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No food shortage, emergency declared to protect consumers from hoarders – Prof. G.L.

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“There are ample stocks of sugar and rice, but there are unscrupulous elements that have created artificial shortages. There are no real shortages,” Prof. Peiris told a news conference in Colombo. “In these circumstances it is the duty of the Government to make essential food items available to the public and if there are problems because of the malicious efforts by several irresponsible traders, then the Government is duty bound to take measures to protect the innocent public. This is the reason for an emergency situation,” Prof. Peiris explained.

“The Government is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic issue without neglecting welfare measures. The Government looks after the people of this country in a spirit of compassion and empathy making financial resources available and making all essential commodities available,” he added.

Referring to Sri Lanka’s engagement with the international community, the Government will present the tremendous progress made by Sri Lanka during the last six months in promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights despite the COVID-19 pandemic to all international bodies including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, he stated.

Minister Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka is steering forward during a rough phase while ensuring a vibrant democracy in the country. Prof. Peiris observed: “The Government is today operating under extremely difficult circumstances. If you look at Sri Lanka objectively and dispassionately, while considering COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has done a formidable job in attending to many difficulties faced by the people. Sri Lanka has a very convincing story to tell at both UNHRC 48th session and the UN General Assembly in the coming weeks. The UNHRC met last March this year adopting a Resolution against Sri Lanka. Since then, we will present to the members of the UNHRC the tremendous progress that has been made in a variety of sectors. We have a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the President with a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The Office on Missing Persons, the Office for Repatriation, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, and the tremendous progress that have been made to adopt sustainable development goals by a committee chaired by the President are some of the examples that could be presented.”

Speaking on the reconciliation process, Foreign Minister Peiris pointed out, “We have left behind the war. It was a painful period of three decades or more for all of us. However, now we have found our way out of the woods and today we are able to release a number of former LTTE cadres and 16 have already been released. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has taken decision based on the Prevention of Terrorism Act to appoint a committee presided over by a previous Chief Justice to identify others who can be released into the community after adequate rehabilitation without any danger to national security. These are some of the accomplishments which we will present to international bodies that will be meeting within the next few weeks.”

Minister Peiris said: “All of these were achieved in a vibrant democratic framework. I would like to invite anyone to come and look at the parliament sessions, the Opposition is certainly very active in Parliament. The government is always on its toes. Questions are asked during both oral question sessions and at adjournment debates. Thus it is a very vibrant democratic culture which is receiving expression at all levels of society in our

country. Apart from Parliament, look at the media how independent and aggressive it is? Some in the Government believe that social media and mainstream media have been unfair to the Government. Nevertheless, criticism is healthy. We accept it, we are not taking any measures to impose restrictions on the freedom of the media. Then, the most important pillar is the Judiciary.

The Government intervened to restrict demonstrations and processions on behalf of public health and to prevent the spread of a deadly virus. However, the Courts have not hesitated to intervene to tell the police that you have no right to stop the freedom of expression and that people do have a right to demonstrate, it is a right that is in the Constitution as well. So action by the Police has been struck down with no inhibition by the Courts. So here you have in every sense a practicing democracy – Parliament, media and the Courts.”

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