21 January, 2022

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Generating & Erasing Hope Of Reconciliation

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government has been under especial scrutiny on issues of human rights in relation to the post-war reconciliation process following its election in 2019 and subsequent withdrawal from the UN mandated reconciliation process epitomized by Resolution 30/1 of 2015 of the UN Human Rights Council that was co-sponsored by the previous government. The appointment of Prof G L Peiris last year as Foreign Minister with a mandate to deal with this issue has been a positive step to consolidate and build on efforts to convince the international community that the reconciliation process continues to be a priority. One of the few areas of positive development in an increasingly pessimistic scenario at the present time is with regard to the institutions established to promote the reconciliation process in the past few years.

The government’s bid to get the post-war reconciliation process back on track, and convince the UN and western governments of this, has followed on the EU parliamentary resolution in the middle of last year in which it threatened economic sanctions against Sri Lanka. In that resolution the EU parliament warned that the GSP Plus tariff privilege would be withdrawn as a last resort if specific human rights conditions were not met. It appears that the government is more willing to be responsive to human rights conditionalities than to economic ones, at least for visibility purposes. The refusal of the government to obtain debt relief financing from the IMF is attributed to its reluctance to accept economic conditionalities that are more susceptible to strict monitoring than human rights ones.

Some of the positive actions taken by the government in terms of human rights commitments made and institutions established, has been in making better appointments to those mechanisms. The reconstitution and appointment of new chairpersons to the Human Rights Commission and to the Office on Missing Persons, and new commissioners to them and to the Right to Information Commission have given a signal that the government is willing to strengthen the systems of checks and balances in terms of human rights. In addition, the shifting of the NGO Secretariat from under the aegis of the Defense Ministry to the Foreign Ministry has led to a more favorable attitude to reconciliation work that is taking place at the community level. However, as the continued incarceration of a few hundred persons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and new arrests under it demonstrate, the repressive arm of the state continues to be the dominant one.

PTA Reform

Another area in which reform is taking place is with regard to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The EU parliament’s resolution on Sri Lanka has given prominence to the need to bring Sri Lanka’s anti-terrorism legislation in line with international standards. Most EU countries themselves have strict anti-terror laws and have themselves been subjected to terrorist attack which has led to further tightening of their laws. Since its introduction in 1979 in Sri Lanka, the PTA has been criticized as a draconian law that gives the security forces and political and administrative authorities arbitrary powers of arrest and long term detention of suspects. Successive governments have utilized the draconian provisions of the PTA to incarcerate not only terrorist suspects but also their political opponents on trumped up charges of terrorism.

Among the main criticisms of the PTA is that the powers of arbitrary arrest and detention given to political and administrative authorities and to the security forces has impacted most severely on ethnic and religious minorities and also on political opponents of incumbent governments. They can, and have, been locked up for months and years without being charged or unable to obtain bail or any other judicial redress. The government is presently in the process of revising the PTA to bring it in line with international standards. In pursuit of this aim the ministerial subcommittee on reforming the PTA chaired by Foreign Minister Peiris has had discussions with the Bar Association and with civil society members. While these groups have been verbally briefed about the reforms being contemplated there is no concrete submissions that have been presented to them.

In an apparent gesture of goodwill and confidence building the government has been granting bail to a few of those charged under the PTA following its meetings with civil society members. They in turn have called on the ministerial subcommittee to ensure that some key elements should be incorporated into the revised legislation. These would include, firstly, defining the term “terrorism” so that it is not left open to subjective interpretations of political and administrative authorities and the security forces. Second, that the powers of arrest and detention should be confined to the Judiciary and extrajudicial powers as vested at present with political and administrative authorities and with the security forces need to be subject to judicial review. And third, that the legislation pertaining to the revised PTA needs to be vetted by the Supreme Court. Indeed this power of judicial review needs to be made applicable to all legislation even when passed by parliament with a 2/3 majority.

Positive View

After taking on the position of Foreign Minister, Prof Peiris has been actively seeking to create space for civil society organisations to engage in reconciliation programmes of the government. He is working closely with the Minister of Justice, Hon. Ali Sabry who has facilitated meetings with the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, the Office for Reparations and the Sustainable Development Goals Council which come under the Justice Ministry. There is the possibility of CSOs engaging in collaborative activities in the near future. The new chairperson of the OMP, Mahesh Katulanda, has indicated his intention to work with the UN and ICRC to reach a solution to the vexed and emotive problem of missing persons. He has also reached out to civil society organisations to provide capacity building with regard to the mandate that needs to be pursued.

