Govt., media faulted for not paying attention to HR issues



By Shamindra Ferdinando


Human rights chief Dr. Deepika Udagama yesterday alleged that state machinery hadn’t provided the much required backing to ensure the smooth functioning of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).


The head of the Department of Law, Peradeniya said that she hadn’t been able to rectify shortcomings in spite of strenuous efforts at obtaining government intervention.


The outspoken official was addressing the media at Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka at its new main office at No 14, R.A. de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 4.


Acknowledging that the commission had received state patronage to some extent, Dr. Udagama explained continuing difficulties even after she sought the intervention of the Constitutional Council on more than one occasion.


The HRCSL called media briefing ahead of Chairman of Constitutional Council Speaker Karu Jayasuriya’s visit there and also to the Office of Parliamentary Ombudsman also located at the same premises this morning (January 5).


Dr. Udagama faulted the media for not providing sufficient coverage to what she called important human rights issues thereby, to a certain extent, undermining HRCSL efforts. The official also pointed out the failure on the part of the print media to give front-page coverage to critically important Supreme Court decisions in respect of rulings on human rights issues.


Commenting on ongoing efforts to further streamline services, Dr. Udagama said that there were moves to set up new HRCSL branches at Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Puttalam, Moneragala, Polonnaruwa, Mullaitivu and Galle.


At the moment HRCSL operates 10 offices.


Dr. Udagama asserted that current rules and regulations pertaining to procurement as well as recruitment were a major hindrance.


Dr. Udagama explained HRCSL efforts to enhance its services both in Colombo and the provinces.


Some unscrupulous persons in the guise of being HRCSL representatives had collected money from various people, including those who had been victims of violence, she said. Dr. Udagama also revealed an instance some person had stayed at a Colombo Hotel claiming he was with the HRCSL and vanished without paying the bill.


Reiterating that the HRCSL never sought private donations under any circumstances, Dr Udagama alleged that some persons had exploited post-war situation for their advantage.


The HRCSL dealt with human rights situation on the basis of statistics available for the period January to September 2017 with focus on suffering of civilians, particularly in the Northern region. According to HRCSL records, its officers had received 5,617 complaints during the nine months and approximately 9,000 in the previous year.


Dr. Udagama expressed serious concern over what she described as custodial violence while underscoring the urgent need to address the issue. She also referred to allegations made against law enforcement officers as well as alleged members of intelligence services.


The jurist said the HRCSL effort wasn’t meant to condemn the police but to take tangible measures to improve the situation on the ground.


Dr. Udagama also dealt with the crisis in the state sector with growing number of complaints regarding what she called administrative injustice. The HRCSL chief released relevant figures to justify her assertion that many state sector employees were being harassed at various levels.


One of the major issues confronted by the HRCSL was parents complaining about not being able to secure admissions to leading schools, Dr Udagama said, adding that her outfit was concerned about underprivileged families. They were worried about closure of schools and many not having sufficient facilities.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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