16 May, 2022

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Primary Focus Of More Enlightened Government Leaders Will Be To Listen

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government’s Adhikaranabhimani programme went to the North of the country last week to a mixed reception. In Mullaitivu in the Wanni area where the last battles of the war took place, the public reception had elements of hostility. Families of missing persons protested and it required police intervention to enable the programme to move ahead. Although intended to promote the concept of “access to justice” the focus of the protests was on the issues of missing persons and those detained for long periods without trial. Both of these have been longstanding and highly publicized issues, which have included public protests on a daily basis that have lasted for years at a time.

However, the scope of the programme was much larger than these two intractable issues with a large number of government institutions participating in the four days set aside. These were the Legal Aid Commission, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, Office for Reparations, Victims and Witness Protection Authority, Department of Debt Conciliation Board, Department of Community Based Corrections, Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Mediation Boards Commission, Department of Prisons, Department of Registration of Persons, Department of Registrar General, Provincial Department of Lands, Palmyrah Development Board, Small Enterprise Development Division and the Vocational Training Authority.

One of the highlights of the programme was an interaction at Jaffna University which was attended by Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris and Justice Minister Ali Sabry. These two ministers are championing the reconciliation process within the government. At this meeting there was a dialogue between the ministers and the university faculty members and students. Among the issues discussed were allocation of more resources for infrastructure and curriculum development. Despite Minister Ali Sabry repeatedly requesting the faculty members present to discuss reconciliation issues, the culture of fear proved impossible to overcome. Interestingly, students brought up the issue of engagement with their counterparts from other ethnicities and religions in other universities.

Speaking to faculty and students at Jaffna University, Minister Ali Sabry queried whether the politics of confrontation, as manifested in the protests against the ongoing programme, had yielded a satisfactory outcome. The implication was that the path of cooperation with the government would be the more beneficial one. In his recent policy statement to parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made an appeal to the politicians of the North and East to support the government’s efforts to improve the living conditions of the people rather than engage in divisive ideological politics. However, the need for a recognition of the political rights of minorities to equality as citizens and equity as communities for which power sharing in the political system is also essential.

Revitalising Institutions

The mixed reaction that the Adhikaranabhimani programme received from sections of civil society in the North would be a cause for disappointment in the government team that organised the programme. The Justice Ministry in particular had expended a great deal of effort to organize the four day programme. They mobilized as many as 16 government institutions to go to the field and explain their mission and make preliminary contact with potential service recipients. They had even prepared compensation cheques for those who had applied for such compensation in the past. Organising the logistics for the programme and obtaining the participation of people was an achievement considering both the economic and Covid related crises that beset the country and make public engagement more difficult.

The mixed reaction to the Adhikaranabhimani programme is one that might have been anticipated. Sections of the Tamil polity, especially in the Diaspora, have seen the reconciliation mechanisms that were developed by the previous government in terms of the commitments made by co-sponsoring UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 of 2015 as being essentially in the nature of charades. From the time of its inception in 2017, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) came under attack, both physical and verbal, when they attempted to meet people in the North. There was suspicion that the OMP was only a ploy to convince the international community that the government was serious about dealing with the past.

The future of these reconciliation mechanisms appeared to be in doubt when the government changed in November 2019 in the aftermath of the presidential election. One of the first decisions of the government was to announce its withdrawal from the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution 30/1 due to it being perceived as biased and demeaning to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. This seemed to suggest that mechanisms such as the OMP, which could potentially be used to pursue claims for justice and accountability, would be abolished. Indeed, the functioning of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation was suspended. However, all of the mechanisms have been reactivated under the leadership of Justice Minister Ali Sabry and those newly appointed to take charge of them have demonstrated commitment to take forward their mandates.

Short Briefings 

It is indeed unfortunate that the government’s approach to reconciliation is widely believed to be shaped by the need to forestall international action in the form of UN monitoring, EU economic sanctions and US and UK travel bans. This negative perception generates cynicism. The latest UNHRC Resolution 46/1 sets up a special UN monitoring unit on Sri Lanka. The EU parliament in their Sri Lanka resolution of June 2021 threatened to withdraw the GSP Plus tariff privilege unless the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), among others, was brought into conformity with international standards. In a meeting with the diplomatic corps, Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris explained the significance of the reforms. He explained that substantive reforms to the PTA include amendments to the sections on detention orders, restriction orders and expressly recognizing judicial review of orders, among others.

Despite the efforts taken by the government to reform the PTA, the civil society response so far has been critical and lukewarm at best. While the amendments are welcome after over four decades they need to be more far reaching to have an impact on the ground. Without a proper and internationally accepted definition of the word “terrorism” it enables the government to use the term indiscriminately, as occurred recently when a government member threatened to use the PTA to arrest striking train engine drivers. Second, the powers of arrest and detention need to be supervised by the Judiciary. Extrajudicial powers vested at present with political and administrative authorities and with the security forces need to be subject to judicial review from the time of detention onwards.