The possibility of forward movement in the national reconciliation process is possibly the only silver lining in the gloomy situation that the country is in. The suicide of a man who tried to rob a supermarket and carry away some children’s perfumes and was accosted is an indication of the pressure that sections of the population are facing. In rural areas, the paddy fields are not the usual lush green due to fertilizer shortages. Many lower income families are cutting down on their food intake, particularly of vegetables and milk foods, as prices have risen sharply. On the other hand, if the national reconciliation process can be taken forward, the ethnic and religious communities are included, and the EU’s GSP Plus can be saved, a major cause for the further economic deterioration of the country can be prevented.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s recent pronouncements that he was born a Sinhala Buddhist, schooled as a Sinhala Buddhist, was voted to power by Sinhala Buddhists and will protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization as his first priority can be interpreted to mean he is taking a partisan stance. It could even mean that the president is trying to divert attention away from the economic difficulties the country is experiencing and the corruption in it under the cloak of nationalism. This would erase the glimmer of hope that remains. The Sri Lankan state and its leadership need to stand for all its people and uphold their rights in equal measure. The only way forward is for the president to be the strong leader the country has never had and renounce the politics of religion and race, effectively outlaw them as Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore, and to pursue politics based on economic development and good governance, with corruption also outlawed as in Singapore.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    3

    Putting a name board in front of buildings, appointing people, creating commissions, are positive and doing nothing is even more positive.

    • 9
      1

      Gotha’s recent pronouncements that he was born a SB, schooled as a SB, WAS VOTED TO POWER BY SB and will protect SB civilization as his first priority. Any more doubts ???

      • 6
        0

        A man whose knowledge is not even comparable to that of a good sort of a petrol shed assistant can make any low level statements/ just imagine how he praised the young ma who is said to have asked him to go for a referendum and get his 2 years extended/ ? These are just jokes for anyone with some sanity
        Today every 2nd would disagree with him publicly/ he should be a grand failure in place🐃😥🐃😡😥🐃😡😥🐃😡

    • 1
      5

      SL will never have reconciliation. Just not possible.

      Only solution is one island, 3 mono ethnic nations with relocation of people. Until that happens the island lives from riot to riot, war to war.

  • 14
    2

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the thinking that the appointment of GL Peiris as Foreign Minister was to convince IC that the reconciliation process continues to be a priority.
    .
    To continue something, it must have been an ongoing process. Dinesh Gunawardena, appointed to foil it, was found wanting. He was replaced by GLP, as someone more efficient on that score!
    .
    Reconciliation process has remained empty words under Rajapaksas. Ask Dayan J., for further.
    .
    Jehan Perera, Can’t you find an honourable way to earn your Bread.

    • 1
      1

      ” Jehan Perera, Can’t you find an honourable way to earn your Bread. ”
      Nathan, Thanks; A piece of gold!

      Jehan PhD is building an image that GLP is going to recant Communist Denish in UN by reinstating the Resolution 30/1. But in every speech GJP did on this subject was he not will bow to colonial masters’ pressing at UNHRC.

      We don’t know if the Sinhala Buddhist intellectualism can live long, but secret admirers and savors like Jehan PhD will long live.
      (If I get time I too will try to reply to Jehan PhD, later)

    • 7
      0

      Nathan/
      Power greedy GLP is the best example that only academic titles cant help for becoming a good politician 😡🐃😥😡🐃😥😡🐃😥
      He is a curse srilanken academics😡😡😡😡

  • 12
    1

    “The appointment of Prof G L Peiris last year as Foreign Minister with a mandate to deal with this issue has been a positive step to consolidate and build on efforts to convince the international community that the reconciliation process continues to be a priority.”

    G.L Peries is much worse than Ganasara Thero in terms of racism. Education is not an indicator for reconciliation. Reconciliation is already dead.

    • 2
      11

      Ajith,
      “Reconciliation is already dead.”
      —-
      Tamils who utter racist comments such as ‘Sinhalayo are not welcome in the North’, ‘Cannot build Buddhist temples and Buddha statues in the North’ and take legal action to prevent renovation of Temples in the North killed reconciliation.

    • 3
      0


      G.L Peries is much worse than Ganasara Thero in terms of racism. Education is not an indicator for reconciliation. Reconciliation is already dead”.
      .
      Unfortunately the truth/ Ghanasara is public sodomist to the eyes of real good buddhist/ his should be a result of a child abuse😥😥😥😥😥🐃🐃

  • 6
    1

    I can remember that in one of your earlier pieces you praised President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for appointing a commission to advise him on the issue of the long suffering political prisoners who have been languishing in jail for more than 10 years. Actually, 16 of the sentenced prisoners were released but they had only a few more months left to serve out their terms anyway. However, there are still hundreds more in prison who have not been charged with any offence or produced in court. What I wish to know is this:
    1) When was this commission appointed?
    2) Who are the persons appointed as members of this commission?
    3) How many sittings were held by this commission?
    4) Has the commission concluded its sittings?
    5) Has the commission prepared the report containing recommendations based on its findings?
    6) Has the commission submitted its report to the President?
    As a person who praised the President for his wonderful initiative yo have an obligation to keep the readers updated on this matter.
    At that time I commented that all this was simply eyewash. There is no way a Hitler can morph into a Lee Kwan Yew!

