“ACTION PLAN FOR PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS”
Human Rights are on the top of agenda today. Nations accuse each other of violations of human rights of themselves and others. Rights are generally violated during conflicts and wars as the strength of the weapon supersedes peace over and stability and rule of law.
There is no shortage of conflicts in most parts of the Globe. Conflicts are fertile grounds for Arms Dealers and invisible hands to grab natural resources and control over nations engulf in conflicts generally created by external forces. The irony is that those in glass houses claim to be a guardians and protectors of human rights keeping skeletons in their cupboards continue to be in the forefront in the violation process in open and discreetly creating a gloomy atmosphere to a fair section of the world. Sri Lanka once named a a killing field and a battle ground by a section of world media has now claims it as one of the most peaceful stable and beautiful nations in the world, with booming economy tourism and quality of life with freedom and warmth. Today it is a haven and a breeding ground of human rights and human values with new found freedom and stability reaping the harvest of the dawn of the peace after three decades of bitter war.
World conference on Human Rights
World conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 has been a turning point of Human Rights jurisprudence created on the UNHCER ratified in 1948 which is now the guiding force of Human Rights mechanism monitored by the United Nations Organization. It reiterated that Human Rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated and democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually enforcing. It further stated that “Each State should consider the desirability of drawing up a national action plan identifying steps whereby the state would improve the protection and promotion of human rights”. It is during the Periodic Review process in May 2008, which the Sri Lankan government pledged to develop a National Action Plan to improve the human rights situation in the country.
Victim of Colonization
Sri Lanka has been a victim of colonization by the West and has gone through destruction, forcible conversations, and destruction of culture and habitat of inhabitants for hundreds of years. Great religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam and after colonization Christianity flourishes in Sri Lanka due to tolerance and freedom of religion and expression enjoyed for generations. Despite systemic exploitation during the colonization process by Portuguese, Dutch and English companies and governments over cemeteries Sri Lanka maintains a model democracy in Asia maintained since 1948 after having regained from British rulers who took control of the entire Island in 1815 after a great struggle by Sri Lankans. Since then in Sri Lanka ( then Ceylon) has had a proud tract record of functioning democracy with periodic fair and impartial general elections changing governments with the power of the exemplary people setting an example to the rest of the world on implementation of individual and collective human rights based on great Asian religions which is embodied anyway in the Sri Lankan jurisprudence for generation as or more advanced as the western ideologies on human rights which is originated and based on great Christian thoughts.
West and Asian Ideologies
1993 Human Rights summit was dominated by the West and western ideologies basically not different from Asian thoughts on humanity and loving kindness. West has strengthened the human rights mechanism and implementation after the destruction and loss of millions of lives and destruction from two world wars were fought on sea of blood and human lives. United Nations emerged in place of League of Nations and the main instrument on human rights was ratified to prevent further disasters in for the mankind. Enormous amount of funds were allocated to UN and other NGO’s for human rights which has today turned to a lucrative business for some ruthless and money making individuals and organizations in the world. In Sri Lanka NGO’sm is thriving and the funds are allocated lavishly as a result of propaganda jointly by the NGO’s and the Diaspora which is the hub of activism on the separatist movement for separate state in the guise of a liberation moment for Tamils who live mostly with Sinhalese brethrens in harmony.
Action Plan initiated modeled and molded by Mr Lalith Weeratunga the Secretary to His Excellency the President who is a renewed celebrated and respected most senior government servant and his team has masterminded the structure of the Action plan identifying the areas to be considered and a group for implementation with a time frame and groups for future steps. The areas selected to be considered and implemented are as follows. He has identified a group of respected and reputed civil servants and intellectuals for the implementation process.
“CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, ECONOMICS SOCIAL AND CULTUREL RIGHTS, PREVENTION OF TORTURE, RIGHTS OF WOMEN, LABOUR RIGHTS, RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS, RIGHTS OF CHILDRENAND, and RIGHTS OF DISPLACED PERSONS”.
Civil and Political Rights
Civil and Political Rights were accorded to people of the country by the 1947 constitution and thereafter by the successive Republican Constitutions. In addition to these provisions, Sri Lanka’s international obligations under different regimes of Human Rights were also incorporated into several national legislators. Incorporation of the Fundamental Rights Chapter and the mechanism on applicability has given rise to a powerful jurisprudence and library of case law proving the fierce applicability. Enactment of the international convention on Civil and Political Rights Act No 56 of 2007 has strengthened the applicability.
Independent Judiciary and Human Rights Commission
Country is bestowed with a vibrant impartial and independent Judiciary, Effective and Powerful Human Rights Commission and a powerful battery of NGO’s amply supported and funded by worldwide NGO’s and governments lavishly spending foreign funds in view of their vigorous activism for the protection and enhancement of liberty and rule of law of the citizen, thereby inheriting a fine and effective mechanism for the protection, and preservation of Individual and collective human rights. Human Right Commission is effective powerful and acts parallel to the Supreme Court which possess the Human and Fundamental right jurisdiction. Human Rights Commission is generally headed by a Supreme Court Judge and members of similar caliber.
