20 April, 2024


Post-War Discourse Must Be Sensitive To Emotional Impact On Survivors: Friday Forum

Post-war discourse must be sensitive to emotional impact on survivors, says the Friday Forum.

Issuing a statement today the Friday Forum said; “With the increased public discussion of issues related to post-war accountability and truth in Sri Lanka that is likely to take place in the coming weeks and months, there is a great likelihood that statements and reportage will evoke charged emotions and potentially trigger further distress in affected people across Sri Lanka.”

We publish below the statement in full:

Sri Lanka has recently embarked on the difficult process of coming to terms with three decades of a deeply divisive war that has affected hundreds of thousands of lives. Processes are being established by the Sri Lankan state to establish truth, accountability, justice and reparations in relation to its armed conflict(s) and prevent recurrence. Inevitably, such initiatives involve facing up to the terrible suffering caused by the actions of the main parties to the conflict. These processes bring to the surface overwhelming emotions of hurt and loss, as well as deep anger and enmity in each of the communities that have been scarred by violence. Even at the very start of the public discussion of mechanisms for transitional justice* and reconciliation, it is evident that these are already evoking strong feelings of hope and fear about their outcomes and integrity. Given the complexities of Sri Lanka’s conflict, the process to unravel and account for past atrocities will undoubtedly be fraught with many challenges.  SRI LANKA-POLLS/

Even as politicians, media and people’s representatives debate and argue about the modalities of transitional justice mechanisms, or make pronouncements about the facts of the conflict, they must remember that their public statements and publications will have an immediate impact on the emotional status of individuals and families that have suffered directly. Public figures and media personnel must be sensitive in how they convey or represent views that are related to issues such as the fate of missing persons, atrocities committed or judgements about culpability.

It is equally unhelpful to families of the missing to assert that their loved ones are dead as it is to suggest that they are all alive in secret detention camps. Learning and coming to terms with the truth about the fate of each missing person will require a process that is credible, systematic and also sensitive to the psychologically complex circumstances of these families. Whilst it is important to assert and document the truth about acts of violence carried out in the course of war, salacious reporting of torture can be distressing to those who have experienced it first hand or who fear that this was the fate of a missing family member.

Despite atrocities carried out by all parties to the conflict, the demonisation or dehumanisation of a particular group obscures the reality that these were not homogeneous or monolithic entities – and that individual members were not always responsible or equally implicated in the violations committed by their fellow combatants, and indeed were even motivated by what they and their families believed were noble sentiments or ideals. Even as those who have caused suffering to others must be called to account for this, it is important to acknowledge that they too are members of families and communities that may find it difficult to view them other than as heroes and martyrs. Again, coming to terms with the complex truths and questions of accountability for the deaths, violence and destruction will require both formal and informal processes of inquiry and learning, rather than assertions that presume to establish this in advance.

With the increased public discussion of issues related to post-war accountability and truth in Sri Lanka that is likely to take place in the coming weeks and months, there is a great likelihood that statements and reportage will evoke charged emotions and potentially trigger further distress in affected people across Sri Lanka. We therefore urge that the following considerations be applied in contributions to the public discourse, to limit unintended harm or distress that may be caused:

Public Figures and Media Personnel

  • Do not make speculative pronouncements on the fate of victims without presenting concrete evidence. Especially for families of the missing, such statements can either cruelly crush their hopes or revive great expectations, without a solid basis.
  • Confirmed information about the fate of particular individuals or groups of victims should be informed to their family members before being announced through media.
  • Recognise that reporting on a specific case with confirmed information may still affect other victims and families in similar circumstances who lack information about the status of their own cases.
    Exercise restraint in the description or depiction of acts of violence, or where this is unavoidable, include a warning at the outset that details may trigger distress in people with similar experiences.
  • Do not use distressing images or upsetting details of specific victims experiences without permission from them or next of kin. Where it is not possible to obtain permission, take measures to anonymise or reduce exposure of details that may cause emotional distress or social stigma to victims and their families.
  • Avoid dehumanising and stigmatising all the members of combatant groups in statements and reportage, even as individuals and leaders are held responsible for their actions and decisions.

Members of the Public

  • Before sharing potentially upsetting images or accounts about atrocities or suffering on social media, consider whether your post may be viewed by anyone (ie. victim, combatant or their family members) for whom this might bring up distressing past memories or overwhelming feelings. People are often not prepared for what the materials they may encounter in their social media feeds, which may be shared by their own contacts or from networks far beyond these. If sharing potentially sensitive content, do include a warning that this may trigger distress in people with similar experiences.

