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Opposition Leader working towards secret agenda - Chief Govt Whip

“The country knows that the leader of the Opposition works on a secret agenda to vilify the government. But in doing so, he in effect is tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the international community”, Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament yesterday.


Minister Dinesh

“If he is a true democratic leader, he should be commending the timely action taken by the government. We know why the Leader of the Opposition wants to raise all these now” he said in response to the statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in the House on Wednesday.

Minister Gunawardena said: "One begins to wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition has become the proxy of the so called international community which wishes this country do be in the doldrums so as to enable them to unduly interfere in the reconciliation and development of this country, as we have seen in the case of other actions in the past."

The reply made by Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunawardene in Parliament yesterday in response to the statement made by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday.

"Our government has given careful consideration to the questions that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to ask, and I would like to state the following.

"Our government embarked on the formulation of the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in a response to a call from our people who are sovereign, and in this process, we have examined all aspects of human rights in our country which had been historically colonized for a long time and has now emerged from the blood, sweat and tears of an internecine conflict.

"It must also be borne in mind that this is also our country's response to Vienna Declaration and programme of action adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in Austria in 1993 in which contracting States agreed to accede to a request that each State considers the desirability of drawing up a National Action Plan and identifying the steps each State would take to improve the protection and promotion of human rights.

"It is important to remember that in the course of the Universal periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008, Sri Lanka made a voluntary pledge to develop a National Action Plan to reaffirm its commitment to protect and promote the human rights of all our citizens.

"Consequent to the pledge that was made at the UPR, the then Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights was empowered with the task of facilitating the formulation of a National Action Plan.

"The process began with a stocktaking of the human rights situation in the country, which involved a desk review on several key documents including the Universal Periodic review report of Sri Lanka, recommendations of treaty bodies under the various UN human rights conventions and recommendations of Special Procedures mechanisms. This led to the identification of the following national priority areas: 1.Civil and Political Rights, 2.Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 3.Torture, 4.Children, 5.Labour, 6.Migrant Workers,7.Women and 8.Internally Displaced Persons

A number of issue-based consultations were held thereafter, and wider consultations with civil society representatives were held in February 2009. Drafting committees were appointed on the eight thematic areas, consisting of 6-10 experts in each area drawn from the government and non-government sectors. The legal framework, policies and practices in each area were examined by the eight committees and thematic action plans drafted. The draft plans were then reviewed by a ten-member inter-ministerial steering committee.

"The plans as revised by the steering committee were then put to civil society. Focus group discussions on each of the eight thematic areas were held in 2010 to which over 240 organizations/individuals were invited to present their views and comments. There was also a follow up meeting of the drafting committees and the steering committee, providing an opportunity for the drafting committees to understand the rationale for the revisions to the Action Plan, and for further discussion on important provisions to be included in the Plan. The Action Plan was further revised and finalized following the focus group discussions and meeting in May 2011.

"The National Action Plan therefore has been formulated after many months of consultation in which the government and civil society played an active role. In other words, there had been a participatory and deliberative process where all shades of opinion were duly considered on the above mentioned eight thematic areas.

"It must be appreciated that the National Action Plan whilst providing a detailed policy and legislative programme to give life to fundamental rights and freedoms, also contemplates the widening of the scope of these rights and freedoms.

"The government recognizes the need to allocate adequate financial and other resources for the implementation of the Plan. It is committed to providing the necessary funds in view of the significance of the issues covered by the Action Plan and the need to realize its goals for the betterment of all the people of Sri Lanka.

"The Plan was structured with the objective in general to include priority areas and its implementation to be completed within 5 years.

" Each of the eight thematic areas is in the form of a matrix consisting of Focus Area, Goal, Issue, Activities, Key Performance Indicators, Time-frame, and Key Responsible Agencies.

"The aim in general was to include priority areas and not all areas for action, as the plan in time bound and could not realistically cover every issue which may need to be addressed. Nevertheless, as is evident from a reading of the Plan, many aspects of each thematic area have been comprehensively covered.

"The responsibility of implementation and monitoring of the National Action Plan on Human Rights was given to a Cabinet Sub Committee to be supported by a monitoring committee consisting of senior government officials from across the sectors. The monitoring committee will engage with civil society and maintain a dialogue, through which problems in implementation of the Plan at ground level could be reported to the Cabinet Sub Committee.

"It is expected to have wider citizen participation in monitoring and providing feedback on the implementation of the Plan through the setting up of a website as well as communication through other social media.

"After a lengthy process of review, discussion, dialogue and in-depth examination of all the issues concerned, the Plan was finalized and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers which granted approval for implementation of same at its meeting on 14th September, 2011.

"Should not the Hon. Leader of the Opposition be paying a tribute to the government, instead of throwing brickbats at an excellent document that will ensure and assure the constitutional guarantees to our people? If he is a true democratic leader, he should be commending the timely action taken by the government. We know why the Leader of the Opposition wants to raise all these now. The whole country knows that he works on a secret agenda to vilify the government. But in doing so, he, in effect, is tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka in the eyes of the international community."I wish to remind the Leader of the Opposition that he should follow the example of his counterparts in our neighbouring countries. Leaders of Opposition in those countries in matters related to the international community or external affairs work in harmony with the government of the day and defend the sovereignty of their country.

"What was pledged in Geneva must go back to Geneva. The pledge was to Geneva on behalf of our people, so should be fruits of labour of such pledge. This is not a part of our legislative process which we have been entrusted with by virtue of the sovereignty of our people. It is a process that finds roots in the sovereignty of our people.

"It will be well to remember that the directive principles of our State policy and fundamental duties where the State has pledged to establish in our country a democratic socialist society, the objectives of which includes the full realization of fundamental rights and freedoms of our people amongst other objectives.

"Reference has been made to the Action Plan several times on the floor of this House, and I invite the Leader of the Opposition to touch his conscience with genuineness and sincerity and point to any aspect of the National Action Plan which will not or does not enhance and sustain the fundamental freedoms and directive principles and the high values enshrined in our Constitution and the Universal Declaration.

"One begins to wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition has become the proxy of the so called international community which wishes this country to be in the doldrums so as to enable them to unduly interfere in the reconciliation and development of tis country, as we have seen in the case of other nations in the recent past.

"We will certainly move in this House a legislative amendment if the need arises to bring such an amendment that will give life to the full implementation of the National Action Plan.

"This has been debated by the people. The debate has already taken place. The Action Plan has been distributed across the country. The collective responsibility that he so earnestly speaks of, we are ready to take on, having in mind our obligations under Article 42 of the Constitution.

"I hope that this will lay his mind at rest and induce him to join hands with us in raising our country to new horizons of freedom and progress."

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