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The full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch as well as the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 are available on the Peace & Reconciliation Website

I discussed in Rights Watch last week the need to develop community structures for protection purposes. Whilst this will go some way towards helping the vulnerable, we also need much better structures at state level for dealing with problems, in particular those affecting women and children.

We need then to radically rethink the system, making more use of foster care and ensuring both proper supervision, and a practical allocation of available resources.

The conditions of many of our children’s homes are disgraceful. Some do a good job, and I am sure that many who fall short do so out of helplessness rather than cruelty, but that is no excuse in the eyes of those who suffer. We need then to radically rethink the system, making more use of foster care and ensuring both proper supervision, and a practical allocation of available resources.

One suggestion we have made to the police is that they maintain a system of accurate statistics that should inform all decision makers. Thus, if they are recommending to a magistrate that a child should be sent to a particular home, they should also provide statistics as to how many the home is designed for and how many are actually in residence. They should also request clear instructions from magistrates as to how long children should be placed in custody, with specifications as to when that custody should end or be renewed, and if so, under what conditions.

Records of such matters should be maintained with probation offices as well as magistrates, with regular reports to the National Child Protection Authority. I have been impressed with the tremendous work done by that agency in recent months, and in particular the close attention paid to the North, with regular visits and inspections of homes. Recently I found a situation where a Magistrate had ordered the continuation of a home that had not been registered, where children were kept with no proper authorization. I am sure there are many such examples, and officials in the regions must work together with the police and the judiciary to prevent abuse or even slipshod approaches to formal requirements.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2012
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