Indigenous Sri Lankans seek constitutional guarantee on rights protection

Colombo, Jan 18 (EFE).- Sri Lanka’s indigenous community Wednesday sought constitutional protection of their rights.

Some tribal representatives told the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (HRC) that the government should pass an act that would recognize them and protect their rights.

“Even though solutions for our problems were discussed on multiple occasions none of them materialized. We came here to ask for an act to protect the rights,” Dambana Adivasi Community leader Uruwarige Wanniyala Aththo told the media.

Wanniyala Aththo said the indigenous community had been banned from hunting in forests.

“We are not even allowed to enter the forests,” he said, adding that it affected the indigenous people across the island.

The representatives said there was no proper mechanism to address grievances when their rights were violated.

The government should formulate a law and a national policy to recognize the freedoms and rights of the Adivasi people, they said in a letter to the rights body.

“The indigenous community plays role of the protectors of the natural resources and not the destruction of the environment,” they added.

The rights body chief, Nimal Karunasiri, told the media the Adivasi people wanted the government to guarantee their freedom of movement and protect their right to live, their culture, and their right to speak and teach their native language and customs.

“There has to be a law that protects the indigenous people,” he said.

He said 40 years of discussions had yielded nothing.

“During our discussion, we found that priority should be given to providing them a national identity card. They say they are not Sinhalese, Tamil, nor Muslims. They want them to be identified as Adivasi,” he said.

He said the rights body agreed that the government must formulate a parliament bill to protect all their rights. EFE


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