*Transitional justice refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. These measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms. Transitional justice is not a ‘special’ kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. By trying to achieve accountability and redressing victims, transitional justice provides recognition of the rights of victims, promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law. (International Centre for Transitional Justice)

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe and Mr. Ananda Galappatti

For and on behalf of:
Ms. Manouri Muttettuwegama, Ms. Shanthi Dias, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne, Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Ms. Selvy Thiruchandran, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Mr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Mr. S.C.C.Elankovan, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah and Mr. Daneshan Casiechetty.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    What funny statement now. Why so late to worry of some Sinhala university type about trauma for Tamils victims?

    They are selling Tamil people’s traumas to get the money which should be going for the Tamils victim. Nice psycho-social business.[Edited out]

    • 4

      Spot on Shanmu!
      Tamils need collective rights and homes and livelihood supports and not individual bourgeois psycho-social counseling big business that foreign aid donors and Sinhala academics profit from!

      • 2

        Tamils should be used to the advantage of others.

        Sell Tamils and live.

        that is how their Tamilnadu Leaders live.

  • 9

    The post-war discourse must be first and foremost sensitive to the stupidity, narrow mindedness, political chicanery, opportunism, bigotry , criminality and thuggery that brought about the war/s and the consequences.

    Let the government implement the existing laws against hate speech and deeds, while also improving them to be consonant with international norms.

    Let us also apply balm to those already hurt, as a conscious act of national/ collective repentance. Adopt a orphaned child. Provided means of employment /income to a widowed mother. Provide meaningful sucour to the war affected aged. Provide councelling and treatment to the psychologically traumatized. Provide treatment and care for the physically maimed. Provide suitable shelter to everyone who is displaced. Close most of te liquor outlets in the north and east. Provide the protection of the law to every one and shelter them from rampant criminality. Create employment to the unemployed, underemployed and the unemployable so, through creating small industries and technical training projects. Talk and write about the travails of the war-affected. Give them back their self respect, without making them charity dependent beggars!

    Enough has not been done for the worst of the war-affected, yet!

    Mahinda Ralapajse should retire from politics and come forward to lead this effort . He can then also claim to be the leader who alleviated suffering and won the peace!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 6

    The Friday Forum has met and issued a statement.

    This reminds me of George Bernard Shaws famous remark…
    The Rotarians have met and Dined!

    Thats it!~

    • 1

      True, true Pygmalion.

      They had a good meal and want more funds for another party! This is really an advertisement that these folks are in the post-war victimology business and need more donor funds!

  • 3


    Some people write so negative about our People of Sri Lanka, I wonder they have placed there legs in Northern Provinces of Sri Lanka ?

    Do they know What our people lack of ? Where is the brotherhood for there relatives in Northern Sri Lanka? Do they know What is the percentage have compleated10 grade. How many old people are living in Jaffna ? Where is your social responsibility..

    Most of us should be shamed for not elevating our peoples quality of life, and wellbeing. All the money collected and sent to jaffna by tamils living abroad What is it spent ? The effects of our socity by the money, What have we achived?
    Where is the creativity and private investment to keep the people employeed.
    I hear people are suffering from trauma, unable to work to there full potential, due to isolation for more than 35 years our people have lost the soft communication skills,human to human transactions..

  • 4

    Again none of you have addressed ALL victims of this war. As usual victim = Tamil, including the ones that joined the LTTE and killed in most gruesome manner civilians mostly Sinhalese, also Muslims and Tamils. Whether this is a process of some academics on the NGO payroll again failing to address the real issues remains to be seen.
    Likes of Shanmu and Laxmi are worried that a handful of Sinhalese academics are getting on the gravy train. It is OK for Tamils like Pakasothi / Pachasothi, Radhika Kumaraswami and thousands more (including a few Sinhalese) to be on this gravy train at the expense of poor Tamils in the north and east. And Middle class Tamils (maybe you are one of them) that got refugee status in the West/ now have to keep the war going to remain ‘victims’ = ‘refugees’ to reap the benefits. And do not care of the fate of the Tamils /what the poor Tamils want!
    Who is crying for the poor Sinhalese mothers (few that survived the hacking / machetes) those who watched helplessly as their babies were hacked to death? The pregnant mothers cut open and the foetus left to die? Last thing the dying mothers saw was their unborn baby dying slowly!!! YOU HAVE TO BE HARTLESS / INHUMANE NOT TO BE MOVED BY THIS / CARE!!!!
    Not the Yahapalana government! Not Ranil W. Not Sirisena. Not Chandrika. Not even Fonseka who is supposed to be a war hero. Not any of the other minions that crossed over to follow the gravy train. THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT THESE VICTIMS!! I have doubt if these blood suckers and their NGOs and the governments that fund them will place anyone with the guts to address and compensate the poor villagers that most brutally murdered on this panel!
    Like you I am not holding my breath, but for different reasons. I want justice for all! I AM CRYING FOR SRI LANKA!!!!

