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

I was delighted last week to be told that the Human Rights Commission was receiving assistance from the Asia Pacific Centre which coordinates work with National Human Rights Commissions. When, following my appointment to convene the Task Force to promote and monitor action on the National Human Rights Action Plan, I met the HRC, I had been told that such assistance had been requested. I asked for a meeting, since I believe that the HRC is one of the core elements in the promotion of Rights in Sri Lanka, but I heard nothing, and later I was told that they had said they were too busy to meet me.

It was fortuitous that I found out they were present. During the Council of Asian Liberal and Democrats Congress that was held at Colombo, I noted the presence of the UN and on checking was told that a number of UN Human Rights personnel were staying.

The Ministry of External Affairs knew nothing about this, but I then checked with the UN Resident Coordinator who was helpful as always, and said he thought it was the Asia Pacific people who were working with the HRC. The chairman confirmed this, and kindly arranged a meeting for me at short notice.

I found the individuals who had come thoughtful and helpful, and I believe the meeting was successful and could lead to more dynamic progress, given the synergies that the HRC and the Task Force should develop. I was most grateful to the former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Dhara Wijayatilaka, who also attended at short notice, since she has proved one of the most helpful persons on the Task Force, given her encyclopaedic knowledge of legislation that was enacted during her time as Secretary, when for the first time Human Rights was entrusted to a Ministry.

Perhaps even more importantly, she knows about legislation that has been proposed, but has not seen the light of day, given the bureaucratic delays that have since occurred.

Fortunately she and the current Secretary to the Ministry, who also shares her institutional memory, should be able to take things forward. We have already asked the Law Commission for a schedule of what they have proposed, with an account of where anything lies pending, and we should therefore be able to ensure that simple neglect is no longer a cause of inaction, as it has so often been in the past.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2012
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