Sri Lanka, which came under immense pressure over its human rights record at the recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions, will send its newly formulated National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights to the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.
According to the President’s Human Rights Special Envoy and Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, the implementation of the Action Plan will begin immediately and he said a progress report on its implementation would be presented at the UNHRC sessions in March next year.
The progress reports will be circulated to other countries, international organizations and forums interested in human rights in Sri Lanka.
“We will give the action plan maximum publicity and inform everyone on its progress,” he said.
The action plan prepared with inputs from government and civil society organisations was officially adopted by the Cabinet after five weeks of discussions. The action plan was a voluntary pledge made during Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review in May 2008 and will be for five years.
The action plan is divided into eight thematic areas — civil and political rights, women’s rights, economic, social and cultural rights, children’s rights, labour rights, rights of migrant workers, the rights of IDP’s and the prevention of torture.
It will be implemented by the respective agencies in charge of each area of human rights as well as a coordinating committee to be appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Minister Samarasinghe said the entire document was formulated without government funding and it was printed with funds from the United Nations Development Programme.
Former attorney general and presidential advisor Mohan Peiris said human rights would be a subject taught in schools.
When asked why the Action Plan was not presented to the UNHRC at its just concluded sessions, the minister said the Council and other member states were informed of its formulation.
“I told them about it, but the document was not printed at the time. Furthermore it’s an action plan therefore we need to tell them about its implementation and progress, which we will do at the upcoming sessions and all international forums,” he said.
“If the people of this country don’t accept it, there would have been no point in presenting it to the international community,” Mr. Peiris said.