23 June, 2021

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Practical Steps To Meaningful Reconciliation

By Colombo Telegraph –

More than 40 notable members of the Sri Lankan community called upon the government of Sri Lanka, in consultation with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the leadership of the Muslims, to take steps to implement the recommendations.

Issuing a press statement they says; “The purpose of this statement is to express our dismay that the government is taking little follow up action to get down to simple actions that are not particularly controversial if there is a genuine commitment to democracy, human rights and reconciliation.”

The full statement is reproduced below:

Several valuable recommendations are contained in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) Report and they are all the more compelling because they have issued from a Presidential Commission. In pursuance of this, we the undersigned call upon the government of Sri Lanka, in consultation with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the leadership of the Muslims, to take steps to implement the recommendations. In this statement we have highlighted certain important recommendations. The government is morally bound to implement the proposals of its own commission or otherwise stand indicted of a lack of sincerity.

In ten paragraphs in a separate subsection titled “Treatment of Detainees” the Report deals with several aspects of lawful and unlawful detention and the treatment of detainees.

A lasting solution to the ethnic imbroglio can be reached only if power, including police powers, land use and allocation, and fiscal and budgetary authority is devolved to the Provincial Councils in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka; but the government is stalling. In the context of this statement we refer in particular to the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The governance of the Northern Province should be handed over forthwith to democratically elected representatives of the people. We also state that without restoration and empowerment of the civil administration, effective demilitarisation, resettlement of Tamil and Muslim displaced persons, disbanding paramilitary forces, releasing illegally detained persons and rejuvenating the local economy, all talk of reconciliation is a deception.

There have been a number of proposals which if implemented would have gone some way towards ameliorating the conflict; the Mangala Moonesinge Report, President Kumaratunga’s proposals in the 1990s, the draft constitution of 2000, and the Majority Report of the Experts Committee advising the APRC. Now a set of recommendations has been made by the President’s LLRC appointees. Notwithstanding our criticisms of the LLRC in the Concluding Note below we are of the opinion that if the government implements the most important of its Recommendations, progress can be made towards reconciliation of the communities.

Demilitarisation

The ubiquitous presence of and pressure exerted by the armed forces in the Northern and Eastern Province engenders grave and direct fear among the people and inhibits social life. Militarization and armed paramilitary groups are the root cause of harassment and are associated with abduction and other unlawful acts. The spread of military tentacles into reconstruction projects is alarming and military sponsored expansion into small and medium business undertakings are taking precedence and steamrolling the local community out of the neighbourhood economy. Commitment to the concept of the primacy of civilian democracy over military power makes it imperative that the LLRC recommendations quoted below be implemented forthwith and in full. This needs the approval of no Parliamentary Select Committee or endorsement by the TNA. There is no justification for procrastination.

“The Commission, as a policy, strongly advocates and recommends to the Government that the Security Forces should disengage itself from all civil administration related activities as rapidly as possible” – (9.134).

“It is important that the Northern Province reverts to civilian administration in matters relating to the day-to-day life of the people, and in particular with regard to matters pertaining to economic activities such as agriculture, fisheries land etc. The military presence must progressively recede to the background to enable the people to return to normal civilian life and enjoy the benefits of peace” – (9.227)

The importance of demilitarisation extends beyond the North-East. There is alarm in the Sinhalese and Muslim communities in other parts of the country about mounting military involvement in civilian life such as state corporations and businesses, construction and urban development, provincial governorships and the diplomatic service. Demilitarisation of civilian and economic life is the common demand of people of all communities. The peril of military involvement in financial matters and sinecures of prestige has been well learnt in recent years from the Burmese, Egyptian and Syrian examples to name but three.