The problem with the government’s initiatives, both with regard to the Adhikaranabhimani programme and PTA reform is that there was hardly any consultations by the government with either civil society or with those who would be the beneficiaries of those mechanisms. Foreign Minister Prof Peiris and Justice Minister Ali Sabry did have meetings with the Bar Association and a section of civil society on the reform of the PTA, but they were more in the nature of short briefing sessions rather than being consultations. They made a valiant attempt to have discussions in Jaffna but one day is not enough. Rebuilding trust and openness takes time. It requires a lot of listening, heeding and responding. The government’s initiatives may or may not impress the UNHRC and EU. More importantly, the primary focus of enlightened government members like Foreign Minister Peiris and Justice Minister Ali Sabry needs to be to win the hearts and minds of the war affected and other violated people countrywide and their local champions to bring reconciliation to the nation.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    …Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris and Justice Minister Ali Sabry. These two ministers are CHAMPIONING the reconciliation process within the government….
    Why are you holding candle for the likes of Ali Sabry who advocated just a week ago that the Constitution bar the RIGHT to protest or take strike action for grievances. Signs of dictatorship. Of course that decrepit GLP – less said the better.
    What reconciliation can one expect from the likes of these two.
    ….Speaking to faculty and students at Jaffna University, Minister Ali Sabry ……..In his recent policy statement to parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made an appeal … to support the government’s efforts…..the need for a recognition of the political rights of minorities to equality as citizens and equity as communities for which power sharing in the political system is also essential….
    Why would Sabry, who wants to ban the right to protest, agree to power sharing. He only wants one-way streets.
    All these are words only to keep the minorities at bay for longer. And with Jehan’s support.
    ….ENLIGHTENED government members like Foreign Minister Peiris and Justice Minister Ali Sabry…..
    Thanks for the laugh of the day that statement.

  • 5
    0

    The reconciliation process need not be confined to Government and to the people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, but let me be blunt-It has to be an inclusive process involving all Sinhalese, all Tamils and all Muslims in fact all those living in Sri Lanka.

    It is a people to people process, not to hoodwink UNHRC or international community.

    If your intension is to win the hearts and minds of war affected people with the objective of deceiving the ordinary people by whatever strategy or tactics at your command, you are bound to fail because you are trying to cheat the people and the people could see through your subterfuge .
    Are you ready to effective listening not to deliver sweet lectures to captive audiences to feel good that you had satisfied the international community and once the immediate threats are overcome to resume on your own bad ways until the next UNHRC sessions.

  • 4
    0

    The supposed objective of the Adhikaranabhimani programme is to promote the concept of “access to justice” and to implement it. But the purpose in including a dozen disparate government institutions in this exercise is to obfuscate the most basic issues like the fate of the missing persons including those who surrendered at the end of the war and the release of the political prisoners. The people in the north know all too well that this is just a drama to fool the international community as the UNHRC sessions are coming up soon. The affected people also know that they will get nothing more than SOPs from the GoSL.

    Definition of SOP: A thing of no great value given or done as a concession to appease someone whose main concerns or demands are not being met.

    • 1
      0

      Dear Captain M
      You are spot on sir. These jokers are wasting public coffers with good for nothing schemes and in the process bring about undue hardship to the suffering masses both Tamil, Sinhalese and other races.

      On the other hand Jehan has an unenviable task to please every one
      But in reality he has no choice but to repeat his plea again and again for harmony
      RN

  • 9
    0

    “Adhikaranabhimani programme” ???
    If the Gota regime was serious about reconciliation, it would have found and used a Tamil name for the campaign. Preferably less jaw-breaking. Who dreams up these ridiculous pomposities anyway? A committee of unemployed graduates in Buddhist Civilization?

  • 3
    0

    “More importantly, the primary focus of ENLIGHTENED GOVERNMENT MEMBERS LIKE FOREIGN MINISTER PEIRIS AND JUSTICE MINISTER ALI SABRY needs to be to win the hearts and minds of the war affected and other violated people countrywide and their local champions to bring reconciliation to the nation.”

    Jeez, I can’t think what to say to this. I am dumbstruck!

  • 3
    0

    JP, You say rebuilding trust takes time. Peiris and Ali Sabri cannot suddenly undo to reconcile what the clan has already moved through during several decades of time using money as the god that can buy all people. That is not the absolute truth fortunately. True God is the owner of the earth he has given to man, saying “Let them have dominion” when made in his image.. If these leaders get to know the owner, they need not struggle to rob and steal. The landlord has only rented the earth for a period of time to use the money god. Then he owns it.

  • 3
    0

    “Rebuilding trust and openness takes time. “

    How long? What is the starting time and finishing time? Who will start and Who will finish it?

    • 0
      0

      Ajith, Rebuilding depends on “Who will start” If there is one statesman leader who thinks of the country first, it is the duty of all citizens to rally round him and support what can be done.

