Rights of disabled and differently abled
Posted on November 13th, 2009

Malin Abeyatunge Melbourne

The Supreme Court Ruling of October 14, 2009 as to the rights of the disabled has to be applauded albeit late. It’s appaling to see these regulations have been there for 13 long years and the obsolete bureaucracy has not done anything to implement it.

When you visit the developed countries you will observe that the disabled are treated very respect and dignity. In Australia, there are special arrangements for wheel chair people to get on board the trains and busses. There are special slots in car parks for the wheel chair individuals. There are access to the public buildings, Banks and other corporate offices to the disabled. Dr, Ajit C. Perera, the disability rights activist should be congratulated for bringing this matter to courts and get a ruling.

Yet again, we should not forget the differently abled people mostly among our forces. Many of them have lost their arms, limbs, hearing, sight to save the country from the terrorists. It is our bounden duty to look after them in whatever capacity. In that, public and the private sector has a bigger role to play as in other countries. I believe there are over twenty thousand disabled and differently baled soldiers among our forces.

A visit to Ranavirusevana in Ragama or other rehabilitation centers in the country will prove this beyond any doubt. In countries like Australia, it is mandatory to employ a certain percentage of differently abled people to their work force. We have seen how the Sri Lanka Army has used the differently abled soldiers in garment manufacturing industry giving them dignity of life. Two classic cases in point are the Ranaviru Apparels in Nittambuwa and The Ranaviru Band at Ranavirusevana which I am aware of. At some stage Ranaviru Apparels had employed almost 600 disabled soldiers in manufacturing garments and providing almost 60% of the army requirements. Ranaviru Band comprise of disabled soldiers is no second to any other Sinhala band in town.

This shows that many of our so called disabled soldiers are not disabled but differently abled. There are hidden talents and skills among them which can be harnessed for the betterment of their lives as well as the society. I believe that a law needs to be passed (by Parliamentary Act or any other acceptable means) to make it mandatory to employ a certain percentage of the total employees of the Public Sector and the Private sector (at least the Corporate sector) for differently abled soldiers who has sacrificed their arms and limbs to save the country from the LTTE terrorists. If that cannot be done by law, then let the public sector set an example by employing the differently abled soldiers in their work places so that private sector will follow suit. In many work places in Australia, there are employees in wheel chairs who do a job entrusted like any other employee. It is still not too late and as a mark of respect and acknowledgement for the sacrifices our heroes in the forces made to save the country from terrorism, the public and private sector should use these brave men in gainful employment to enable them to live with dignity.

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