Concerns about Office for Reparations Bill | Sunday Observer

Concerns about Office for Reparations Bill

Academics and politicians alike raised their concerns on the Office for Reparations Bill presented to Parliament last week, arguing that the Bill falls short in many respects and interferes with the independence of the operations of the office.

Attorney- at-Law, Niran Anketell said the Bill instead of setting up an independent office, has contributed towards essentially a body with no powers, since the Cabinet and Parliament has to approve disbursements.

“Now, there will be an office of independent officers, recommending to the Cabinet and the Parliament. Cabinet can approve, reject or amend these recommendations, therefore, ultimately political parties will make decisions to suit their mandates,” he said.

According to the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), reparation serves to acknowledge the legal obligation of a State to repair the consequences of violations - either because it directly committed them or it failed to prevent them.

In a way, by making reparations the State acknowledges its commitment to addressing the underlying reasons for these violations and prevents recurrence. Reparations can be either material or symbolic and remain the most direct and meaningful way to receive justice, hence remain important to the victims.

Anketell said that it is important to give the power of implementing policy to the Office for Reparations. Since the financial allocations are anyway via budgetary schemes of Parliament, they already have a say in the matter, he said.

“Thus, the decisions on how to disperse these allocations should be with the Reparations Office. If there is a question on actions of the Reparations Office, the Office can be challenged in Courts,” he said.

Parliamentarian, M.A. Sumanthiran also said the Reparations Bill has been a disappointment since there is too much intrusion from the Cabinet and Parliament in the operation of the Office for Reparations.

“Cabinet is responsible for ensuring policy and is reflected by an Act of Parliament. Once the Office for Reparations is set up via an Act of the Parliament, Cabinet should not interfere in its operations in the guise of policy,” he said.

Sumanthiran further said it is similarly unnecessary for Parliament to approve disbursements every single time. “These requirements render the Office for Reparations totally defective,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mano Tittawella who was involved in the drafting of the Office for Reparations Bill, said he is satisfied with the Bill.

“It is already gazetted and now there is a time period to challenge the Bill in the Courts. One individual has already petitioned to the Supreme Courts. After we receive clearance, it will be submitted to Parliament for approval,” he said.

Tittawella further said if there are suggestions for better amendments in the near future, the Government will consider this.

He added the Bill facilitates towards provision of meaningful reparations to victims of all the civil conflicts in the country.

Tittawella said they are waiting for the Bill to be passed soon, which would enable setting up of the office by end of year.

“Then we can begin giving reparations at least by next year. The affected have been waiting for a long time for this,” he said. 

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