STATEMENT BY Faisz Musthapha

Chairman - Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka


Madam Chairperson, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

As Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, I wish to pay a tribute to Mrs. Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the members of her staff for their sustained efforts to promote and develop National Human Rights Institutions as mechanisms for the protection and advancement of Human Rights. Indeed our presence at this conference is a fruition of these efforts.

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic multi-religious country. Our island is the home of followers of all the four major religions of the world. Our country has been a fertile field for cultural cross-pollination - being open over the years to the influences of our neighbours and a succession of colonial powers. We are a plural society and are facing the concomittant challenges of diversity. We are sadly witnessing an ongoing armed conflict.

The mandate of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka includes combating discrimination. We believe that racism, xenophobia and like forms of intolerance are destructive of human dignity and consequently erode all human rights. The consensus amongst National Human Rights Institutions, arising from our deliberations, is that there certainly has to be an effective legal regime to combat racism. But we are also conscious of the fact that judicial and administrative remedies by themselves would not suffice. They must be supplemented by education and persuasion designed to advance human rights values to effectively counter racism and other forms of intolerance. We are also cognisant of the fact that poverty arises from, and accentuates racial differences. Therefore we urge affirmative action for the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

These are essential elements in combating racism.

National Human Rights Institutions have a vital role in carrying out these measures. We have focussed on this role in our statement presented through our colleague Mr. Barney Pitiyana Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of South Africa. We have also drawn attention to the steps, which are imperative on the part of States to strengthen and foster National Human Rights Institutions so that they could combat racism in a meaningful manner. It is my privilege to commend the statement submitted by the National Human Rights Institutions a statement which we wholeheartedly support.

Faisz Musthapha

Chairman - Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.