High Security Zones, paramilitaries and child soldiers

The LLRC Report deals with High Security Zones (HSZs) in paragraph 9.142 and recommends a review for the purpose of releasing more land to the public. We call for the immediate dismantling of all HS zones which serve no rightful purpose. All occupied land must be returned to rightful owners. The Report refers to illegal armed groups in paragraph 9.73 and to the alleged crimes of the EPDP in paragraph 9.208, but only calls for further investigation in both matters. We fail to see why paramilitaries and armed goons are allowed free reign in the Tamil areas at all. It is the duty of the state to disband these unlawful groups forthwith; the state needs no LLRC recommendation to carry out its bounden obligations. We support the recommendation that past activities of these gangs be investigated with a view to prosecution where warranted.

We support the recommendations in the report (9.77 to 9.80) regarding rehabilitation, return to families and provision of employment opportunities for former child soldiers. The recommendations in respect of tracing families or tracing child soldiers (9.81) are also commendable and need to be acted on. These are completely non-controversial matters, but it is regrettable that the government has commenced no action. There is no reason whatsoever for delay.

Unlawful detention

In ten paragraphs in a separate subsection titled “Treatment of Detainees” the Report deals with several aspects of lawful and unlawful detention and the treatment of detainees. The following passages are of particular note.

Commitment to the concept of the primacy of civilian democracy over military power makes it imperative that the LLRC recommendations quoted below be implemented forthwith and in full.

“However, the Commission expresses concern over some detainees who have been incarcerated over a long period of time without charges being preferred. The Commission stresses again that conclusive action should be taken to dispose of these cases by bringing charges or releasing them where there is no evidence of any criminal offence having being committed” – (9.70).

All places of detention should be those, which are formally designated as authorized places of detention and no person should be detained in any place other than such authorized places of detention. Strict legal provisions should be followed by the law enforcement authorities in taking persons into custody, such as issuing of a formal receipt of arrest and providing details of the place of detention – (9.67).

The commission has put its finger on a pervasive and persistent problem in the breakdown of law enforcement and justice in the country; illegal detention without adequate cause, failure to prosecute or release, and detention at unauthorised locations at which victims are alleged to be tortured or eliminated. Does a responsible government need the recommendations of a presidential commission to eliminate such practices forthwith? The government is dragging its feet while detainees linger in jails and camps.

The next of kin of detainees have the fundamental right to know of the whereabouts of their family members and they have the right of access to detainees. The LLRC notes numerous representations were made about this matter.

“A large number of representations were made with regard to those whose whereabouts are unknown, sometimes for years, as a result of abductions, unlawful arrests, arbitrary detention, and involuntary disappearances” – (9.43)

Land; Return of IDPs; Return of Muslims

Some recommendations in respect of land issues overlap the larger of question of devolution of land powers to Provincial Councils (9.124, 9.126 and 9.150). Other matters such as expediting the return of Muslims evicted by the LTTE to the North and steps to prevent the legitimisation of properties forcibly occupied during the war are worthy of support. These issues will be more complex in implementation than the matters adverted to previously as they require legislation and will certainly need the establishment of administrative support mechanisms. The government must demonstrate its good intentions by declaring its intention to implement these recommendations and state the time frame within which they will be completed.

We recognise that the full reintegration of IDPs into the community and ensuring the return of the Muslims (covered in 9.103 to 9.108 and 9.109 to 9.113, respectively) are important issues. The same is true of the broader discussion in paragraphs 9.121 to 9.152 dealing with several land related matters. While recognising the need for patience on these matters we are perturbed that there seems to be a lack of seriousness on the part of the government in getting started on the job. A matter of more immediate concern is that the provision of basic facilities is neglected while IDPs languish in dire conditions.

Concluding Note

Right thinking people of all communities are dismayed by the whitewash of atrocities against the civilian population committed by the Sri Lankan military in the final stages of the war. The LLRC has ignored allegations about the military targeting safe zones, hospitals, and locations where tens of thousands were packed together. The large scale and permanent displacement of the people of the Vanni and the destruction of homes and built infrastructure portends an effort to change the ethnic population profile of the region. The LLRC has documented LTTE atrocities and concluded that it is guilty of human-rights violations. Taking into account all these we believe that there is prima face evidence of human-rights violations by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE; we demand an independent investigation.

