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Safeguarding human rights and GSP plus

Freedom of speech and expression is a constitutionally protected right.  The Foreign Ministry statement contradicting the views expressed by the Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, Ambika Satkunanathan, brings up issues of the limits of legitimate public criticism of government policies and actions.  We do not agree with its content and tone or with the personal targeting of Ms Sathkunananthan.

In a submission to the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights on January 27, Ms Satkunanathan made a critical assessment of the human rights situation in the country and provided recommendations in that regard.  Much of what she said is also contained in statements made by the political parties representing the people of the North and East, and by civil society members including the National Peace Council. 

The National Peace Council believes that as a representative of civil society, Ms Satkunanathan has the same rights and freedoms with regard to speech and expression even if her views are not in line with government thinking and priorities. We particularly regret the paragraph in the ministry statement that draws a parallel to LTTE propaganda as a method of discrediting or silencing a critic. 

The National Peace Council appreciates the Foreign Ministry and government’s willingness to engage in dialogue with different sectors in civil society which has led to positive outcomes and can be further built upon and expanded.  We also wish to reiterate that just as much as the government, we in civil society want the best for our country, including retaining the GSP Plus by upholding the 27 international human rights covenants that successive governments, including our present government, have pledged to live by. 

National Peace Council of Sri Lanka

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