Relaxation of Emergency Regulations, the presidential pardoning of prominent journalist J. S Tissainayagam who was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, and the appointment of a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to augment a healing process post-war were some of the significant steps the Government has taken in the month of May, according to the monthly report issued under ‘Parliament Watch-Sri Lanka’.
Sri Lankan Government relaxed its powerful wartime Emergency Regulations on May 3, 2010, the day before the inaugural session of the new legislature. The State’s position appeared to be that such a gesture would count in giving a boost to investment opportunities, to regain the vital GSP+ concession and to deflect criticism over the country’s much-critiqued human rights record. The decision also coincided with the presidential pardoning of journalist J. S Tissainayagam, the report further said.
The bi-monthly report is published by South Asians for Human Rights based on research carried out and assistance provided by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL).
The Government resorted to some quick fixes during the first sitting day of the newly convened Parliament by hurriedly amending the emergency regulations to respond to mounting international pressure that threatened to impact heavily on the Sri Lankan economy with a specifically debilitating impact on the apparel sector, the report added.
Among the key provisions withdrawn is the provision with regard to the imposition of curfew, rules requiring householders to furnish information on inmates, powers conferred upon security forces personnel to enter private properties to conduct search operations and regulations restricting processions and meetings that could be construed as being detrimental to national security.
In addition to amending the Emergency Regulations, May 3 also marked the official announcement of the presidential pardoning of journalist J S Tissainayagam. His imprisonment, the first such arrest of a journalist under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) drew much criticism both locally and internationally. Parliamentary mention was made to this much-highlighted case by External Affairs Minister Prof. G L Peiris. However, this gesture is largely viewed as one aimed at blunting criticism of the incumbency’s lack of respect for democratic rights including media freedom and interpreted as a move designed to appease the US and European powers.
May was a month that recorded significant pressure on the State to seriously reconsider its militaristic approach to the rights and liberties of the citizenry. Multiple compulsions led the Sri Lankan government to take several forward- looking steps, a stance that is largely viewed as an effort to qualify for economic support and to attract foreign direct investment.
It is in this backdrop that the administration announced the appointment of a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in Sri Lanka for what the State called “the commencement of a healing process”. Report further said.
You can now download the full report by clicking on: http://www.southasianrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/May-2010.pdf