The purpose of this statement is to express our dismay that the government is taking little follow up action to get down to simple actions that are not particularly controversial if there is a genuine commitment to democracy, human rights and reconciliation. Since in this statement we wish to emphasise matters that can be implemented expeditiously, we have not engaged in extended discussion of two fundamental concerns; that accountability for human rights violations must be followed up, and that a political solution based on devolution is the only feasible permanent solution. Nor is this document comprehensive since we have not dealt with women’s issues, education, compensation, restrictions on travel and the hard to understand delay in rebuilding the railway to the north – a one time artery of commerce and people movement.

15 February 2012.

Name list of signatories on the next page.

Signed by:-

Priyadarshani Ariyaratne

Lionel Bopage

Kumar David (Prof)

Sunanda Deshapriya

Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri

Marshal Fernando

Sarath Fernando (Monlar)

Bhavani Fonseka

Mano Ganesan

Sivaguru Ganesan (Prof)

N Ganesanathan (Dr)

Ruba.H.Gnanaratnam

Farzana Hanifffa (Dr)

S.H. Hasbullah (Prof)

Rohini Hensman (Dr)

Kumara Illangasinghe (Bishop Emeritus)

M. C. M. Iqbal

Vickremabahu Karunaratne (Dr)

S. V.  Kasynathan (Dr.)

Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Sumanasiri Liyanage (Dr)

S. Nagendra

Suppiramaniam Nanthikesan

Anita Nesiah (Dr)

Devanesan Nesiah (Dr)

Lanka Nesiah

Vasuki Nesiah

Nigel V. Nugawela

Rajan Philips

Mirak Raheem

Lionel Rajapakse

Mahinda Ratnayake

Surendra Ajith Rupesinghe

Jeanne Samuel

Shireen Saroor

Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu (Dr)

Willie Senanayake (Dr)

Sabapathy Sivagurunathan

Ram Subramaniam

J. Thiruchandran

Selvy Thiruchandran (Dr)

Bradman Weerakone

Lal Wijenayake

E Vivegananthan

 


 

 

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    What’s this commission fiasco?This is a set of swindlers who are making fast bucks out of foreigners and Tamil terror diaspora.That Deshapriya character swindled money belong to the free media movement.The rest are no better.No point wasting time on a bunch of crooks.

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      This crook called Deshapriya has no shame. Of course, he is the darling of the so-called Tamil diaspora who thrive on promoting terrorism in Sri Lanka in the name of ‘liberation’ of Tamils from the grip of Sinhala racism. Its only with terrorism they can amass green bucks. Having a Sinhala name carries more weight, especially among the gullible (or are they?) western governments and INGOs.

  • 0
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    Quote:”More than 40 notable members of the Srilankan community” unquote.Yes these fellows are notable for being swindlers and jokers.Please keep us entertained!

    • 0
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      LOL Max. respect

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    Bodinayaka,what’s this crap about respect?To whom?To these notable swindlers and jokers?Let me give you a few examples.I will not talk about the Tamil and Muslim notables in this outfit.Let the Tamils and the Muslims take care of them.(a)Wicramabahu-This guy has replaced the late comedian Freddy Silva as Srilanka’s #1 comedian. (b)Bradman-Almost half a century ago this guy had his times.Long past date of expiry,one of those jokers who gave Ranil dead ropes including the CFA. (c)Lionel Bopage-One of those “Gal Katas”warfare experts now turned peace activist after showing the way to death to thousands of misguided youths decades ago. (d)Sunanda-Pl correct me if i am wrong,is this the guy who was contracted to bump off Sirimavo and hang her dead body in a lamp post in 1971?This guy had swindled money belonging to an NGO by the name of Free media movement and when the going got tough skipped the country.These fellows will cut their own mothers’ throats if the price is right.
    So Bodinayaka wants me to respect these weirdos?

