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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.

During the first set of consultations on the Human Rights Action Plan arranged by the Task Force of the Inter-Ministerial Committee expediting its implementation, it became clear that one of the most important cross-cutting issues was that of land rights. I realized that this was also important in another respect, since land came up as a central issue when I served on the government delegation that met with representatives of the Tamil National Alliance. LLRC recommendationsalso deal to a significant extent with land issues, though unfortunately these are not treated in general discussion with the same importance as matters of less concern to the people at large. And of course efforts by government to deal swiftly with some problems with regard to land were met with strong resistance which has now brought the matter into the Courts.

Land issues – a matter which should be discussed in a small group of stakeholders able to take action, and we requested the Ministry of Lands to arrange this.

This seemed therefore a matter which should be discussed in a small group of stakeholders able to take action, and we requested the Ministry of Lands to arrange this. While many problems are exacerbated by the range of decision makers involved, and no clear understanding as to which is the lead agency, in this case the situation was simpler, since obviously it was the Ministry of Lands that had to take the lead. Its Secretary however decided initially, very sensibly, that we should have a preliminary meeting to discuss the various issues involved, though I was fortunate to have with me the consultant who had helped finalize the Action Plan, and who has a much better grasp of the issues involved than I do.

So does the Secretary, as we found out, and he had already taken action to resolve some of the problems. A slight one, but complicated, was the Land Development Ordinance, or rather the changes that were required, in particular to ensure gender equality. This had been amended for the purpose a couple of years ago, but abortively, since it was then noticed that Provincial Councils had to be consulted before any such amendment could proceed.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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