Sri Lanka: The path to win peace

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Mar 7 14:36:37 UTC 2009

The path to win peace


The national discourse has been dominated for decades by an ethnic
issue, which required a political solution as a means to resolve
problems. Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda
Samarasinghe opines that the political solution could never be imposed
by force of arms and certainly not gained by acts of terrorism.


We are working on forging a sustainable political solution acceptable
to all Sri Lankans. This solution must not only guarantee social
equity and fundamental freedoms but also empower every citizen through
sharing power between the centre and the periphery - bringing the
Government closer to the people.

Fortunately, with the LTTE having removed itself from negotiations
through intransigence, we could work with the democratic minority
parties which had been sidelined and hounded previously, with the LTTE
claiming to be the sole representatives of the Tamil people, and
killing many senior Tamil politicians to fulfill this dastardly claim.
In addition, on a recommendation of the All Party Representatives
Committee, we are able to properly implement the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution, which was passed in 1987 following the Indo-Lankan
Accord, but which was subverted through LTTE pressure and some
regrettable support from Sri Lankan politicians who thought a
negotiated settlement with the LTTE was possible.

Development of infrastructure

In that regard we are proud that we now have democratically elected
local government institutions in the East, along with a functioning
Provincial Council with a Tamil Chief Minister. We hope that soon the
same will be possible in the North, though this has to go together
with rapid de-mining, as well as development of infrastructure and the
restoration of livelihoods.

Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

Language has been one of the most important issues underlying the
ethnic problem. The Government has taken concerted action to ensure
language rights in accordance with Constitutional obligations. In
2007, the Sri Lankan Parliament enacted the National Institute of
Language Education and Training Act which put in place a framework for
structured training, research and archiving and dissemination of
information relating to language training. The Institute was opened in
November last year.

This measure will aid in the implementation of the Government’s
language policy which will encourage the acquisition of bilingual
skills by all sectors in public service. But we have also realised
that we have not done enough to ensure that English, which was
constitutionally recognised as the link language in 1987, is provided
to all our people in the rural and peripheral areas of the country.
Since it is also a tool of empowerment, along with Information
Technology, the President has declared 2009 the Year of English and
IT, and set up a task force to promote this.

Future cooperation

A sub-committee of the task force deals with the North and East of the
country, and recently the Cabinet declared Jaffna, the capital of the
North, to be a Centre of Excellence for English and IT. This followed
on an immensely successful industrial exhibition in Jaffna, which saw
several private sector firms from Colombo deciding, after successful
participation, to engage in investment in the area. Last year, my
Ministry was engaged in a discussion with the UNDP and the Senior
Human Rights Advisor to the UN Country Team on future cooperation
between the UN and the Government of Sri Lanka which included support
to the Government in formulating a National Plan of Action on the
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as envisaged in the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action. I can report that we have now
moved ahead with our initiative and are most encouraged by the
invaluable support we received in this connection from these UN

Security Forces are the guardians of the nation.
Graphic design by Lakshan Maduranga

As a basis for the National Plan of Action, we are considering the
recommendations made by UN Treaty Bodies, special procedures and
mechanisms of the UN human rights system and also the recommendations
accepted and the voluntary commitments we made during the Universal
Periodic Review process which Sri Lanka engaged in last year. We have
held a wide ranging series of consultations on several key thematic
areas with state and non-governmental actors representing civil
society and are now able to prioritise and identify courses of action
which will be submitted for official adoption by Government.

Human rights

These steps will, we expect, lead to improved promotion and protection
of human rights in Sri Lanka by addressing the existing gaps in order
to build a stronger national protection framework in the country.

Our cooperation with the UN in Sri Lanka in the area of human rights
is not limited to the National Plan. Last year, as we celebrated the
sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we
decided not to limit ourselves to the traditional day of celebration
with meetings and events planned for just the one day. Instead, we
invited Government officials working at the grass roots to submit
project proposals focussed on the thematic areas of the right to food,
education and health and the right to safety and security.

We selected the outstanding proposals and rewarded nine with a small
cash grant each to enable implementation in 2009. The officials were
also given an orientation in human rights based approaches to
development and we will monitor their progress during the coming
months. It is in this manner that the Government seeks to ensure that
the UDHR remains a living, vibrant and relevant instrument for the
ordinary people of Sri Lanka. We hope to build on lessons learned and
conduct similar exercises in the future.

With regard to the very worrying problem of children and armed
conflict, we have taken steps to secure the release of children forced
to bear arms. Just four days ago Sri Lanka launched a national
campaign against the Recruitment of Children for Used in Armed
Conflict in cooperation with UNICEF.


On the occasion President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched the campaign and
said: “The image of Sri Lanka, for far too long, has been stained by
the presence of child soldiers in our country.

We have been disgraced by being branded with others where this
dreadful practice exists, and it is time for us to erase that stain on
our country and nation; a stain that has not come through official
policy, but through the acts of those who use terror against the

But, more important than erasing the stain on our image, is the need
to save our children from this special horror of terror, the most
savage of the chosen weapons of terror that has been the menace of our
society for nearly three decades.”

Through the modality of the Commissioner-General for Rehabilitation we
have set up a dedicated centre where these traumatised children can be
cared for, and have thus taken the first steps to their reintegration
and resumption of a normal life.

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list