    • 0
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      I took it that Bodinayaka was giving respect to you Max.

    • 0
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      Well said, Max!

  • 0
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    In that case my apologies to Bodinayaka.

  • 0
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    Interesting, the reference “notable” to identify these people!!
    Atleast some of them are notable may be for wrong reasons though.

    • 0
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      Agree! Some of these guys are notorious for swindling money and working according to the dictates of the LTTE. These guys want to elevate themselves to non-violent, intellectual saints at the expense of the Sri Lankan state. Whom are you guys trying to fool!

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    They are trying to fool the “Suddhas” who ignorantly hand out sacks of $s with the misguided notion that these “Notables” will fulfill their dream of breaking Srilanka into two.This is while these “Notables” laugh all the way to the bank.No grouse here because “Suddhas” deserve it.Feb/March in Geneva is party time for these “Notables”,instead of moonshine, Champagne flowing all round.I myself being a party man can’t help but feel a bit jealous.Anyway i am quite content with the local Arrack

  • 0
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    The sinhala racists will always subjugate the tamils in this bedeviled island which belongs to yakkas and nagas!

  • 0
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    My friend Siva where were you when our Murali was no balled in Australia?

  • 0
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    The noteworthy feature of these comments is that none of them is able to offer an alternative proposal to the ones contained in this statement by the notables.The comments consist merely of vindictive personal abuse and a neurotic venting of destructive emotions.Such emotions harm the speakers more the ones against whom they are directed.The blogoshere in fact has become a fertile venue for cowards to undertake such abuse — a kind of ritual pogrom!
    In any case, what do the commentators have in mind as a solution to the problems of a country and a nation that visibly disintegrating — disintegrating not only in terms of the ethnic issues but also of economic issues?Continue the on the current self- destructive and fascistic and costky course?

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    The Owl is trying to make it appear that he is an intellectual and the others are not.Problem or not what i am saying is that these “Notables” are a bunch of crooks.This Sunanda character fleeced the Free media movement.So what point in talking about their problems?They are misleading a few “Suddhas” and making a few bucks.That’s the story.$$$$.

    • 0
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      Look who has the FOREIGN NAME – ‘MAX SILVA’

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    I may be trying to “appear” like an intellectual and may or may not succeed but Max Silva is not even pretending to be one by repeating abuses and introducing irrelevant issues.Who are these “suddhas”: that he is talking about — a racist appelation if there was one.If the locals can solve the problems on their own — I am sure they can with sufficient goodwill– there will be no reason for the “sudhhas” to enterb the scene,except perhaps to give massive lloans so that the country can function efficiently.
    Why doesn’t he answer the questions that were raised?One doesn’t have to be an intellectual to respond to them.
    He should remember that however questionable the messenger’s character may be ,it is the message that be taken seriously.
    At the risk of being called an intellectual again , let me quote some words from the Buddha about a noble man:He is one who
    :
    “is happy to see agreement and harmony among people and these are the qualities which he spreads among people through his words”

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      The Tamils and the State