Economic Social and Cultural Rights
Economic Social and Cultural Rights were given top priority due to the war that has lasted over three decades and the dawn of peace stability and prosperity due to will power and determination of the people. It is time the development process is on the top gear in order to reap the harvest on economic development coupled with massive Infrastructure on Bridges, Roads, Harbors and Airports right round the country. As a result the country has sustained an impressive economic growth of around 8% in 2010, raised per capita income from U$$ 1241 in 2005 to U$$2399 in 2010, reduced poverty from 15.2% in 2005 to 7.6 in 2010 and ranked in the overall Human Development Index at 91 among 169 countries of the world in 2010. Free Education and health Care is offered in few counties in the world. University Education is free from Kindergarten to the University and healthcare is free for all which is not offered in many developed countries. Access to Electricity to 75% to 90% and safe drinking water from 805 to 87% between 2005 to 2010 is rare even in many developing countries.
Zero Tolerance for Torture
There is Zero Tolerance for torture in Sri Lanka as embodied in Article 11 of the Constitutional Guarantees and legislative prohibitions by torture act no 22 of 1994, and provisions contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure Act no 15 of 1979 as amended from time to time.
Rights of Women
Rights of women in Sri Lanka are enshrined in the Constitution and in practice for thousands of years. Sri Lanka was committed for ensuring the gender equality many decades before it became a state policy to the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Women together with men received the right of franchise in 1931, along with the right to become Members of Parliament. Sri Lanka is proud to have first women Prime minister in the world and subsequently her daughter becoming the President of Sri Lanka. Currently the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and many other women are holding high positions including Cabinet Ministries in the Parliament. In Universities, and other institutions majority consist of women. The ratio of girls and boys in primary education is reaching 99% in 2006. In the employment sector staggering 69% of teachers are women. Access to healthcare has resulted in decreasing the maternal mortality at child birth to 11.3 per thousand births and child mortality to 39.3 per hundred thousand births which are almost MBG level.
Working Class Movement
The beginning of working class movement in Sri Lanka could be traced to 1890.The first collective action was reported in 1893. Currently trade union movement is extremely powerful and rooted in the society. Industrial Dispute Act of 1950 was a piece of landmark, legislation which provided for the prevention, investigation and settlement of industrial disputes and promotion of collective bargaining with a view to maintaining a better employee, employer relationship. The country has extensive social security system to provide for payment of pension benefits to employees in the public sector and superannuation benefits for the private sector employees.
Sri Lankan labour migration currently stands at around 1.6 million with an annual out flow of about 200,000 persons and generates a substantial in flow of remittances, relieving the country of unemployment pressure. Government has taken several initiatives to ensure descent work, dignity of labour and protection of human rights and freedom of migrant workers.
Sri Lanka has ratified two international labour organizations, conventions which help to promote the right of all migrant workers and their families. In addition Sri Lanka acceded to the convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in order to provide the basic awareness to migrant workers who migrate for the first time compulsory house pre departure training is conducted to both female and male workers. Steps are being taken to promote more male workers especially on the domestic sector and discourage female workers in the Middle East. Even though Middle East is a lucrative job market for highly skilled and educated labour who are very well placed in the region.
The country has made vast improvements in many social indicators on children through its pre healthcare policy. The country has achieved high literate as a result of ensuring free access to primary and secondary education for both male and female children. A special nutrition policy has been formulated to address the persisting problem of under nutrition with special focus on the needy children and pregnant mothers. In addition to these welfare measures, the Government has given priority to the protection of children from abuse for the establishment of a Statutory Authority with specific mandate of ensuring their safety.
Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Wide publicity has been given to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) mostly in the North and East which are fast dimension to zero. Out of 300,000 displaced persons currently only few in the camps and there is information that in few months they too will be settled to lead a comfortable life and the camps will be closed down
The government has given high priority to speeding up the development efforts in these areas. As a result of strong effort with the help of donor communities and other local and international stakeholders 70% of the demining process has been completed following the demining and rehabilitation process. Resettlement of IDPs in their original places has been completed and at present 2187 families along is led to be resettled. Majority of resettled families were provided with permanent housing with basic immunities and the rest with shelter and assistance in cash and kind. The Government has ensured the livelihood rights of displaced persons including micro credit, marketing and other supportive families commenced their livelihood opportunities.
Amazing Development Programs
Development programs in the country – especially in the North and East is amazing and unprecedented. Road structure is not second to the network of a developed country and the new bridges and infrastructure is in completion with the other major developments on harbors and airports.
Action Plan Implementation
Action Plan put forward to improve the human right situation is the most awaited document by the international community amidst the adverse anti Sri Lanka propaganda which is fast diminishing. Those who are interested in Sri Lankan affairs this is the ideal period to visit as it has become the most sought for tourist destinations and a haven for investment due to freedom enjoyed as a result of stability and peace enjoyed by the citizens. Action Plan has already achieved desired results in the implementation of the reconciliatory process proposed implemented and practiced by the citizens voluntarily in the process of integration economically, socially and politically.
By Sarath Wijesinghe