Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternative (CPA), Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that the NHRAP was a reflection of the change that has taken place in the area of human rights in the country since 2015. But he queried as to strengthen human rights.
“Have we done our (civil society) bit? Or are we assuming that it is adequate to make plans and pass laws and all we have to do is watch and criticize?” he further quizzed.
“From 2012 onwards we’ve had successive resolutions on this country. These resolutions began almost as appeals to the Government. The very first resolution on Sri Lankan asks to implement the LLRC recommendations. We all contributed towards making that change. Now citizens can’t take a break. They can’t go on holiday. Citizens have to be eternally vigilant. They have always expressed their rights, fights for their rights and protect their rights,” he said.
“My appeal is that we have to make this Human Rights Action Plan more accessible to people at large. People need to know what is inside this,” he said.
He said that the Right Information legislation should be used to ensure that the Government departments, the various ministries and commissions were performing their duties as expected. At a recently held UNESCO conference on Regional Cooperation to promote Freedom of Expression and the Rule of Law in Asia through Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the issue on the numerous attacks against the “Uthayan” newspaper was raised. “The Minister of Law and Order in response said that he didn’t know about them and asked for a list, and it was given to him. These are the ridiculous things that are happening,” pointed out Dr. Saravanamuttu.
He further explained that transitional justice and constitutional reform go hand in hand. He pointed out that though four mechanisms were promised in relation to transitional justice only one mechanism is to be operationalized. “We are just about to get one (Office on Missing Persons - OMP). The others probably not. I think constitutional reform is stuck at the moment,” he said.
“I was secretary to a Task Force on public consultation with regard to reconciliation. We were appointed by the Government. We were asked to find out from the citizens of the country what they thought about the four mechanisms the Government promised in Geneva. How can we go and ask people about the four mechanisms when they don’t know anything about them?,” said him.
He said that a private meeting with the president they were told that if transitional justice became the focus, constitutional reform will not take place due to the fear that war heroes will be penalized.
“There are lots of changes that can be made which don’t require a two thirds majority in Parliament or a referendum,” he pointed out.
He stressed that human rights should be upheld for democracy to be preserved. “We need to establish a culture of human rights,” he said.
Sources: December 21,
2017 “Daily Mirror” By: Amra Ismail
Anthony Vinoth (R2L)