Statement by Hon. (Dr) Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs at the Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka- Geneva, 15 November 2017


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Mr. Vice President,


Distinguished delegates,

  • I am pleased to be here today, leading the Sri Lanka delegation to our country’s third Universal Periodic Review. Sri Lanka’s delegation includes senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Office of the President, and the Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.

Mr. Vice President,

Distinguished delegates,

  • Sri Lanka participates in this review, in the backdrop of a renewed and transformed local setting led by the people of Sri Lanka at two historic elections that took place on the 8th of January and the 17th of August, in 2015. The people of our country voted for strengthening, promoting, protecting and upholding human rights; strengthening democracy, good governance, and the rule of law; reconciliation and sustainable peace; equality and dignity for all; upholding the pluralistic nature of society; and for inclusive and equitable growth and development of the country.
  • The victory of President Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8th 2015 Presidential Election enabled a fundamental shift in the political culture in our country, which facilitated the uniting of the two main political parties – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party led by President Sirisena and the United National Party led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The National Unity Government that was thus formed, shifted Sri Lanka away from the earlier isolationist approach to dealing with matters pertaining to human rights, towards greater openness and engagement locally with Sri Lanka’s own citizens, and with the United Nations and the international community.
  • Today, therefore, the Sri Lanka that participates in this 3rd cycle of the UPR is a country that is heading in a new, positive and progressive direction, where human rights are concerned. We participate in this session with


-a renewed spirit of engagement;

-a renewed sense of confidence and commitment to promote, protect and uphold human rights of all citizens in the country, and internationally as well;

-greater openness to listen to the views of others including criticism, as criticism helps us introspect, learn, and make changes for the wellbeing of our citizens; and

-firm determination to transform our nation to a reconciled, stable, peaceful and prosperous country, where the rights of all citizens are protected, and the dignity of all are upheld.

Distinguished delegates,

  • As you all know, there is no nation that does not have challenges, and no nation is perfect. Promoting and protecting human rights, we recognise, is constant work in progress. It is not something that can be done overnight despite the most sincere of commitments and the most fervent sense of determination. The UPR to us, is a process that recognizes this fact, and a process that is aimed at helping each other self-assess, share best practice, and support one another to take steps to more effectively address the concerns of individuals in our respective countries. There are many, both in Sri Lanka and overseas, who question the commitment of the National Unity Government to addressing concerns of human rights. Of course it is natural to be impatient; it is natural to question; and it is natural to feel a sense of frustration. We all know very well that some who criticize do so with the best intentions as they want Sri Lanka to do well.
  • In a democracy, however, it is not easy to always make changes at great speed, or navigate change in a rapid manner, or along a straight and preconceived path. Shifts and changes in the international domain, economic impacts, natural disasters, political developments, all this affects and impacts on our best intentions. Our institutions are not perfect. We recognize this; and we are making constant efforts to identify administrative and training requirements, and reform that is necessary to be undertaken, to make our institutions stronger. We are also taking steps to inspire personnel to make necessary positive changes required to optimize the service of our institutions, to our citizens. Our broad vision, and our determination to make changes for the benefit of all our citizens remains firm, and we are open to listen to others with equanimity, heed advise, and take positive steps towards change.
  • We appreciate the interest shown by States to engage Sri Lanka at the current session, and I thank all those States that have sent questions in advance, permitting a more focused and constructive discussion.
  • As you are aware, significant progress has been made in Sri Lanka since the last UPR in 2012. You would all notice that much of this progress has been achieved during a brief period of roughly 2 years and 10 months since the Presidential Election in January 2015, and the Parliamentary Election in August 2015, that enabled the formation of the National Unity Government. It facilitated policy coherence and stability that enabled decision-making required to make the Government’s pledge to its people a reality. In particular, to build a country that is modern and sustainable in its economy, inclusive and transparent in its governance, and one that respects rights and equality for all.


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