By Chandra Jayaratne –
Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara
Minister of National Language and Social Integration,
Ministry of National Language and Social Integration,
40. Buthgamuwa Road,
11th September 2013
Dear Mr. Minister,
Re; National Policy on Social Integration: Discussion Forum on Access to Safe and Secure Social and Physical Environment
I write this submission having been a recipient of the attached notification of the above “Discussion Forum” organized by the Kadirgarmar Institute with your Ministry, supported by the German Development Cooperation. Having attended the Forum and reviewed the programme content as per the Agenda attached, I realized that my prior preparations, for effective participation in the discussion forum, were based on an erroneous interpretation of the discussion topic “National Policy on Social Integration”.
Since my prior planned submissions and questions at the discussion forum were inappropriate during that occasion, I thought of sharing them with you, those copied on this mail, and be also shared with the fellow citizens through the media.
I had interpreted “Social Integration” to refer to the wider and more commonly understood interpretation noted below;
“Social integration is the blending and unifying of social groups, most commonly seen in the desegregation of races throughout history. Integration in sociology and other social sciences is more precisely the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies. Social integration requires proficiency in an accepted common language of the society, acceptance of the laws of the society and adoption of a common set of values of the society”
My planned submissions and questions on the “National Policy on Social Integration” with specific reference to “Access to Safe and Secure Social and Physical Environments as impacting on the larger marginalized segments of our Society” are as follows;
1. Does the current National Policy on Social Integration accept that “ It does not envisage the assimilation of diverse segments in to one homogenous group (including proficiency in an accepted common language of the society, acceptance of the laws of the society and adoption of a common set of values of the society) and it does not further require persons to give up all of their culture, ethno-religious and language rights, traditions and heritage in pursuit of this objective of assimilation. In tolerant and open societies, members of minority groups can often use social integration to gain full access to the opportunities, rights and services available to the members of the mainstream of society?”
2. Is the current National Policy on Social Integration flexible, in the context of the recent experiences over the last thirty years and sensitive to and learn lessons from the outcomes in the post independence period? Does the policy therefore recognize that it is better to “Celebrate Diversity” rather than reach out to an objective of “Unity in Diversity”?
3. In the context of 2 above, does the National Policy on Social Integration stipulate that the National Anthem should be sung in Sinhalese and Tamil at public functions, and language rights, religious rights, ethno-cultural practices, traditions of diverse segments of society be guaranteed by the Constitution, and promoted, supported and not discriminated?
4. Does the National Policy on Social Integration, duly recognize that all segments of society, especially, the segments marginalized by the conflict in the North and East, can with confidence interpret a “Safe and Secure Environment” to be one which includes the following expectations of the marginalized segments to be realized and it further incorporates effective strategies and implementation plans aimed at delivering such aspirations?
- The essential need for earliest de-militarization and having a civil administration in place,
- All para military elements are disarmed
- Effective rule of law, law enforcement and access to justice are available to citizens
- The law enforcement functions are entirely discharged by the Police
- The present level of surveillance over civilians and their activities are minimized
- Effective measures of safety and security of vulnerable segments, especially widows, girls, orphans and women headed households are in place
- Former combatants and their families are not discriminated and not treated with constant suspicion
- Independent Public Institutions operate effectively following best international practices
- Freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of association are facilitated
- Traditional family practices linked to ethno religious observances, socio cultural practices and heritage and traditional rituals can be openly practiced without restrictions
5. Does the National Policy on Social Integration, duly recognize that all segments of society, especially, the segments marginalized by the conflict in the North and East and marginalized groups in other backward areas of the country, can with confidence interpret a “Secure Environment” to be one which includes the following expectations of these marginalized segments to be realized and it further incorporates effective strategies and implementation plans aimed at delivering such aspirations?
- An environment where national resources are shared with equity and equality and with no discrimination across the island and segments of society
- An environment where comparable housing, water, sanitation, electricity, transportation and communications facilities are available across the island and segments of society
- An environment where comparable education and health facilities are available across the island and segments of society including
i. Training and skills / personal development options
ii. Psycho social and trauma counselling and long term care support for disabled and injured are freely available
- “Access” to information on deceased, missing, detained and disappeared former residents across the island and segments of society
- “Access” to places of religious worship, archeological sites, traditional burial sites, sacred areas and original names of places and streets across the island and segments of society
- Where opportunities for livelihood support including comparable best practices transfers for value enhancement, marketing support and financial support are available across the island and segments of society, enabling potential future growth, development and prosperity
6. Does the National Policy on Social Integration assure that comparable constitutional guarantees and service deliveries are available to all segments of society, where necessary with special and exceptional Constitutional guarantees and services to protect the interests of marginalised segments of society ( eg. Guarantees embodied in the Indian Constitution), with options for local community level decision making on resource allocations and implementation of development programmes affecting grass root communities?
7. Does the National Policy recognize that former conflict affected, previously poorly governed and now relatively backward areas of the country should have “Preferential Access “ to resources and services that will restore, within a period of five years, the comparable optimum bench mark positions of these provinces in growth contributions, especially in agriculture, fisheries, handlooms and other cottage industries and services, capability, new and emerging employment and self employment opportunities, health, education and nutrition, poverty, mortality and nutrition levels?
I trust that above issues and clarification planned to have been reviewed during the Discussion Forum, will be of value to you and others copied, in future intellectual discussions, as well as in strategic planning and implementation of development plans encompassing social integration led enhanced “Access to Safe and Secure Social and Physical Environments” in the former conflict areas and other backward areas of the country..
cc. Secretary to H.E. the President and Head of the Task Force Implementing the Recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee,
Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, Advisor to H.E. the President on Human Rights
Secretary, Ministry of Social Services, 1st floor, Sethsiripaya (Stage II), Battharamulla.
H.E. German Ambassador in Sri Lanka, German Embassy, Colombo 3
Executive Director, LKIIRSS, 24, Horton Place, Colombo 7.
Ms. Cyrene Siriwardena, Oxfam, Australia.