“Sri Lanka had to seek IMF assistance because the rulers of the country created an economic crisis. When we implement IMF policies, everyone knows that the poor suffer. The Sri Lankan government has a great responsibility to protect these people,” – Former HRCSL head Prof. Deepika Udagama

By Rathindra Kuruwita

When the next Human Rights Council session comes up, Sri Lanka would have to present the steps it has taken to ensure the welfare of those affected by economic reforms, former head of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Prof. Deepika Udagama said, addressing the media recently.

There was hardly any focus on economic and social rights in Sri Lanka as most people and successive governments had associated rights with civil and political issues, she said.

In the past, the United Nations Human Rights bodies had also focused on disappearances, torture, killings, arbitrary arrests, and similar issues during the conflict with the LTTE and youth uprisings in the South, she said.

“However, there is a focus again on all facets of people’s rights. There are many economic crises around the world these days, not only in Sri Lanka. When we look at Sri Lanka, we see many of our rights violated due to the economic crisis. There are problems with the right for food security, education, healthcare, and mobility,” she said.Prof. Udagama said that economic and social rights were bound to civil and political rights.

“As you know, the better educated individuals are less likely to be harassed by the police. The United Nations had stated that the Sri Lankan government had to take proactive measures to assist those affected by the economic crisis and have lost their economic rights,” she said.

Prof. Udagama said that poverty often led to the violation of all human rights. The economic reforms carried out by the government were adversely affecting the vulnerable segments of society and they needed safety nets.

“Sri Lanka had to seek IMF assistance because the rulers of the country created an economic crisis. The UN itself spoke about how corruption and other economic crimes are affecting Sri Lanka. When we implement IMF policies, everyone knows that the poor suffer. The Sri Lankan government has a great responsibility to protect these people,” she said, adding that there was a lot of controversy about the Aswesuma welfare programme because those who really needed government assistance had not been included as beneficiaries.

“This is discrimination, and this happens because the selection process is politicised. Most of our problems can be linked to our governance issues,” she said.

“It is also very clear that most of the MPs no longer have legitimacy in people’s eyes. What is the way out of this if Sri Lanka doesn’t have elections? How does the government ensure public buy-in for the tough policies it has to enact? It needs strong public representation,” she said.

The government claimed that there was political stability because there were no protestors on the roads, Prof. Udagama said. However, whether political stability could be artificially created was a question that would be answered sooner rather than later, she said.
“There are also questions about the nature of our ‘independent’ bodies. For democratic rule, we need the mandate of the people. We need elected representatives, and for that, we need elections. And we know that elections will only be free and fair if there are independent bodies to oversee them.

Courtesy:The Island