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Ranil faults govt for by-passing Parliament – National Action Plan sent directly to Geneva

UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday in Parliament found fault with the government for by-passing the House to circulate a Sri Lanka National Action Plan, for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, among the members of the international community in Geneva.

He demanded to know why the government had not briefed the House on the National Action Plan before circulating it among the international community.

Making a special statement, Wickremesinghe said that the action of the government of not tabling the National Action Plan and keeping the House informed was a serious matter which amounted to a breach of privilege of the members.

Full text of Wickremesinghe’s statement:

“After labouring for a period of 18 months the Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation issued its Report. The LLRC Report was tabled in Parliament on December 16, 2011 by the Leader of the House. Tabling the Report he said,

‘The Commission offers us detailed observations and recommendations on international humanitarian law issues relating to the final phases of the conflict. The government seeks the support of all members of this House, rising above Party affiliation, to carry forward the task of implementation with the energy that is called for at this crucial time.’

“Already two of the Opposition Parties have sent in their observations. The UNP stated its support for the Report despite the shortcomings. Having responded to the LLRC report we have decided to ask for a full debate. The date to be agreed with the Government.

“It is now reported that a ‘Sri Lanka National Action Plan for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights’ will be circulated at the United Nations Human Rights Council Sessions in Geneva. The upcoming UN Human Rights Council is crucial for Sri Lanka, therefore while the Government has the right to present whatever document they want at Geneva, it is necessary to keep the House informed and table such document in this House. No such National Action Plan has been placed before Parliament. Neither have you kept this House informed as to why this report is being circulated. A document which has not been placed before Parliament is being presented in Geneva. By doing this the Government is by-passing Parliament.

“Issues regarding Human Rights and our commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are raised and debated regularly in this Parliament. This includes both allegations against the Government as well as the responses by the Government. We, in Opposition also have pointed out shortcomings in the National Human Rights Commission. This House has also discussed the ‘Report of the UN Panel of Experts’. In this background why was it necessary that the ‘National Action for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights’ be forwarded to Geneva without being tabled in Parliament. What is the reason for the Government’s unwillingness to do so? Will you inform us as to who prepared this Action Plan? There are many members in this House on both sides knowledgeable on Human rights who can make a valuable contribution. Why are they being left out?

“The LLRC Report was in effect Sri Lanka’s reply to the various allegations of Human Rights abuses that were being made against Sri Lanka in general and our Armed Forces in particular by the Report of the UN Panel of Experts. The Government which tabled this report in Parliament is unwilling to table the ‘National Action Plan for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights’. President Rajapaksa in his National Day address also announced the plans to implement the LLRC Report. Is this National Action Plan a supplement to the LLRC Report or an alternative to it. It is an important document. Therefore a complete discussion or debate at this critical time cannot take place without Parliament being briefed on the National Action Plan. The government for whatever reason has failed to do so.

“Be that as it may be, I would like to ask the Leader of the House, why the government has not briefed the House on the National Action Plan?

Speaker, the action of the Government of not tabling the National Action Plan and keeping the House informed is a serious matter. How is it that the Government could take the House into confidence in regard to the LLRC Report, lack confidence in the same House in respect of the National Action Plan? In fact the government deliberately kept the House in ignorance. In doing so they are in breach of Article 43 of the Constitution which stipulates that the Cabinet of Ministers shall be collectively and individually responsible and answerable to Parliament. This amounts to a breach of privilege. They have withheld vital information necessary for this House to perform its functions.”
by Saman Indrajith


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