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The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 ( sinhala & tamil) as well as the full series of  Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.

In writing recently about the need to deploy resources more effectively, I concentrated on human resources, and the failure of government to develop a coherent policy that ensures attention at local levels to local problems. Employment is created en masse, without careful study of needs, and of the skills required to fulfil those needs.

The other side of this coin is the absence of procedures that will ensure, or at least encourage, the desired results. Administrative efficiency is not seen as necessary, and administrative and financial regulations seem designed to inhibit initiative and energy rather than promote them.

One major problem is the lack of any sense of urgency. When I was appointed Secretary to a Ministry, I was horrified at the manner in which files were piled up in the in-trays of my colleagues. When I expressed surprise, I was told that government did not require matters to be dealt with for three days. This struck me as preposterous and, when I probed further, I found that three days was supposed to be the maximum period within which responses should be sent.

This had become a minimum. I explained painstakingly that responses should be made immediately, unless there was need to seek further information, and that the guideline of three days was intended to set a limit on the time any institution should take to find information internally.

Obviously there would be instances in which further information had to be sought from other sources, but that did not mean that there should be no response till such information was received. The expectation was that a response should be sent in three days, indicating the action being taken and when a substantial answer would be forthcoming.

I was reminded of this when we had an almost hilarious exchange at the Committee On Public Enterprises, when it turned out that instructions we had issued over a year ago had not been followed. The institution concerned had written to the Treasury as requested after three months. The Treasury had then replied after another three months.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2020
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