24 October, 2020

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Changing The Messenger Will Not Sell Without Showing Change On The Ground

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga is to visit the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month to explain the steps taken to address accountability issues stemming from the last stages of the war with the LTTE, which the international community is pressing for.  There is much faith being pinned on him as a capable and efficient public servant.  However, what those in the international community who are keenly watching developments in Sri Lanka will not wish to only hear another impressive governmental presentation of facts and figures that they cannot verify.   They need to believe what they are being told, and this can only come from a credible monitoring mechanism.   In its absence what they will listen to is the opposition and civil society in Sri Lanka.

The message from those who are not part of the government so far is negative and not getting positive.  Speaking at the opening of a rice mill funded by Australia last week at Vishvamadhu in the Northern Province, its Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran provided a summary of the issues faced by his administration. He said, “Firstly it is the fact that our Northern Province is under Army occupation even nearly five years since the end of the war. It is assessed that nearly 150,000 members of the Military are resident in the Northern Province. They occupy illegally lands belonging to our people. This denies our people access to their own lands for which many of them have documents though sometimes destroyed during the war.

“Secondly Sinhalese people from the South are being brought in secretly and made to colonise the lands belonging to our people. Even if the lands be state lands that does not give rights to any one and every one to colonize them. But the Army actively supports such moves.  Thirdly our people lack security. Our women are subjected to gender harassment. Many face the worst that could happen to them and they cannot talk about it in the open. The Police are aware as to the culprits but they are powerless. Fourthly, lack of Employment. We have put up impressive roads mainly to enable the Army to travel quickly keeping the Northern Province under repression. But we have not generated Employment opportunities for those affected by the war.

“When our arable lands are taken over by the Army and they cultivate them and profit by them, when our fishing is taken over by the Military and they indulge in fishing activities, when they indulge in commercial activities right down the A9 Road displacing our people how could our people expect job opportunities?  Thus our people having lost everything during the war without security, without job opportunities, without recourse to their traditional lands and houses they decide to sell or pawn their jewelries, if possible sell their houses and lands and take boat to Australia.”  The government will wish to contest these charges of the Chief Minister.  The question is how best canit do so.  Denials and verbal presentations alone, on paper and on projector screens alone, will not suffice.

Akashi Visit

At the conclusion of his five day official visit, Japan’s Special Envoy for Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, is reported to have said that the Presidential Secretary’s presence in Geneva ahead of the annual sessions scheduled for March 2014, could ease international pressure on the Sri Lankan government.  This was on account of assurances given by the President.  When journalists at the media conference had pointed out that since the war ended in May 2009, the President given assurances to all visiting leaders but they had not been implemented, he noted that even Sri Lankans, not just the international community were impatient and concerned about the delay on the part of the government to implement the recommendations of its own LLRC.

During Mr Akashi’s visit to Sri Lanka there were signs that Japan is edging towards taking a common position with Western countries on the issue of accountability for human rights violations during the war.  He said that it was not only the International Community but also Sri Lankans who are anxiously “waiting for action and not just sound and fury”.  This was in contrast to his statements on previous visits where he praised the government for its reconstruction and resettlement efforts and urged patience in regard to issues of governance and accountability.  Mr Aksahi also called on the government to listen to what the international community is saying.  There is a sense that the government is only seeking to make its own case without listening to anyone.

Mr Akashi’s approach to addressing Sri Lanka’s problems in the past has corresponded to the general tenor of Japan’s overall policy towards the country. So far Japan has not gone along with the Western countries in the UN Human Rights Council and has abstained from voting against Sri Lanka.  The Japanese government and Mr Akashi in particular have in the post-war period demonstrated strength of conviction in favour of finding a national solution to the problem of national reconciliation.  At different forums Mr Akashi has expressed his view that while any solution should be based on universal values and international standards, the mechanism should be national.

Japan’s Empathy

Japan has been better placed to empathise with Sri Lanka on account of its own post-World War 2 history.  Unlike its ally Germany which was able to make a clean break with the past after the war, Japan was not able to do so.  Germany was able to lay the blame for the war and war crimes on the Nazis, but Japan was not able to make such a clean break with the past.  Japan continued to have continuity with the past in the form of Emperor Hirohito who was much revered prior to and during the war, and continued to be revered after the war.  During the war, the Imperial Japanese Army fought under the banner of the Emperor.  They were defeated and accused of war crimes by the victors in the war. But post-war Japan, while it took on universal values and international standards as its guiding principles, did not renounce the Emperor and saw him instead as a unifying force even after the war.

It appears that due to its own history, Japan is better able to identify with Sri Lanka’s dilemma than other countries.  This may explain Japan’s great patience with Sri Lanka and its repeated attempts to persuade Sri Lanka’s leaders to take positive actions that can reduce the international pressure on Sri Lanka.   Unfortunately the Sri Lankan government has taken refuge in only one part of Mr Akashi’s message, which is that national solutions should be domestically designed and implemented.  However, Sri Lankan leaders have been less forthcoming on abiding by international standards.   The government’s approach to dealing with the international community is to seek to improve the messenger, and to replace the messenger who fails to change the international community.

