Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka: PC to meet tomorrow to discuss nominees

  • Headless HRCSL struggles with caseload
  • Opposition seeks dialogue with PM on appointments

By Asiri Fernando

The Parliamentary Council (PC) is expected to meet tomorrow (22) to discuss names proposed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, including one for the post of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) Chairperson, The Sunday Morning learnt.

The President is expected to nominate two candidates to fill the post of Chairperson and Commissioner at the HRCSL, following former Chair Dr. Jagath Balasuriya stepping down due to health reasons earlier this month.

The PC replaced the Constitutional Council following the introduction of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in October last year. The Constitutional Council was established under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Unlike the previous Constitutional Council, the PC can only make observations regarding the nominees given by the President.

Earlier this week, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) wrote to the President, urging him to consider appointing a widely accepted person by the community to fill the vacant post of HRCSL Chairperson.

“Since its inception, the HRCSL has been chaired by persons who have distinguished themselves in the fields of human rights and law. Prior to 2020, the post of Chair of the HRCSL has always been held by either retired judges of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka or those who have been renowned in Sri Lanka and internationally for their professional and academic work in human rights,” the BASL stated in the letter dated 15 November.

Responding to a query, Opposition parliamentarian Kabir Hashim told The Sunday Morning that the Opposition was hoping to engage the Prime Minister, who is also a member of the PC, to ensure that there are careful discussions before appointing nominees for sensitive institutions like the HRCSL and the Election Commission, adding that he hoped the PM will respond positively to the request.

“We as the Opposition have been very patiently trying to assist the Government in the endeavour of being in this Parliamentary Council and trying to guide some appointments in an unbiased and fair manner. However, if the task is further challenging, where we cannot make an impact on the decisions taken, we may have to seriously contemplate about being there,” Hashim explained.

Meanwhile, day-to-day duties, cases, and investigations at the HRCSL are piling up without a chairperson and full committee to support the staff, a senior HRCSL official told The Sunday Morning upon terms of anonymity. 

“There are a number of cases and assignments that need their (chairperson and committee) approval, and because of their absence, work is piling up,” the source stated.