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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.

Another area which does not figure to any great extent in the National Human Rights Action Plan, but which is also of great concern currently, is that of former LTTE combatants. This is understandable for the intial draft of the Plan was prepared in 2009, and concurrently our Ministry was working, with ILO assistance, on a Rehabilitation and Reintegration programme for those combatants. So a field of action which seemed a temporary problem rather than something to be entrenched in a National Plan was omitted, since it should have been dealt with through special provisions.

Unfortunately that necessity too fell prey to the division of responsibilities between various Ministries. There had previously been a civilian Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, and in view of the mandate we had with regard to Human Rights, which seemed to me obviously to apply to those who had been conscripted, I had tried hard to evoke more concerted action. But it soon became clear that, with all his other responsibilities, as well as the difficulties of liasing with the Ministry of Defence when it had other major priorities, he simply could not handle the job.

Understandably too, when moved to action, he concentrated on the child soldiers, whose plight was obvious, but this meant neglect of the adults, who languished without much concerted support in a couple of centres that had been established. I should note that, when I visited the centre at Weli Oya, I found tremendous dedication on the part of the military personnel in charge, but without a clear plan, this did not seem likely to lead anywhere.

Things changed with the appointment of a dedicated Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, a military officer who proved visionary as well as characteristically efficient. He and his successors have done a great job, and my frequent visits to the Rehabilitation Centres, in recent times to check on the Entrepreneurship Workshops I funded through my decentralized budget, have resulted in moving interactions with youngsters who seem appreciative of what has been done for them, and keen to get on with productive lives, making use of what seems an unusually high level of talent. I should note though that the agency that conducted the programmes was highly selective, and would choose just about 30 from a pool of a 100 they were introduced to at the start of the programmes, so perhaps the others would not have been quite so dynamic. But that made it all the more important that we should have encouraged the leaders among them to develop businesses that would also have provided employment for the rest. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2012
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