Sri Lanka Government threatens legal action against the state’s own Human Rights Commission

Sri Lanka Government threatens legal action against the state’s own Human Rights Commission

Written by Niresh Eliatamby

29 Jan, 2023 | 2:02 pm

Colombo (News 1st) – Sri Lanka’s Government has taken the extraordinary decision to ‘definitely prosecute’ members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the state’s own human rights protection body, a key government minister announced Sunday (29th).

In addition, on the same matter, the government is preparing charges to remove the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, the controlling body for electricity distribution, a decision that ruling party MPs have approved, the minister said.

The dispute swirls around an order by the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) that the state-owned power company, Ceylon Electricity Board, which has a monopoly on power supply nationwide, should not impose power cuts during a 2-week period in January when high school senior students are sitting their main exams, the GCE Advanced Level, as it infringes upon the children’s right to education.

The Advanced Level exams are crucial in that they determine entrance into the state university system. Entry into Sri Lanka’s state universities is fiercely competitive, with only about 42,000 students gaining admission annually although over 300,000 sit the exams.

Last week the HRCSL acted upon a large number of complaints from parents of students and summoned the Secretary of the Ministry of Power and Energy, the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), both of which are governing bodies of the power company, and several other related bodies, and obtained a promise that there would be no power cuts.

However, the Ceylon Electricity Board flouted the order of the HRCSL and the PUCSL and went ahead with the power cuts. The HRCSL then announced that it would take legal action against all those who flouted the order.

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which Article 26 provides for the right to education for all children.

Kanchana Wijesekera, the Minister for Power and Energy, claimed at a news conference on Sunday that officials who had been summoned to the premises of the HRCSL had been threatened with legal action and jail time if they did not sign agreeing to provide uninterrupted power.

“We will definitely take action in court against the members of the Human Rights Commission,” Minister Wijesekera announced.

Sri Lanka has faced an acute shortage of all types of fuel, including diesel for power generation, due to a severe economic crisis caused by government corruption and mismanagement. The government declared bankruptcy in April 2022 and defaulted on its debt payments, leading to its creditworthiness plummeting. The government has been desperately seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and has been appealing to foreign creditors such as China, India, and Japan for moratoriums on debt.

The government imposed fuel rationing and power cuts, raised taxes, and sharply increased prices of all types of fuel and electricity over the last 10 months. But an attempt to sharply increase power tariffs for a second time in less than six months was rejected by the PUCSL. However, the CEB has gone ahead with the tariff increase.

The government has stamped down on protestors amid calls for early elections and jailed a number of protest leaders.



#HRCSL #HumanRights #SriLanka #lka #News1st #Energy #Power

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