Moving the Reparations Bill for debate in Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Reparations Bill was proposed to ensure reconciliation in the country and to provide reparation to the affected or aggrieved parties.
“We have had a long history of conflict not only in the North, but also in the South of people who had disappeared and once we put this behind us, it is also necessary to find out what happened to them and give reparation to the affected parties,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that reparations had been a policy of the government since 1983, when the riots took place and the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority was established by law.
“This office for reparations would replace the authority whereby repealing the law, but all acts done under this law and all programmes undertaken by the Authority would be carried out by the Office for Reparations. As far as the employees are concerned, all can be absorbed except for those who prefer to take compensation and leave. The functions of the Office of Reparations is to formulate and recommend to Cabinet policies on reparation to facilitate implementation of such policies, monitor and evaluate the progress of delivery of reparation to eligible aggrieved persons. An aggrieved person has been defined as someone who had suffered violations of human rights or humanitarian law and we have further defined them in terms of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and fourth parts of the Geneva Convention of 1949.”
He pointed out that reparations could be to individuals or collective reparation as defined in the Act. In addition, the PM noted that they would also take action on recommendations made by the Office of Missing Persons. This, he said, is the scope of the legislation that they have introduced to the House. “It is a needed piece of legislation,” he said.
The Office of Reparation would be run by a Board of Four Members appointed by the President on the recommendations of the Council. According to Wickremesinghe, this much needed piece of legislation would look after the people in the North, East, South, West or Central province who have been affected or their families.
Reparation Bill will ensure justice to all Sri Lankans: Foreign MinisterThe Reparations Bill is a very important Bill that would improve the living standards of the people and many shortcomings that existed in the past would be rectified by this, said Foreign Minister Tilak Marapone, joining the debate on the Reparations Bill.
“This piece of legislation covers all parties throughout the country and would ensure justice to all Sri Lankans. The objectives of this act is set out in clause 2 of this Bill and it says it is to formulate and recommend to the Cabinet of Ministers policies on reparations to grant individual and collective reparations to aggrieved persons. This Bill also covers those persons who have suffered due to political unrest and disturbances in the course of gross violations of the rights of individuals, people who have suffered due to the conflict in the North and East,” he noted.
He added that there is much to be achieved by this piece of legislation because earlier when people suffered due to various riots and civil disturbances, there was no permanent mechanism for reparation for some of the damage that had taken place. Instead, he said there were add hock Cabinet papers that were presented, but those Cabinet papers did not ensure justice to all those persons who had suffered.
“Hence, I think by the permanent establishment of a body by way of the Reparations Office, it is a laudable effort to address all those incidents that had occurred in the past. I believe that the scope of this legislation would be wide enough to all categories of persons irrespective of their community and political differences,” he said, adding that anyone in Sri Lanka who had suffered as a result of these civil disturbances, during any type of upheaval, would now have an opportunity to seek reparation.
He stressed that human rights should be taken seriously for the sake of our own people so that their living conditions would be made better and they would enjoy the fruits of life. As a responsible government, he said these are matters that should be ensured in place so that the people could reap their benefits