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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 pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of the consultation organized by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka with regard to its report for the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka. The Chairman, whom I had found both incisive and creative in our earlier discussions, was unable to be present, but the two Commissioners who presided, Jezima Ismail and Prathiba Mahanamahewa, were clearly well aware of the issues that need to be considered.

The Report of the HRC is particularly important

The Report of the HRC is particularly important, because it will be incorporated into the compendium the Office of the High Commissioner prepares for consideration by the Human Rights Council. The other components will be the Reports submitted by other stakeholders, which in the case of Sri Lanka will include a number of Non-Governmental Organizations that are extremely hostile to government.

We can hope that some moderate NGOs will also send in submissions, but sadly Sri Lanka has failed to engage actively with such NGOs so it is unlikely that many will take the time or trouble to present an objective perspective on the situation here. I suspect this failure to develop synergies, instead of simply engaging in hostilities when something negative is said, is why the Secretary of Defence suggested to me that I ask to be appointed Monitoring MP for NGOs.

Earlier I had not known that MPs were supposed to apply for such positions, and indeed the brighter of my fellow MPs had not been made aware of this either. The President was the first to point this out, when I suggested some educational initiatives, in saying I had been remiss in not asking to be appointed to monitor Education. He was evidently under the impression that the instructions to apply had been circulated to all MPs, but this was clearly another example of the dysfunctionality of whichever of his officials was entrusted with the task. Fortunately Education now has an excellent Monitoring MP in the form of Mr Grero, and we have already seen some constructive innovations there.

With regard to NGOs, when I did write in, and then submitted as requested a list of responsibilities, I found that all this was ignored. What I got instead was a suggestion that I be asked to any discussions that were held, something that hardly ever happens. The absurdity of this has become even clearer, now that I have experienced the active cooperation of NGOs in the consultations initiated at the Reconciliation Office with regard to the National Human Rights Action Plan. Active interaction with them, given that many are full of ideals and only seek direction as to how these could be most effectively fulfilled, would be immensely useful. Instead what we do now is react adversely to the few who are totally negative, and refuse to recognize and take advantage actively of the potential for good of all the others.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2012
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