By Rajiva Wijesinha –
Reconciliation: Looking Forward xv – A Silver Lining?
I have discussed previously the different motivations of those criticize us internationally, and in particular at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The first motive is devious, and involves claiming that we have committed War Crimes. The second is in essence laudable, since it is designed to push us towards greater pluralism and political equity. This is essential for Reconciliation, and is bound up with implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. However, concentrating on that would I think yield better results, whereas the strategy now employed simply increases the influence of those who have no desire to move in such directions.
The third motive is the one expressed by the Americans, and others in recent times, namely worries caused by the impeachment of the Chief Justice. While I can understand such worries, they have little connection with either the issue of War Crimes or the need for greater pluralism. Though confusion has been caused by the irritation caused by the judgment delivered by Shirani Bandaranayaka with regard to the Divineguma Bill, it was not at all difficult for government to overcome the problems raised, by following the line the Supreme Court had in fact indicated.
Though I was sorry about the manner of the impeachment, I believe that there is a particularly welcome silver lining in this particular cloud, and it should help us to move forward on the most important issue that agitates our critics both here and abroad. I refer to progress on Reconciliation, which is painfully slow.
One reason for this is the lack of coherence with regard to implementation of the Action Plan based on the LLRC Recommendations. Designing such a plan was initially entrusted to the Ministry of External Affairs under the guidance of Mohan Peiris, but unfortunately nothing was done about this, contrary to the impression given to the President. As with implementation of the Interim Recommendations of the LLRC, he was assured that all was going well, whereas in fact progress was minimal, and the structures he thought had been put in place were not functioning. That is why, after the Geneva Resolution last year, preparation of an Action Plan was entrusted to Lalith Weeratunge, who turned up trumps, with the assistance of several efficient bureaucrats, including his Deputy.
I do not think it is fair to blame Mohan Pieris alone for all this. The man was simply overwhelmed with work, and it was foolish of government to thrust so much upon someone with little previous experience of government mechanisms, especially at a stage when he had difficulties with senior members of the Attorney General’s Department which he had been appointed to head from outside. I said as much to the Minister of External Affairs, who was critical of Mohan’s failure in New York to handle the impending Darusman Report satisfactorily, even though it was quite unfair to have expected him to achieve anything when our policy in that regard was incoherent.
When I told the Minister that Mohan should not have been asked to do so much, his response was that he should not have undertaken the task if he could not do it. That was the first occasion on which I was critical of the Minister, having previously assumed that he was the right man for the job. I told him that people were saying the same about him, which I do not think pleased him, but I fear that with every day that passes I am conscious that untold damage is being done to the country by the Minister taking on much more than he can chew. The latest confusion about whether Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe will lead the delegation to Geneva or not, combined with him not being kept informed about the High Commissioner’s communiqués, is symptomatic of the incapacity to build up a team that will probably destroy us.
For the moment though, with Mohan Pieris elevated to a position in which he cannot undertake other responsibilities, perhaps implementation of the Action Plan will be entrusted to a more dedicated team which is able to ensure cooperation, communication and productive team work. If that happens, perhaps Shirani Bandaranayake would not have been impeached in vain.