The government claims to be implementing reforms, but there is little sign of it on the ground, especially in terms of demilitarization and upholding of democratic rights.  The past two UN Human Rights Council resolutions were not only on the issue of war-time accountability, but also on implementing the LLRC recommendations aimed at good governance and reconciliation.  The Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council and the TNA are highlighting the lack of devolution of power to improve the lives of the people and the continuing militarization of that part of the country.  The government is denying that the problems are so bad and that change for the better is taking place. In fact that is the message that the government seeks to give to the international community.  One way for the government to enhance its international credibility is to listen to the questions the international community is asking and to give it credible answers.  They are not only looking for answers to war-time accountability issues.  The government may wish to consider setting up a credible independent national mechanism to monitor and report on what is taking place in terms of devolution, demilitarization and upholding of basic rights at the ground level.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    5

    Mr. Jehan,
    Your article is very interesting, and you are honest man, but I tell you that, Mahinda has hidden agenda to separate this land soon. Tamils are globally powerful and soon with in 100 days, the solutions will come to level that USA will separate like they did in Kosovo. Then there will be huge embarrassment for Sinhalese, as Sinhala think that this is LION’s land, ultimately there is no lion but Leopard which is brother of Tiger :)
    Days are numbered for this separations. and then Praba will be laughing from Hell ahahah- CHINGALAYA MODAYA..

    • 7
      1

      When Mahavamsa advocates that Sinhala Buddhists are the owners of the land and Tamils, Muslims and Christians are alien others who don’t belong to their land, how can there be peace or justice to the “others”? First the Sinhalese must liberate themselves from this wrong mind-set.

    • 1
      3

      What will happen to Muslims?

      Go and live in Tamil areas?

      That would be unthinkable. I will not after what Tamils did to Muslim muttai in 1990 August.

      • 1
        1

        Fat Fuk

        You will not talk about what Tamil did to Muslims, but talk about what Sinhala Bodu Bala Sena (Balu Sena) did for Muslims and their religious places.

    • 2
      1

      Chalokya Beyani, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Displacement’s report will only confirm what the CM of the Northern Province has said.

  • 3
    2

    A good article. We need to focus on retaining our old friends like Japan and India, while winning new friends and influencing the International Community.

  • 4
    2

    Jehan Perera says;

    “The government may wish to consider setting up a credible independent national mechanism to monitor and report on what is taking place in terms of devolution, demilitarization and upholding of basic rights at the ground level.”

    With the government knowing very well what is going on the ground, and it is done intentionally by them to wipe out the Tamil nation over the years (hence the govt.’s asking for time!), how can they set up a credible independent mechanism to monitor anything?

    They will use the extreme Sinhala Buddhists with Mahavamsa mind set to come up with grossly distorted reports: National mechanisms simply will not work, as the judiciary is also pliant and partial, and the regime is anti-Tamil all along for 65 years.

  • 2
    1

    Folks
    Send this article to the UNHRC members without wasting a minute.

  • 3
    2

    What the military and ex-major governor of the NPC do suffice to demonstrate that civilians are kept under fear psychosis and civil administration is controlled by men in uniform. The Security Forces run shops, do agriculture in the lands grabbed from the civilians and sell the produce in retail shops. Minimum salary of a military personnel is 35,000 rupees. Even a graduate teacher do not get that much. How can ordinary farm labourers compete with highly paid military?

    Ordinary people are harassed and assaulted by the military intelligence. EPDP and the military coordinate robberies and the police assist them. Recent arrests of EPDP/ UPFA members show the depth of their criminal activities.

    How can the president’s Secretary white wash these happenings in Geneva?

  • 2
    1

    Sinhala Buddhists records goes on:

    “Sri Lanka leads in the google search for Phonograph”

    • 2
      0

      That is news to me. Why would the Sri Lankans want a record player? Can’t they buy CDs or download music from the internet? Sri Lanka appears more backward than I thought. Before long, under the Rajapaksas, Sri Lankans will be in the stone age. Poor sods!

  • 0
    2

    Even if the lands be state lands that does not give rights to any one and every one to colonize them.
    —-

    Racist, Racist, Racist Rabid Racist. The most racist CM Sri Lanka probably has ever had.

  • 0
    1

    Wonder how one can use human rights to claim any and all unused uninhibited land around their neighborhood as belonging to their RACE?

  • 3
    0

    Sri Lanka is very weak in the eyes of the neighboring Countries. India in the region and Singapore, Malaysia in South East Asia are also multi ethnic countries. All these countries got independence from GB but were very conscious and respected all its citizens. At the time of independence all these countries were show casing Ceylon as a model and worked up to catch up with Ceylon. These Countries are now way ahead. Now all of these Countries again point at Sri Lanka for its cause for downfall and made amendments to Constitutions and made sure not to follow Sri Lanka. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka amendments are made only for its demise by its rulers who are inviting the attention of the whole world in its progress.

    • 1
      0

      I agree with you. May I ask – are u a civil engineer graduated from Peradeniya?

  • 3
    0

    Only solution is a separate federal state for Tamils in the North where they can live in peace without the harassment of Singhalese, International investigation is very important to find out what happened to disappeared Tamils who surrendered to Srilankan army, we have to find the whole truth about the murders committed by the Srilankan army and it’s collaborators, removal of High Security zones and army camps are vital for any reconciliation as well.

  • 0
    0

    A craftily worded article interspersed with chunks from what the CM of the NPC had to say. It is ironical that Weeratunga the principal sycophant of Mahinda Rajapaksa should go to the UN in advance to prepare the way for the principal accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity to prepare the ground for pacification. Jehan says: “The government is denying that the problems are so bad and that change for the better is taking place”. Yes indeed. Let us put it this way: “The problems are so bad that it can only get better”! Bensen

  • 0
    0

    Sinhalese and Muslims must be free to buy land and settle down in the north like the Northern Tamils are free to do so in other parts of the country.

    • 0
      0

      Jayasingha
      Sure If they are ready to pay the price. What the sinhalese want is land for free with free housing built by the State. Muslims are already there they have their land. They paid money and bought them. Please let people know whether they are prepared to Pay?

      Levi

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