The Commissioner of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission, Deepika Udagama has said in a sensational interview that International pressure cannot institute accountability, and torture is still being continued in Sri Lanka. She also said that the greatest blockade in implementing Human Rights, is making politics out of these matters.
Commenting on the contemporary situation in Sri Lanka, earlier due to the Emergency Law, PTA and the violence in the North and South people were in the grip of a fear psychosis. Now things have improved to a level where people are expressing their opinion without fear. Human Rights were terrifically violated. Abductions, detentions, subjecting to torture, lack of opportunity to express opinion and life threats were rampant. Now things are better with people expressing their opinion without fear. Improvement could be observed in Media Freedom. We receive more complaints on torturing in detention. People reporting small matters to HRC shows their faith in it.
We have six offices in the North and East which are operating well despite shortage of resources. No complaints of missing persons except the Rathgama incident had been recorded after I took over.
Complaints of harassment are mostly received from southern and Northwestern Provinces. Complaints from North and have declined much although they are greater than those from East. Particularly, harassment, on the basis that people are in contact with LTTE and in contact with LTTE Diaspora operatives lead the other complaints. Although we have asked to make inquiries in legal manner the reply from the police is that only police is making inquiries and not intelligence units.
Although the UN and other Organizations say that the former female militants and woman Leadership families are still being sexually harassed, we did not receive any such complaints and we will not hesitate to take action on the complaints.
Regarding Tamil Political Prisoners, she said that, although they have asked for details of the Tamil Political Prisoners from the Government we were no given adequate details. We have to be satisfied with the particulars give by UN officers. However we have asked the Tamil Political Prisoners (TPPs) without evidence be released and cases filed against others. We have openly asked for the revocation of the PTA completely.
Although, the new PTA consist of some progressive aspects, the interpretation to the term ‘Terrorism’ is so widespread that even when University students or Trade Unionist undertake some protest they may be identified as Terrorists. However the western countries have their own PTAs and the UN will not object that of Sri Lanka.
To questions about the relatives of missing undertaking struggles for more than 2 years, she said, they want to know what happened to their relatives and at the same time they want justice to be delivered by judicial mechanism. We have signed an MOU with OMP and expect to share with them the data with us.
It is better for the country if investigations are undertaken not based on North, south or East but on a concept that Human Rights violations had occurred.
Accountability related matters are forced on us from abroad. They will not get established in the country. It is better if the report of Manory Muthedduwegama Committee which is full of people’s voices is listened to.
The government had said that 4 structures for finding out truths will be established. These structures will heal the wounds of the affected faction. Only political faction could strongly establish among the people. Dedication of all needed here.
If in the matter of protecting Human Rights, the Political leaders attempt to centre only on their political interests, it will not benefit the country. The affair of Human Rights had to be viewed on a humanitarian basis. Utilizing Human Rights matters for political purposes or interests will be a lowly political activity.
Hence to reach a solution to Human Rights problems Government level dedication is essential along with those of Civil and independent Organizations. If independent Commissions and Judicial Institutions are absent in the country, any structure created relevant to the transitional justice, which is an important component of the Accountability will be ineffective.
Interviewed for Vierakesari Daily by R. Ram on 10 March 2019.