UN calls for meaningful dialogue in Sri Lanka to address crisis

UN calls for meaningful dialogue in Sri Lanka to address crisis

The United Nations (UN) has called for an immediate, inclusive and meaningful dialogue in Sri Lanka to find a solution for the pressing economic and political challenges that the country faces and to avoid further polarization of the situation. 

Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the High Commissioner’s Office is closely following developments in Sri Lanka where in the past few days the authorities announced a state of emergency and other restrictions in response to mass protests against the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

“Public frustration has been rising in recent months with largely peaceful demonstrations taking place across the country. The situation has worsened over the past two weeks amid sudden shortages in fuel, cooking gas and some essential food items, as well as power cuts. This led to further protests by Sri Lankans left desperate by the rising cost of living and difficulties to obtain basic items,” Throssell said.

Throssell said that after a demonstration outside the president’s residence on 31 March, the Government declared a state of emergency on 1 April, announced a 36-hour curfew from 6pm on 2 April and shut down social media networks for 15 hours on 3 April.  There have also been reports of excessive and unwarranted police violence against protesters.

“We are concerned that such measures are aimed at preventing or discouraging people from legitimately expressing their grievances through peaceful protests, and that they frustrate the exchange of views on matters of public interest. We remind the Sri Lankan authorities that measures related to states of emergency must comply with international human rights law, should be limited to the extent strictly required by the situation and be proportionate to it, and should not be used to stifle dissent or hinder peaceful protest,” Throssell said.

The UN Human Rights Office said it will continue to closely watch developments.

“As the High Commissioner noted in her recent report to the Human Rights Council in February, the drift towards militarisation and the weakening of institutional checks and balances in Sri Lanka have affected the State’s ability to effectively tackle the economic crisis and ensure the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of all people in Sri Lanka. The High Commissioner has also previously voiced her concern that the Government responds to criticism and dissent in ways that undermine civic space, and we reiterate these concerns today,” Throssell said.

UN Human Rights Office urged the Government, political parties and civil society to engage in immediate, inclusive and meaningful dialogue to find a solution for the pressing economic and political challenges that Sri Lanka faces and to avoid further polarization of the situation. (Colombo Gazette)

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