|High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay|
The UPFA this week took a decision that reflects a marked shift in foreign policy. Ministers at their weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday unanimously approved a recommendation by President Rajapaksa to incorporate a string of recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) into the National Plan of Action. These related to some issues that have been raised by the international community and even mirrored in the second US-backed resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March this year. The fact that such LLRC recommendations have been incorporated ahead of the August visit by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay is significant.
Of equal importance is the September session of the UNHRC where the Sri Lankan situation is to be debated. Pillay is to submit a report to this event after her visit to Sri Lanka.
President Rajapaksa has observed in a memorandum to his ministers that “of the recommendations made in the Report of the LLRC under five thematic areas, 91 recommendations which were deemed as most significant with potential to be promptly implemented were included in the National Plan of Action for implementation by 22 key government agencies.” Now, 53 additional recommendations will be added to the National Action Plan. Here are some of the significant highlights:
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW ISSUES:
- Consider expeditious grant of appropriate redress to those affected by shells falling on hospitals after due inquiry as a humanitarian gesture.
- Examine the issue of medical supplies to civilians in the conflict areas during the final days of the conflict taking into consideration all relevant factors as the number of civilians injured, the types of injuries, the number of LTTE cadres injured and treated, and the capacity to treat the injured in the makeshift hospitals, against which the actual supplies could be assessed.
- Make efforts by the law enforcement authorities, in co-operation with relevant agencies, especially the ICRC, to trace the whereabouts of missing persons and ensure re-unification with their families.
- Adhere to applicable legal provisions by the law enforcement authorities when taking persons into their custody, such as issuing of a formal receipt regarding the arrest and providing details of the place of detention etc. Such persons should be detained only at formal places of detention declared under the law. Adequate publicity should be given to such authorised places of detention, with access to the next of kin.
- Take steps to prosecute Police officers in instances of failure or refusal to record an arrest, detention and transfer, or to record complaints of abductions and failure to investigate same.
- Assist families to deal with the trauma of not knowing the whereabouts of their family members. Where possible, assist them financially in situations where the missing persons had been the breadwinners. Legal aid should be provided as and when necessary.
- Follow strict legal provisions in taking persons into custody, such as issuing of a formal receipt of arrest and providing details of the place of detention.
- Take conclusive action to dispose of cases of detainees incarcerated over a long period of time without charges being preferred, by bringing charges or releasing them where there is no evidence of any criminal offence being committed.
- Actively encourage a role for civil society organisations that could provide financial and human resource assistance to implement programmes targeting detainees who have been rehabilitated to integrate into the mainstream of civilian life.
- Facilitate co-operation of and engage the services of relevant international organisations and civil society groups, community level associations and support groups to assist single mothers, those recently resettled, and those who are disabled to address the issues they confront and also to address emotional and spiritual needs of those who have been under trauma.
- Create a conducive environment in all areas of the country, especially the conflict-affected areas, for women to feel that they live in a secure environment and their basic human dignity is safeguard and protected.
- Provide for national legislation to realise the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS:
- Encourage civil society to engage in community development at the grassroots level to help communities who are making a collective effort to reconstruct and rebuild their lives
- Introduce a uniform State policy aimed at resettlement of Muslim IDPs and/or integrating them into the host community so that they may make a considered decision with regard to resettlement options available to them either in their original place of habitat or in host communities.
- Introduce an assistance package in above State policy including financial assistance and other material support for housing construction.
CONCERNS RELATING TO MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN THE NORTH AND EAST:
- Grant land to all families who have been secondary occupants, whether at the behest of the LTTE or not, if the lands they are currently in occupation are awarded to the genuine original permit holders on the results of the Investigating Committee decisions. The Investigating Committee should clarify, without any doubt, whether the secondary occupiers are genuinely landless.
RETURN AND RESETTLEMENT:
- Extend livelihood assistance to ‘new IDP’ families as needed, on an area by area basis for a longer period of time than planned, to ensure family sustenance. Continue renovation of irrigation tanks in the Northern Province till all remaining small irrigation tanks are brought back into operation, possibly with UN System assistance.
- Review official data with regard to the eviction of Sinhalese families from the Jaffna district in order to arrive at more precise data. Facilitate Sinhalese families who were evicted from Jaffna and the rest of the Northern Province, and who volunteer to go back, to return to own land or be resettled in alternate land as expeditiously as possible.
- Provide for adequate representation of Tamil speaking people and Tamil speaking regions in the official bodies for executing the language policies and monitoring performance. Full implementation of the language policy should include action plans broken down to the community level, and approximately covering the Divisions and Local Bodies with targets that can be monitored with citizen participation.
- Strong deterrent action to be taken to prevent incidents of vandalisation of places worship.
- Make learning of each other’s languages a compulsory part of the school curriculum as a primary tool to ensure attitudinal changes amongst the two communities.
From the Political column of the Sunday Times