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
“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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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