In his speech, MP Hakeem makes two overall claims: (1) Sri Lanka will be the first Asian country subject to an IMF review of governance diagnostics, and (2) Sri Lanka was the first country in the history of the UN Human Right Council (UNHRC) to be “accused” of economic crimes.
To check these claims, FactCheck.lk consulted the website of the IMF, the IMF Press Briefing on Sri Lanka (IMFPBSL) dated May 15, 2023, UNHRC Resolution 51/1, Resolution 43/27, Resolution 46/23, the report on Sri Lanka from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2022 (SLUNHCHR) and other supporting materials published by the UNHRC.
Claim 1: The countries with a published governance diagnostic report on the IMF website are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Republic of Moldova, Paraguay, and Ukraine—none of which are Asian countries. Mali, Benin, and Gambia are listed as countries with reports yet to be published. Additionally, at the IMFPBSL, Director of Asia and Pacific Department Krishna Srinivasan stated that Sri Lanka is the first country in Asia that has undergone the IMF governance diagnostic exercise.
Claim 2: UNHRC Resolution 51/1 “calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to address the ongoing economic crisis, including by investigating and, where warranted, prosecuting corruption, including where committed by public and former public officials”. Similarly, the SLUNHCHR Report also expresses, “hope that the new administration will respond to the popular demand for accountability for economic crimes, including corruption, and abuse of power”. Both UNHRC resolution and the report ‘calls on’ the government to take action against those responsible for the economic crisis and any related ‘economic crimes.’ The UNHRC’s ‘call for accountability’ is in line with what the MP terms as the government being ‘accused’ of economic crimes (see Additional Note).
However, a search of past resolutions indicates that the UNHRC has previously called upon the government of South Sudan to address corruption and economic crimes in June 2020 and March 2021. Both resolutions, titled Situation of Human Rights in South Sudan, are worded as follows: “Urges the Government of South Sudan to address the previous and current findings of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, which include corruption and economic crimes”. Given this context, Sri Lanka is not the first country to be called upon to address economic crimes by the UNHRC, as claimed by the MP.
The MP’s first claim is correct, but the second is an overstatement. Therefore, overall, we classify his statement as PARTLY TRUE.
*FactCheck.lk’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck.lk will revisit the assessment.
The term “accused”, used by MP Hakeem, is a non-legal interpretation of what has been stated by the UNHRC. This is because the UNHRC cannot accuse a country of crimes in the legal sense of the term. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘accuse’ as: “to bring a formal charge against a person, to the effect that he is guilty of a crime or punishable offense, before a court or magistrate having jurisdiction to inquire into the alleged crime.”
International Monetary Fund, Governance and Anti-Corruption, available at https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/governance-and-anti-corruption.
International Monetary Fund, “IMF Press Briefing on Sri Lanka Opening Remarks”, 15 May 2023, available at https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2023/05/15/sp051523-lka-opening-remarks-by-krishna-srinivasan.
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, A/HRC/51/5: Situation of human rights in Sri Lanka – Comprehensive report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 04 October 2022, available at https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/reports/ahrc515-situation-human-rights-sri-lanka-comprehensive-report-united-nations-high.
United Nations Human Rights Council, Resolution 51/1.
United Nations Human Rights Council, Resolution 43/27
United Nations Human Rights Council, Resolution 46/23.