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15 Oct 2012

At the last meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, there was much emphasis on the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review which Sri Lanka will undergo in Geneva in November. I would have preferred direct concentration on the Action Plan, since I believe we should be committed to progress in this area for our own people, rather than because there is an External Review. I am pleased that Mahinda Samarasinghe is in charge of the delegation, notwithstanding the various leaks from the Ministry of External Affairs to suggest that only officials would be on the delegation, and I was glad that he was taking a forthright approach to the process. However I continue to believe that we are not being practical enough in our pursuit of Rights for our people, and we really must ensure clearcut responsibilities and reporting mechanisms.

After all sincerity – which Minister Samarasinghe has in abundance, along with his principal aide in the process, the former Attorney General Mohan Pieris – is not enough, as compared to statistics. I recall some months back the withering reply of Ambassador Patricia Butenis, when she was complaining that Sri Lanka was coming out with various contradictory positions about the LLRC, and I told her that she should not take seriously what others said, but should concentrate on the official position as expressed by the Ministry of External Affairs and by Mr Pieris. Her comment was that they no longer had credibility in her eyes.

I have referred previously to how the Americans, by their own disparate approaches, contributed to the erosion of trust that we have witnessed in recent years, but for the moment I shall concentrate on what we need to do, not just to make our commitment clear, but to ensure too that that commitment leads to positive results. In simple terms, the reason for collecting and collating statistics is not only to affirm the good work that has been done, but also to register for ourselves what more needs to be done, and to plan to do it expeditiously.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

January 2013
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