Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the High Level Segment of the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council
Sinhala & Tamil text to follow
Video of Statement
Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka
High-Level Segment of the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 28 February 2017
High Commissioner for Human Rights/ Madam Deputy High Commissioner
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is an honour for me to be here today at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council which I believe has the highest number of dignitaries in attendance.
I stand here today at a time when the very basis and fundamentals of human rights are being questioned around the world. Many of the universal values that we subscribe to are being challenged in the name of ‘populism’, with populists spinning webs from threads of ignorance. The role of this Organisation, in this context, is becoming more important than ever.
This Council is familiar with Sri Lanka’s story. After years of denial, disengagement, and self-isolation, the National Unity Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, proceeded to set our country on a transformative trajectory in terms of human rights, good governance, rule of law, justice, reconciliation and economic development.
The people of our country voted in large numbers granting a resounding victory to President Sirisena at the election in January 2015. The voter turnout was the highest recorded for any Presidential candidate, and in the North and the East, President Sirisena’s share of the vote was also the highest ever as people placed their trust in President Sirisena who they believe will not short change them as in the past. Therefore, we not only owe the people who voted for us 2 years ago, but also to history to uphold that trust, and we are committed to do so.
It is with this firm conviction, that soon after the August 2015 Parliamentary Election, we co-sponsored Resolution 30/1 titled ‘Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’, which was adopted unanimously by this Council, on the 1st of October 2015.
I speak today, just over a year, or 15 months since Sri Lanka took the historic step of co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1. Many in our country criticised and continue to criticise us for this step. Some even see this as an act of treachery and betrayal of the nation. We have a simple message for them, as we journey towards 2018, our 70th year as an Independent Nation:
The Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Burghers, those of different faiths and beliefs, across gender, caste and creed, that constitute our country, worked together to gain Independence for our nation in 1948. That achieved, we failed to forge the perfect nation of individuals who all hold equal rights, working as one to achieve the heights our nation could attain. As a result, for 69 long years, we journeyed through pain, violence, loss of life and precious human resources, ruining chances of socio economic progress. This was clearly an experiment in nation building that failed, which is certainly not worth pursuing further. We must have the courage to acknowledge that truth, and that era must now end. The Sri Lanka that we seek to build here onwards, should be one where justice reigns; where human rights are valued; where every individual’s dignity is upheld; and where civil society and the media play their due role; a society that believes in the importance of the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law; and where everyone has equal rights.