Sri Lanka becoming “more authoritarian”: UN human rights chief

DPA Colombo | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on August 31, 2013

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Saturday that the Sri Lankan state was becoming more authoritarian, at the end a week-long fact-finding mission to the country.

“The war (between government troops and Tamil rebels) may have ended, but in the meantime democracy has been undermined and the rule of law eroded,” the UN Commissioner for Human Rights told a news conference in Colombo at the end of her visit.

Pillay visited the former Tamil rebel-held areas in northern Sri Lanka, met civil society groups, politicians and aid workers before meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

“I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction,” Pillay said.

The UN envoy said that some people she visited in the north-eastern part of the country previously held by the rebels had been later visited by military and police officers and questioned again.

“This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced,” she said.

Pillay visited Sri Lanka on the invitation of the Sri Lankan government, but some of the members of the government have criticised her and openly ridiculed her, with one of the cabinet ministers saying he was willing to marry her.

Pillay also expressed concern about media freedom, incomplete investigations into disappearances and abductions, attacks on civil protests, issues of sexual harassment of women and harassment of human rights defenders.

She is due to submit a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next month.

Cabinet Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that the government had invited her to the country genuinely and would await the report to be submitted next month.

Published on August 31, 2013
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