“Government job is not to defend its human rights record but to defend human rights”


June 26, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s foreign policy should have preventive diplomacy approach addressing concerns with human rights and prevent those becoming foreign policy issues, Governor of Northern Province said.

“Some of the foreign policy challenges including concerns with human rights issues also remain,” G S Palihakkara, Governor of Northern province said.

“These could have been and should have been handled through preventive diplomacy approaches in which Sri Lanka has had a good track record,”

“We needed to prevent human rights issues from becoming foreign policy issues.”

He said this can be done through strengthening domestic mechanisms, has not yet been defined in a consensual way unfortunately.

“It is imperative that this be done sooner than later, certainly before the HRC session in Geneva next September, and a broad based political consensus is developed thereon,’ Palihakkara said.

“The country cannot afford to let this drift into the political logjam of the election campaign,”

“Otherwise, on-economic factors like human rights will continue to militate against maximizing business opportunities for the county and you (businesses).”

Palihakkara was addressing the annual general meeting of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce held Wednesday, Colombo.

Following the end of the war, international pressure mounted on the Sri Lankan government to inquire into the final stages of the civil war, in which it was alleged thousands of civilians were killed. There were calls to look into the root causes of the civil war and meaningful reconciliation.

The former government appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to look back at the conflict Sri Lanka suffered for almost 30 years and the commission made recommendation report.

However it is not clear how far the county has met the recommendation.

The United Nations in March 2015, delayed the report of alleged human rights violations during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka until September 2015, given the changing political context in the island.

He pointed out, the only way to address this issue has been defined well in the Constitution of Sri Lanka before its affects economy and businesses in the island.

“There is only one way of addressing this challenge. Follow our Constitution. Its chapter on FRs encapsulates both a simple idea and a profound truth,” Palihakkara said.

“The simple idea is that the Government’s job is not to defend its human rights record, but to defend human rights,”

“When you have such a proactive stance on human rights you don’t have to be defensive on human rights,”

“This is the basis and this should be the basis for governance as well as foreign policy,”

“This is important because HRS have now become a cross cutting issue,”

“Human Rights related strictures, whether they are imposed rightly or wrongly, those pictures can hurt business, trade, FDIS and a host of economic interests.”

Palihakkara says the implementation deficit on various reconciliation measures, including LLRC report also remain un – met concerns and hopefully more focused action will become possible on the following the impending election.

“Once you get into an adversarial lock on HRS it is exceedingly difficult to unlock it.”