Special Committee Formed to Address Adivasi Community Issues
A committee spearheaded by the Secretary of the Wildlife and Forest Conservation Ministry, advised by Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs, and Constitutional Reforms, has been established to tackle the challenges faced by Sri Lanka’s Adivasi (indigenous) people. Following discussions with relevant stakeholders, the committee compiled a report addressing the community’s issues. Recently, a special session at the Parliament Complex chaired by the Minister of Justice focused on deliberating the report’s recommendations and proposals.
Comprising representatives from various governmental bodies such as the Wildlife and Forestry Ministry, Directorate General of Wildlife, Department of Wildlife, Department of Irrigation, Justice Ministry, Attorney General’s Department, Police, Alternative Policy Centre, and the Mahaweli Authority, the committee collaborated extensively to comprehend the multifaceted problems experienced by the Adivasi people.
R.M.C.M. Herath, the Wildlife and Forestry Ministry Secretary, highlighted that the report’s formulation involved consultations with 15 organizations. Emphasizing the uniqueness of the Adivasi community and the absence of a comprehensive data system, Herath underscored the need for joint efforts between governmental and non-governmental entities to address issues ranging from agriculture, fishing, forestry to dairy cattle farming, which constitute the livelihoods of the Adivasi people. She also noted challenges in updating the MoU concerning this community.
During the discussion, Minister of Justice Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe emphasized the necessity for permanent solutions rather than temporary measures. He advocated for the development of a new bill tailored to address the longstanding issues of the indigenous community. Stressing on the protection of Adivasi rights and livelihood activities like fishing, agriculture, and wildlife, the Minister proposed the formation of a specialized committee vested with legal authority to coordinate and oversee institutions involved in the daily lives of the Adivasi people.
Expressing optimism in finding a lasting resolution, Adivasi leader Uruvarige Vannilattan highlighted the historical persistence of the community’s problems despite previous agreements and expressed hope for a definitive solution this time.
Key stakeholders including R.M.C.M. Herath, Chandana Suriya Bandara (Wildlife Director General), representatives from the Attorney General’s Department, Police Department, Wildlife Department, and the Centre for Alternative Policy actively participated in the discussion, reflecting the comprehensive approach taken to address the Adivasi community’s challenges.