HRW failed to acknowledge Govt's positive steps - Foreign
The Human Rights Watch 2008 annual report contains a Chapter on Sri
Lanka which has failed to distinguish between a democratically elected
Government which has reaffirmed its commitment to promote and protect
human rights while combating an unprecedented challenge of terrorism,
and the LTTE, a fascist terrorist group recently branded as one of the
worst of such groups in the world by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) of the USA, the Foreign Ministry said.
Despite the Government maintaining an open dialogue with the
international community and INGOs, including the Human Rights Watch (HRW)
regularly, it fails to acknowledge any positive steps taken by Sri Lanka
to enhance protection in a situation of emergency.
Senior Ministers and high officials from Sri Lanka have had
discussions with the Human Rights Watch in New York and Washington in
September 2007 where they have amply explained the measures the
Government has taken to uphold human rights in an extremely difficult
situation of fighting a ruthless terrorist group to rid innocent
civilians from the clutches of subjugation of this outfit.
The Human Rights Watch has placed selective focus on some civil and
political rights, avoiding entirely any mention of the Government's
considerable achievements in providing economic, social and cultural
rights, including to all citizens in the North and the East.
The Human Rights Watch appears to ignore the fact that since
independence the Government has provided a free and comprehensive
national education system, including schools, non-formal education
institutions and technical colleges. The salaries of teachers,
administrative, clerical and elementary staff are met from state funds.
There are no private schools in operation in Kilinochchi, Mannar,
Vavuniya, Ampara and Trincomalee. Schoolchildren in these areas are
entirely dependent on Government managed schools for their primary and
secondary education, which the Government continues to provide. Every
single teacher is funded by the Government.
There are an estimated 1,848 functioning State funded schools with
over 700,000 students in the North and the East. These schools include
411 in Jaffna, 94 in Kilinochchi, 93 in Mannar, 187 in Vavuniya, 102 in
Mullaitivu, 314 in Batticaloa, 388 in Ampara and 259 in Trincomalee.
Thus 18.9 per cent of the schools administered by the Education
Ministry are in the North and the East.
The scope of the education service provided by the Government is
apparent, for instance in the latest report of the UNHCR on Welfare
Centres in Jaffna, which indicates that 1,251 of 1,252 Primary Level
children are in school in these centres, and 1434 out of 1,716 among
State hospitals and State managed healthcare centres provide a
totally free service - both preventative and curative and are funded by
the Government. The State meets the recurrent costs of doctors, nurses
and minor employees, including salaries, drugs, equipment and the
maintenance of hospitals. In the North and the East, there are over 53
Hospital institutions with more than 4427 hospital beds providing free
curative healthcare. The Human Rights Watch does not take into account
any of the achievements of the Government in providing numerous welfare
and protection programmes for migrant workers, especially women migrant
workers including their families. The Human Rights Watch appears to
proceed from some abstract "standards which has little relevance to the
conditions on the ground in a developing country".
It is unfortunate that the Human Rights Watch continues to use
developed country standards, which are used only selectively in the case
of developed countries, in criticising developing countries.
Vague accusations proliferate in the report such as "indiscriminate
firing" "unnecessarily preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid"
etc., which are not borne out by the facts.
The rationalisation undertaken by the Government in consultation with
INGOs and NGOs seem to have escaped HRW completely.
Sri Lanka's Security Forces are fully trained to take every
precaution against harming civilians.
The ICRC has imparted international humanitarian law (IHL) training
to Security Forces since over 20 years, such that over 90% of forces are
now fully trained in IHL.
Since 2006, most deaths have been among combatants (especially
Government forces) while most civilian deaths have been caused by LTTE
bomb blasts such as on buses at Kebbetigollewa, Nittambuwa, Seenigama
and Chettikulam and even in Shopping Complexes at Nugegoda. The LTTE
gunned down civilians fleeing the bus bomb in Buttala.
Sufficient information is available on Sri Lanka websites
(SCOPP/Commissioner General for Essential Services) regarding provision
of essential supplies to North and East. HRW fails to acknowledge that
throughout the years of conflict, humanitarian and developmental needs
of the civilian population of the North and the East, including in
conflict areas were continuously met by the Government together with
some assistance from the donor community.
The administrative machinery including the free national health,
education and infrastructure facilities in conflict areas are continuing
to be maintained by the Government despite the fact that the LTTE
siphons of such funding for its own illegal purposes.
The Government is presently taking all steps to provide the essential
services that people need in uncleared areas. In fact, even today the
Government Agents in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, LTTE dominated
districts, are actively delivering all essential services.
The salaries and pensions and other expenses of these services are
fully met by the Government, and the Government also monitors these
activities to ensure that the services reach the people as expeditiously
However, given the hazardous ground conditions that prevail in these
areas it is necessary for the LTTE to cooperate to ensure that these
efforts are made more effective. Already, massive programmes for
housing, roads, bridges, electrification, livelihood development,
hospitals, and schools have been planned.
The completed projects and other projects in progress and in the
pipeline are valued at US $ 1,250 million.
This is a massive sum, and the investment of such an amount would
need stable ground and safe conditions that are essential for the
effective realisation of the benefits of this vast investment.
HRW analysis of the situation of internally displaced persons (IDP)
is therefore, flawed with exaggerated figures quoted and failure to
acknowledge the success of the Government in speedily resettling IDPs in
their own homes after evicting the LTTE from the Eastern Province,
whilst providing assistance in food and livelihood support etc. Sri
Lanka has expended considerable resources over the last many years in
caring for IDPs affected by both conflict and tsunami.
Despite repeated Government requests for specific information, HRW
has not supplied any 'credible evidence' on any complicity by the
Security Forces with the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulugal (TMVP), a
breakaway group of the LTTE. Accusations are vague and unsubstantiated
and tend to reflect the propaganda line of detractors of the Government.
Today, the TMVP is making the difficult transition to a political
party, having registered with the Commissioner of Elections for the
local government elections in the Eastern Province.