    • 4

      ‘My comment is community neutral and talks foe the war-affected whoever they may, whose needs remain yet unaddressed. The only reference particular to the north and east is about tothe liquor bars.


  • 0

    Friday Forum is [Edited out]

  • 2

    This is from a Chardonnay crowd that live in colombo mental hospital… Got phd’s but behave like absolute dummies .

  • 4

    Hopefully, the victims on ALL sides will be shown the necessary compassion called for in this article…and that includes:
    1. Survivors of the Central Bank Bombings
    2. Parents of Students killed at Fort Railway Station
    3. Relatives of Kebithigollawa massacre
    4. Families of 600 Police executed in Eastern Province
    5. Muslims evicted from Jaffna
    6. Sinhalese evicted from Jaffna
    7. Surviving families of all others who lost their lives due to land mines laid by the LTTE, and other suicide missions that were undertaken wherein innocent lives were lost.
    Hope the Friday Forum and the new Council of Eleven will show Justice to ALL of the victims.

    • 1


      “Hope the Friday Forum and the new Council of Eleven will show Justice to ALL of the victims.”

      You are six years late.

      In fact, I have been demanding for an investigation into all war crimes and crimes against humanity were being committed by all sides since 5th April 1971.

      Where you been all these years, probably in deep deep sleep in the deep deep South, after being intoxicated by a cocktail of bigotry, racism, selective amnesia, hypocrisy, majoritarian supremacy, sheer stupidity, ….. intellectual dishonesty, …..?

      Didn’t Sinhalese die in 1971 and between 1987 and 1990?

      Didn’t Sinhalese kill Sinhalese?

      Didn’t Sinhalese armed forces kill innocent Sinhalese?

      Din’t JVP kill unarmed Sinhalese?

      Didn’t armed forces evict innocent people from their habitat?

  • 2

    All the sympathy is for the families that are Tamil and some of the disappearances and human rights violations were committed by their own. LTTE killed more Tamils than those killed in the war in the hands of the security forces. It is unbelievable discrimination to ignore the hundreds of thousands killed and maimed for life by the LTTE. No violations attributed to them.

    What BS is this?????? The Government is tolerating it and is pandering to more and more demands without justice for its civilians killed by the LTTE. Idiots don’t see where the country is going. More divided than ever, angry people who are being suppressed with fear with an FCID like Hitler’s Gestapo. Crazy leadership more bothered about bra throwing than the lives of people. Education doesn’t mean anything without commonsense but the politicians don’t have either.

  • 1

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran,
    The generic ‘you’ I have referred to here does not include you- Dr. Narendren.
    You have been the lonely voice for the silent majority of Tamils in the north and east, that are trying to rebuild their lives.

    ‘Mahinda Rajapakse should retire from politics and come forward to lead this effort . He can then also claim to be the leader who alleviated suffering and won the peace!’

    If you have not noticed there is a ‘witch hunt’ against him and his family. He will not be allowed to do this / he will only be given a token seat and not any power in this process. Anyway this whole ‘reconciliation’ process is driven from outside Sri Lanka, so the outcome is not for the benefit of Sri Lankans.

  • 1

    Dr Narendren,
    The generic ‘you’ did not refer to you- Dr. Narendren. You have been the lonely voice for the silent majority of Tamils in the north and east trying to rebuild their lives.

    ‘Mahinda Ralapajse should retire from politics and come forward to lead this effort . He can then also claim to be the leader who alleviated suffering and won the peace!’

    You may have noticed that there is a witch hunt against him and his family. This will never happen- he will not be allowed any part in the ‘reconciliation’ process. It is completely driven by outside forces with political agendas / not in Sri Lanka’s interest!

  • 1

    “Mahinda Ralapajse should retire from politics and come forward to lead this effort . He can then also claim to be the leader who alleviated suffering and won the peace!”

    What was he doing for the last 10 years? He had plenty of opportunity to ‘win the peace’ with all the powers he could want!!!

    Secondly, the authors of this statement have nowhere said they are referring only to Tamils that were affected. It seems to apply to both. I wonder if many of the commentators here are reading it through their own tinted lenses?

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