    • 2
      9

      Captain Morgan,
      “There is no way a Hitler can morph into a Lee Kwan Yew!”
      —-
      Lee Kwan Yew would have locked the terrorists in a dungeon and throw the key to the sea. Rajapakshes have been too kind to the terrorists who committed heinous crimes against Sinhala Buddhists.

  • 2
    9

    How can we have reconciliation when the people who declared war and massacred Sinhala Buddhists for three decades have suddenly turned out to be the victims of the war and the real victims branded as the aggressor that committed war crimes and crimes against humanity?
    As the first step for reconciliation, those who declared war and massacred indigenous Sinhalayo for three decades should apologize for the crimes they committed against Sinhalayo.

  • 5
    1

    Reconciliation was dead on the day President Gota took his oaths as Head of State in Anuradhapura. He was posing off as Dutugemunu,and reminding his electorate of the Mahavamsa. Surely, Jehan how could you hold such a hopeless brief?

    • 5
      0

      Plato
      Not only reconciliation but also law and order/ judiciary and all that good governance govt made every effort restore😡😥🐃😡😥🐃😡😥🐃😡😥🐃

  • 3
    1

    I’ve reconciled to erase all and everything I can ever hope about ……..

    I haven’t a hope in the world: I’m the happiest man alive!


    I am living at the Villa Lanka. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a
    chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.

    Last night Native discovered that EE was lousy. He had to shave his armpits and
    even then the itching did not stop. How can one get lousy in a beautiful Buddhist paradise
    like this? But no matter. They might never have known each other so intimately,
    Native and EE, had it not been for the lice.

    Old Codger has just given me a summary of his views. He is a weather prophet. The
    weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death,
    more despair. Not the slightest indication of a change anywhere. The cancer of
    time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing
    themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a
    lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not
    change.

    • 3
      1

      continued

      It is now the fall of our second year in Gota’s rule. We were sent here for a reason I have
      not yet been able to fathom.

      I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year
      ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I
      am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more comments
      to be written, thank God.

      This then? This is not a comment. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This
      is not a comment, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a
      gob of spit in the face of life, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time,
      Love, Beauty … what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key
      perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty
      corpse… Motherland …….. whoever the fuck whose mother it was ………. (With apologies to Henry M. ……. hope he won’t
      mind …….)

    • 3
      0

      nimal fernando

      “He had to shave his armpits and even then the itching did not stop.”

      I am not sure where I got the itch or from whom. I stood between two men in the queue for Gas, more than 4 hours, am sure the one who stood behind me is Nimal and I suspect the other one who stood in front of me could have been EE or it could be other way around.

  • 6
    0

    Jehan, Jehan!

    How can you say the following?

    “The appointment of Prof G L Peiris last year as Foreign Minister with a mandate to deal with this issue has been a positive step to consolidate and build on efforts to convince the international community that the reconciliation process continues to be a priority.”

    I see no evidence that reconciliation is now a priority under G.L. Peiris.

  • 4
    0

    If GR uttered the words that he was ‘born a Sinhala Buddhist, schooled as a Sinhala Buddhist, was voted to power by Sinhala Buddhists and will protect the Sinhala Buddhist civilization as his first priority’, it shows that he is not a leader of multi cultural country & if he believes SL is primarily for Sinhala Buddhists, it is further proof of his lack of education & intelligence because no honourable politician will say those words in public, just please his vote base. From SWRD to the Premadasas, it was obvious that the Sinhala Buddhist vote was the power base (as proved by the rejection of Ranil’s liberal UNP) & the SJB needs to be tapping on to it as well but the Rajapakses remain as the saviors, therefore, further strengthened by thugs like Gnanasara, has the edge. For the average dumb Sinhala Buddhist man on the street & the village peasant, which make the bulk of the power base, world opinion, the country’s economy & even blatant corruption, is immaterial, the Sinhala race & its heritage has been saved. All what the Rajapakses need is someone like GL (instead of a yob like Dinesh who is plainly out of his depth) whose academic credentials are acceptable to the world, to make excuses or promises that will never be fulfilled, .
    Cont.

  • 5
    0

    Cont.
    Many of the Rajapakse voters now, probably, regret the choice but the Rajapakses are not going out without a fight. If the election rigging doesn’t work, a Trump style denial is certain but the last resort would be a military intervention, for which the Rajapakses have been cultivating all along. Sarath Fonseka was probably the only fear the Rajapakses had of conducting a military coup, therefore, his ambitions, if any, were nipped in the bud & Shavendra, the tough guy, who is nothing but a guard dog, is on a leash. Any uprising will quashed, just as in Hong Kong, & I am sure China & even Myanmar would be happy to advise on such matters. So, Jehan, old pal, do you seriously think GR will ever be the ‘the strong leader the country has never had’ who will ‘renounce the politics of religion and race, effectively outlaw them as Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore, and to pursue politics based on economic development and good governance, with corruption also outlawed as in Singapore’ you expect him to be? Dream on or are you singing for your supper?

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