  • 4
    0

    “Speaking to faculty and students at Jaffna University, Minister Ali Sabry queried whether the politics of confrontation, as manifested in the protests against the ongoing programme, had yielded a satisfactory outcome. “
    Mr. Ali Sabry,
    You think as a Minister of Justice under a President who is directly involved with the missing of persons which is not about missing of person but they they were murdered after handed over to the military personal by family members in the camp or those persons who were surrendered or captured by the military after the end of war. You may not know the truth or you may have to pretend that you don’t know anything about your boss. Recently, you made a “resignation drama” about the One Law One Country Task Force appointed by the President headed by a former prisoner who was pardoned by boss who is well known to against you as well. You have withdrawn your resignation after your boss threatened you. You also know very well that your boss pardoned a military personal who was charged for murdering seven civilians including children. Do you know what legal process you as a minister of justice followed in this pardon?

  • 0
    0

    There is no more comedic one ever born in the world than GLP. Today he denied that Aanduwa didn’t but arms from North Korea with stolen money. He is such and imbecile. America force landed the Langkang bound Ukraine arms plane in Thailand. The pilot said he was going to Langkang. American satellite located all LTTE arms ship because it was watching all NK ports activities. They all know that about $18B the Royal buglers put in their foreign banks that they earned by these deal. Mr. 40% didn’t say that by any accident. He revealed in Divina’s prepared interview. Recently the Playboy Minister denied that Old Rowdy King getting an operation from a specialist from UK. It appears that Old Rowdy broke his back while doing Orangutans exercise, that is standing upside down. What GLP, who one a PhD professor in Law, did is leveled him this copycat lowyer by lying eaually .

  • 1
    0

    …These two ministers are CHAMPIONING the reconciliation process WITHIN the government……..
    So the others within the govt. are against or not interested in the reconciliation process,
    by implication. YES ??

  • 2
    0

    “Primary Focus Of More Enlightened Government Leaders Will Be To Listen”. The two such “Enlightened Leaders” mentioned in the article are Prof. GLP and Ali Sabri.

    What is “Enlightened”? Rational, Well Informed, and Free from Prejudice.

    Do these two persons named measure up to the above definition?

    That “Prof.” having served under all the Governments (UNP, SLFP, ULF, and now SLPP) has proved an utter failure and a misfit in politics. That explains his capabilities.

    That “Ali Sabri” the Legal Luminary, the “Defense Lawyer” in all cases against Gotabahaya was the only “Qualification” to become the Minister of Justice. Hasn’t he proved to be another “Failure”?

    With their “Record” can we rate them as “Enlightened” and expect to “Listen”? Far from it.

    “Slaves” have no option, but to “LISTEN” to the “Master”. That they are doing WELL.

    • 2
      0

      Simon

      You are unreasonably questioning two politicians, and expecting them to be “Rational, Well Informed, and Free from Prejudice”. Don’t forget they are politically motivated legal eagles, who work in their own interest and not ours.

      However we the readership expect some ethical standard from ” Rational, Well Informed, leader writers who are supposed to be Free from Prejudice” .
      Before I start my usual daily dose of mourning please visit the following editorial:
      War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and the UNHRC – EDITORIAL
      https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/War-Crimes-Crimes-Against-Humanity-and-the-UNHRC-EDITORIAL/231-230297

      Can you detect/trace the purpose of this editorial and the message that we are suppose to gather from it?

      CP Scott’s centenary essay
      https://www.theguardian.com/sustainability/cp-scott-centenary-essay

      Is it possible for you to send this link to the leader writers in Sri Lankan media?
      Thank you.

      CP Scott’s wrote :
      “Comment is free, but facts are sacred. “Propaganda”, so called, by this means is hateful. The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard. Comment also is justly subject to a self-imposed restraint. It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair. This is an ideal. Achievement in such matters is hardly given to man. We can but try, ask pardon for shortcomings, and there leave the matter”
      – C.P. Scott

    • 0
      0

      …That “Prof.” having served under all the Governments (UNP, SLFP, ULF, and now SLPP) has proved an utter failure and a misfit in politics….
      Another way to look at this joker, is to recognise his sliminess as an exemplary politician who can to fit into any party for his gain. Perfect example of a SL politician.

  • 1
    0

    Simon

    You are unreasonably questioning two politicians, and expecting them to be “Rational, Well Informed, and Free from Prejudice”. Don’t forget they are politically motivated legal eagles, who work in their own interest and not ours.

    However we the readership expect some ethical standard from ” Rational, Well Informed, leader writers who are supposed to be Free from Prejudice” .
    Before I start my usual daily dose of mourning please visit the following editorial:
    War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and the UNHRC – EDITORIAL
    https://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/War-Crimes-Crimes-Against-Humanity-and-the-UNHRC-EDITORIAL/231-230297

    Can you detect/trace the purpose of this editorial and the message that we are suppose to gather from it?

    CP Scott’s centenary essay
    https://www.theguardian.com/sustainability/cp-scott-centenary-essay

    Is it possible for you to send this link to the leader writers in Sri Lankan media?
    Thank you.

    CP Scott’s wrote :
    “Comment is free, but facts are sacred. “Propaganda”, so called, by this means is hateful. The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard. Comment also is justly subject to a self-imposed restraint. It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair. This is an ideal. Achievement in such matters is hardly given to man. We can but try, ask pardon for shortcomings, and there leave the matter”
    – C.P. Scott

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