect minorities but has become a “repressive tool” curtailing freedom of religion or belief. In this regard, we wish to point out that since its enactment in 2007 to date, 90% of the suspects who were arrested under the ICCPR Act have been from the majority Sinhala community.

With regard to comments made in the report about alleged discrimination based on “supremacy” of Buddhism over other religions, we wish to highlight that Article 9 the Constitution requires the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana while assuring all religions the rights granted under the Constitution. No provision in Sri Lanka’s Constitution or national laws permits discrimination of an individual based on religion or belief in any sphere of public life. On the contrary, Article 12 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any such grounds.

In the SR’s report, certain instances, determinations of the Supreme Court have been inaccurately reflected based on surmise. In certain other instances, the Constitutional provisions have been inaccurately reflected, for example, the SR’s comments on the right to proselytize and conversion which are an inaccurate reflection of the determination of the Supreme Court.

The report has failed to adequately discuss the drivers and root causes of radicalization of youth from one particular religious community to the extent of engaging in acts of terrorism, and appears to lack inputs from a broader spectrum of Sri Lankan society, including family members of victims and suspects, as well as other neutral groups. In describing attacks against and desecration of places of worship, the report has failed to refer to incidents of attacks on and vandalizing of Buddhist places of worship and instances of obstruction of Buddhist devotes in certain areas of the country.

The report also fails to adequately address positive measures undertaken by the Government and the law enforcement agencies to foster religious harmony, such as addressing extremist elements on all sides, payment of compensation through the Office for Reparations to victims of violence, and setting up of mechanisms such as an Inter-Religious Council. It is unfortunate that the resilience and solidarity of Sri Lankans protecting and assisting fellow citizens of all faiths in the aftermath of April 21, as demonstrated by Buddhists and Christians guarding Muslims at prayer, renovation of damaged property and restoration of damaged churches by the security forces, have not been reflected in the report. Nor has the laudable role played by the independent institutions of Sri Lanka, such as the Human Rights Commission, during this challenging period, received the attention that it warrants.

The report notes that the “school curriculum should be designed to include human rights education”, whereas human rights education is already part of the national curriculum in schools. There are a number of co-curricular programmes and activities being planned and delivered at various levels, including at schools, to foster greater understanding amongst school children from different communities and religions.

The GoSL wishes to reiterate that the State possesses credible agencies, the capacity and the necessary legal framework to address the issues of concern. Sri Lanka remains committed to protecting and promoting the freedom of conscience and religion of all its people, in accordance with the Constitution of the country.

We look forward to continuing to engage with the Special Rapporteur and this Council in a constructive and meaningful manner towards this end.

Thank you

[1] Article 18(3)

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FOREIGN RELATIONS MINISTER MEETS UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

The Leader of the Sri Lanka delegation to the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this afternoon (28 February).

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena reiterated the Government of Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of resolution 40/1 and the basis for doing so. He recalled that, one year ago, his predecessor the former Minister of Foreign Affairs had also pointed out a number of areas in the resolution that were undeliverable. Notwithstanding the withdrawal from co-sponsorship, he emphasized the Government’s commitment to achieving accountability and human rights within the framework of the Constitution towards sustainable peace and reconciliation, through the appointment of a domestic Commission of Inquiry, by implementing policies rooted in the Government’s commitments to operationalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and by continuing to work with the assistance of the UN and its agencies. It was noted that the existing reconciliation mechanisms established by Acts of Parliament such as the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations will be continued, with appropriate adaptation in line with the Government policy framework.

High Commissioner Bachelet thanked Minister Gunawardena for his participation in the High-Level Segment of the HRC. Regretting Sri Lanka’s withdrawal as a co-sponsor of the HRC Resolution on Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner appreciated the Government’s assurance to the HRC of its continued cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner and UN bodies, and the observations on the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations.

The Sri Lanka delegation shared its perspective on a number of areas, including the need for closure, adequate funding to reconciliation measures, shortcomings in the former Counter Terrorism Bill and the Government’s intention to undertake a review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with a view to proposing necessary amendments to its provisions.

The High Commissioner also engaged the Minister and delegation on the challenges faced in dealing with the interface between freedom of expression and the prevalence of hate speech and abuse of social media, technology and human rights and environment and human rights.

State Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs Mahinda Samarasinghe, Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha, Additional Secretary to the President Admiral (Retd) Jayanath Colombage, Senior Deputy Solicitor General Nerin Pulle, and Acting Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Dayani Mendis were associated with Minister Gunawardena at the meeting. Director General of the UN and Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Foreign Relations M.R.K. Lenagala, Senior State Counsel Kanishka Balapatabendi, Brigadier E.S. Jayasinghe from the Ministry of Defence and Coordinating Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Relations Subash Sri Wijethunga were also part of the Sri Lanka delegation to the 43rd session of the HRC.

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka
Geneva
28 February 2020