ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s appointment of 37 new state ministers, three of whom are implicated in serious rights abuses, is an “alarming indication” that President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s new administration is not committed to protecting human rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“In the latest alarming indication that his new administration is not committed to protecting human rights, ending impunity, or upholding the rule of law, three of the appointees are implicated in serious rights abuses,” HRW said in a statement on Thursday September 08.
With prospects of an all-party government in crisis-hit Sri Lanka looking increasingly dim, 37 MPs largely representing the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) were appointed by President Wickremesinghe on Thursday.
Sri Lanka president swears in 37 new state ministers from SLPP, SLFP
HRW said in its statement that newly appointed State Minister of Rural Road Development Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan aliyas Pillayan is a former member of the armed separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who was personally implicated in abducting children and other abuses.
“Later he joined a pro-government armed group that was also responsible for abductions and recruiting child soldiers. In January 2021, the attorney general dropped charges against Pillayan in connection with the 2005 murder of a parliamentarian,” the statement said.
“Another newly appointed minister is Lohan Ratwatte, who resigned as prisons minister in September 2021 following a public outcry after threatening prisoners at gunpoint. He is now state minister for plantation industries.
“And Sanath Nishantha, the new state minister of water supply, is currently under police investigation for his alleged role in a violent attack on anti-government protesters. On May 9, people identifying themselves as supporters of then-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa attacked a peaceful demonstration in Colombo. On May 15, Nishantha was arrested in connection with the incident and released on bail a month later,” HRW said.
The rights watchdog was also critical of President Wickremesinghe’s alleged crackdown on protestors.
“President Wickremesinghe quickly launched a fierce crackdown on dissent, using the military to forcibly disperse protesters and arresting scores of people accused of demonstrating. He has employed the draconian and discredited Prevention of Terrorism Act to detain alleged protest leaders without charge,” it said.
“This month, the United Nations Human Rights Council will discuss a new resolution on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation. The government’s egregious appointments this week and its heavy-handed response to peaceful protests should make it clear to UN member countries that Sri Lanka’s rights situation is declining rapidly.”
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