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.

One of the few people who actually reads this column seriously drew my attention to what seemed inaccuracies when I last wrote about the detained. One point was my mentioning being asked to monitor implementation of the Interim Recommendations of the LLRC. He had thought the Committee looking into the LLRC Recommendations was composed only of bureaucrats, and thought I must have been referring to my task of convening the Task Force on the Human Rights Action Plan.

 He was certainly right in pointing out that I had no role with regard to the LLRC Recommendations. I suppose this seems peculiar, given my position as Adviser on Reconciliation, but I do see that bureaucrats like Mrs Wijeyatilaka and Mrs de Silva and Mr Dissanayake might seem more objective in their approach. My own worry is that such a monitoring committee should have a clear structure with transparent reporting requirements, and that I believe has yet to be set in place.

For my own part I am finding it difficult to provide publicly accessible reports on the Human Rights Action Plan, which I believe is a necessity. Sadly the website that should be devoted to this has still not been started, and I fear that it is not seen as urgent by anyone other than myself. This is a pity, because the sterling work that has been put in by many government agencies needs to be put on public record, while doing this systematically will also help us to see where there are shortcomings. Meanwhile the two young ladies who help me (reduced from three, because the one I worked most closely with initially has been translated to higher things) need constant guidance. Even the basic mechanism of fitting what has been reported to us as having been done, directly under the requirement as to action, had to be explained, and may take time to implement – through no fault of theirs I hasten to add, more a matter of scarcity of resources and of time for effective supervision.

I was too hasty however in agreeing with my interlocutor that he was correct in doubting what I had written about my monitoring role. That had in fact been with regard to the Interim Recommendations, implementation of which, belatedly, I was asked to monitor. Those had been excellent, and as yet another of the Commissioners noted at the Kotelawala Defence University Symposium on Reconciliation and Sustainable Development, had they been implemented expeditiously, many problems would already have been solved. My monitoring role, it should be noted, was a complete failure, though not I think through any fault of my own, or for want of trying.

In actual fact some of the recommendations had indeed been implemented, but unfortunately the Inter-Ministerial Committee tasked with the job never met, and therefore action was piecemeal. The public, indeed the stakeholders in Reconciliation, did not know what had been achieved, and there was no way of focusing attention on areas that required heightened activity. I was myself in despair, even though I was assured that things were happening, and it was only after several reminders that the then Attorney General gave me a comprehensive breakdown of what had happened in the area with which he had concerned himself in particular.

The figures were read off a sheet of paper, but they were quite heartening. I had known already of the excellent work being done by the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, but it was good to have it certified as it were that there were only about 3000 left with the CGR of the 10790 who had surrendered in 2009 as former combatants.

I got those figures about a year ago, and last week I was given the current position. Of the 10790, 9832 had only undergone rehabilitation, while 958 had been detained for further investigation, Of those 586 had gone back into rehabilitation, while 79 had been released or bailed out. So of the original figure, only 293 are still under detention. Inclusive both of those who had only been in rehabilitation, and those who had been sent for rehabilitation after detention, there are now only 628 being rehabilitated currently.

Or, rather, there are also 34 more, who were sent for rehabilitation from amongst those who had been in detention before the conflict ended, but that is another story, and I will have to look later at precise statistics regarding those earlier detainees.

Insofar as rehabilitation was accepted as a means of dealing with some of them, 1257 of them had been placed in the charge of the Rehabilitation Bureau. Thus, with 34 only still in rehabilitation, we see that 1223 of them have gone home,  contributing to the figure of 10973 who are reported as having been reintegrated.

This last however may be the wrong word, since unfortunately government forgot to specify responsibility for the reintegration process. While the Bureau of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation does what it can, it has no formal responsibility for this. Nor has anyone else, though I should note that the Rehabilitation Authority is now responsible for the innovative loan scheme that government began.

It would make sense then for government to give formal responsibility for Reintegration to the Rehabilitation Authority, and make the BCGR its operating arm since the Authority does not have the resources to do the job effectively. What is required in this regard was specified in the Policy Document on Rehabilitation and Reintegration prepared by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights in 2009, but unfortunately that fell by the wayside since in theory another Ministry was responsible for the process, and turf wars prevented formal adoption of the Policy, though the CGR carried out whatever in it came within his purview. But he could do more, including accessing funds from sources such as the UN Peace Building Fund which is intended for such purposes but, to do this, specific allocation of responsibility is desirable.

Daily News 3 Sept 2012