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External Affairs

Ahead of Crucial UNHRC Vote, Sri Lankan President Dials Up Modi

The resolution, which calls for strengthening the collection and preservation of evidence related to human rights violations in Sri Lanka, also says that the country will be on UNHRC's agenda every six months till September 2022.

New Delhi: Ahead of a vote on a resolution on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to review, among other things, “cooperation” in “multilateral forums”.

On Friday, the final form of the Sri Lanka draft resolution was submitted, with the voting likely to be held on March 22-23.

The draft resolution, sponsored by United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, was formally submitted on March 12. The zero draft which had earlier been circulated was further strengthened during the consultations between the member states.

The changes in the final version inserts language calling on Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitment on devolution, including the holding of provincial council elections.

The draft resolution also calls upon Colombo to ensure that “all provincial councils, including the Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils, are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka”.

The 13th amendment is a product of the 1987 India-Sri Lanka accord, which calls for devolution of powers to provincial council. India has been calling for full implementation of the 13th amendment at various platform, including when Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visited India in February.

As The Wire had reported, India’s statement at an interactive discussion on the UN human rights chief’s report on Sri Lanka had signaled that New Delhi was not happy with Colombo. The Indian representative had also called for the “full implementation” of the 13th constitutional amendment.

India has also been annoyed with Sri Lanka refusing to honour the trilateral memorandum of cooperation signed last year for development of Colombo port’s East Container Terminal.

The UNHRC draft resolution noted the “persistent lack of accountability of domestic mechanisms” and calls to support trials in foreign countries. It also calls for strengthening the office of the UN human rights chief in collecting and preserving evidence related to human rights violations in Sri Lanka, to use them in future accountability processes.

The draft has been revised to state that Sri Lanka would be on UNHRC’s agenda every six months till September 2022. It also asks the UN Human Rights chief to give an oral update on Sri Lankan in September 2021 and then a written report in March 2022.

According to sources, the phone call was initiated by the Sri Lankan side. There was also discussion on the UNHRC draft resolution, which Sri Lanka has urged all countries to reject at the time of voting.

The official read-out of the phone call from the Indian ministry of external affairs stated that the “leaders reviewed topical developments and the ongoing cooperation between both countries in bilateral and multilateral forums”.

The short press release stated that the Indian PM reiterated Sri Lanka’s importance to India’s neighbourhood first policy. “They agreed to maintain regular contact between relevant officials, including in the context of the continuing COVID-19 challenges,” said the press release