Substantive improvements envisaged:
Action Plan for rights protection
* Suggestions taken from all sectors
* Document will be sent to UNHR Commissioner
The government yesterday launched its first national Action Plan for
the protection and promotion of human rights, pledging to further
protect and improve the country’s human rights conditions in an
Special Envoy for Human Rights, Plantation Minister Mahinda
Samarasinghe briefing the media on the National Action Plan
for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, at
Ministry premises yesterday. Alongside him is the former
Attorney General, Legal Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers,
Mohan Peiris PC.
“It is a truly workable and practical plan for the protection and
promotion of human rights, with clear goals, priorities and time bound
targets,” Special Envoy for Human Rights, Plantation Minister Mahinda
Samarasinghe said. The minister said that the document containing the
action plan would be sent to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, all
member states of the UN Human Rights Council, relevant government and
non-governmental organizations and all other stakeholders.
The minister said that the successful implementation of the plan
would help strengthen reconciliation and trust among communities while
not allowing terrorism to resurface.
The specific responsibilities and tasks involved and the time frame
they should be implemented would be forwarded to relevant ministries
from today onwards, he added.
According to the Minister, Sri Lanka would periodically update the
UNHRC and all other relevant bodies on the progress made.
“I would make use of every international forum I attend, to make the
international community aware on the progress we are making,” he added.
The three main objectives of the action plan are, the achievement of
genuine and substantive improvements in the protection and promotion of
human rights, promotion of greater awareness of human rights; both among
the general public and in specific sectors and the promotion of
coordination of human rights activity among diverse stakeholders.
The five year action plan is divided into eight thematic areas. The
implementation would be done by stakehold ministries. There would be
separate monitoring and coordinating mechanisms to review progress and
make necessary suggestions.
The minister said that the plan was made after a very transparent and
comprehensive assessment of human rights needs in Sri Lanka which was
then translated into specific goals and practical actions.
“It was not only the government, we took on board suggestions from
every sector when preparing the plan. Experts in all areas were
represented, from government and non-governmental organizations, to
civil society and other stakeholders,” he said.
The minister also said that examples from other international best
practices too were taken into consideration when formulating the plan.
However, he stressed that it was a truly national undertaking. “It is
nationally owned and nationally driven process,” he added.
Describing the elaborate and exhaustive steps taken in preparing the
plan, the minister said that from the inception, President Mahinda
Rajapaksa had taken a keen interest in the proceedings. “After we
submitted the proposals to him he appointed another committee to study
it and they came out with several suggestions”.
“Later the Cabinet studied the proposals for five weeks and made
their observations. We then went back to all the stakeholders who
contributed to prepare it and made the final draft which was approved by
the Cabinet,” he said.
He noted that key performance indicators and specific time frames
within which each activity should be implemented had been earmarked and
an Inter-Ministerial Committee will be appointed to monitor the
implementation of the Action Plan.
He stressed that this high level political commitment was vital to
ensure continued achievement across different levels of government.
It will help engage all relevant sectors of our society in our human
rights agenda, he added.
Explaining the background of how the plan came to be, the minister
said that it was prepared in response to a pledge made by the government
at its Universal Periodic Review before UN Human Rights Council in 2008.
He explained that it had begun with a review of the human rights
situation in the country, which involved a desk review of several key
documents including the Universal Periodic Review report on Sri Lanka,
recommendations of treaty bodies under various UN human right
conventions and recommendations of Special Procedures Mechanism.
“A National Action Plan will allow us to systematically consider our
strengths and address our shortcomings in human rights observance,” he