      President Rajapakse repeatedly claimed that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are citizens of the island nation and are entitled to all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the other citizens. If that is the case, then it ism not necessary for him and his government to wait to address their grievances without waiting for TNA or India or the USA to prod them and force them to do so. The government of Sri Lanka could just as well go ahead and do the needful since it is in charge of the welfare of all its citizens. It is in fact making a mistake in seeking to solve the problem of the Tamils by seeking to “negotiate” with the TNA. The TNA in fact are elected representatives of the Tamils of the North and the East but the government is dealing with them as though they were representatives of another state and it is only through them that the problems of the Tamils can be solved. These negotiations sound like negotiations between two states and I’m sure that it is last impression the government wants to give because it implies that the Tamils as a whole are a separate political entity–maybe even or course a state.
      To solve the day-to-day problems of the Tamils–after all, all problems are day to day ones– the government of a sovereign state does not have to negotiate with anyone. The government merely has to discover what these problems are and then address them in a direct way. It should address them in the same way that it would address problems faced by any section of the country,whether they are Sinhalese speakers or Tamil speakers. For example, if there is a drought in the Galle district the government would get the necessary information from its agents and do the needful to alleviate the conditions. Similarly, if the irrigation system of a particular part of the country is in a state of disintegration the government will take the appropriate action to redress the situation.
      The same principle applies to the people of the North and East and their problems. If a citizen of Sri Lanka in Jaffna goes to a government office or a bank and is expected to deal with its demands in a language that they cannot comprehend, then, it is part of the government’s duty to its citizenry to change the situation. It does not have to negotiate this with the TNA–or for that matter with India or the USA. It is part of its bounden duty to its citizens to ensure that their dealings with the government are easeful and practical–not to speak of efficiency. This claim applies to all the issues faced by the Tamils in the North and East: nearly every one of the problems faced by the Tamil people can be addressed in this way without having to wait for the approval of anyone else. Indeed in playing fair by Tamils, the government can profitably bypass the TNA,
      How will the government come to know of these problems? They certainly are not secrets. The government’s own agents must be able to gather the details of the everyday problems the Tamils face and various civil society associations have given them wide publicity.
      Furthermore, such moves will also be an adroit and intelligent, and indeed practical, strategy to undermine the separatist movement–or at least to blunt its bite.
      A Two-pronged Strategy:
      Even if these moves are made satisfactorily one is still left with the question: what to do with the TNA? They are no doubt representatives of the Tamils of the North and East and have a legitimate claim to speak on their behalf. In dealing with the problems of the Tamils then the government should follow a two-pronged strategy. To begin with, the government should deal with the practical problems of the Tamils and ensure that they are able to conduct the daily routine of their social, religious and economic activities without handicaps or without having to face the hostility or contempt or at least the calculated indifference of the military, the police and administrative officials. Or, better still, withdraw the military and get Tamil speaking police officers do the duty. Further, they can speedily release those in detention and resettle those still living as displaced persons in various parts of the country. And so on and so forth.
      While such processes of practical reconciliation are going on the ground, as it were, government can continue working the second prong of this process. This consists of appointing parliamentary subcommittees, special committees and commissions of inquiry etc. and carry on negotiations and consultations with the TNA and India and the US and China and Norway etc. etc. and make merry with them. Anyone who has watched the work of these committees and commissions and studied the recommendations the last several decades will realize that nothing will come out these moves. The committees will make their recommendations and meet with various delegations and there will be more committees ad infinutm. The TNA on the other hand, as its predecessors will make impractical demands, will appeal to abstruse legal principles, without taking into account the realities on the ground, and keep on doing it without making any progress. This macabre dance has been going on without any practical benefits for half a century and there’s no chance of it ever reaching a fruitful end. The government will appoint committees and then prevaricate, or do worse, and delay any solution whatever. Nevertheless, it can fulfill its often proclaimed assertion that this government is a government all the people of Sri Lanka and everyone is entitled to equal rights, by meeting its obligations to the Tamils, as it must to all the other citizens, without waiting for anyone’s approval or support.

      • 0
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        Like in all provincial councils, the elected representatives of TNA should be allowed to run the affairs of the council.
        Instead, the military governer with the support of the army and armed paramilitaries of Douglas Devananda are in power, AGAINST the wishes of the voters.
        This must be corrected immediately, if the President, as he says, beleives in democracy.
        Other matters can be discussed later.

  • 0
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    Max Silva & L de Mel call these signatroies as swindlers/jokers/paid servants of Tamil Diaspora/etc. If this is to be true these two people/Rajapakse brothers/Dr.Mervin/Gudu Duminda/all Ministers / Deputy Ministers of GOSL should be Saints/Saddhus.

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