21 October, 2020

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Prime Minister For Expanding The Role Of Civil Society 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Civil society members from all parts of the country walked into Temple Trees last week to meet with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. This was the first time for most of them. This included religious clergy from both the North and South. In past years, they had been more accustomed to the government treating them in a hostile manner which meant Temple Trees was out of bounds. One of the Buddhist monks said he chose not to come in the past, because he did not agree with the practices of those who had been incumbents. The meeting was held in the super size meeting hall built by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his two terms as president. Although Temple Trees is usually the domain of the prime minister and not the president, the former president made it his abode. Thousands of people from all walks of life were invited to Temple Trees to meet with him at state expense. The giant meeting hall could easily seat over 2000 persons in air conditioned comfort. Some who were at the meeting said that it was capable of seating as many as 7000.

The thrust of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s presentation to those who were gathered there was that the government wished to make NGOs and civil society organizations become partners with the government. He said this would not be only at the national level but also at the grassroots level. NGOs at the grassroots level have often got to fight against prejudice due to the belief within the government officials that they are anti government or doing the bidding of foreign donors. But today at the national level, NGOs are performing an important national consultation process that connects with what the government is preparing to do in terms of the transitional justice and reconciliation process. One of the key requirements of the international community is a process of public consultations that would legitimize the investigation into the past and the accountability, reparations and institutional reforms that come out of it.

The government is required to work to a time table it has agreed to with the international community with regard to the reconciliation mechanisms as these are part of the government’s commitment to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. When the government decided to co-sponsor the UNHRC resolution in October 2015 it was defusing the growing crisis with the international human rights community and with Western governments that backed the probe into Sri Lanka’s war time accountability for human rights violations. In return for their willingness to drop the demand for an international process of truth seeking and punishment, the government proposed to establish four transitional justice mechanisms and to meet international standards in implementing them. These are the Office of Missing Persons, the Truth-seeking Commission, the Office of Reparations and the Special Court. Consultations are currently underway in all parts of the country with representatives from civil society regarding the four specific mechanisms relating to transitional justice that the government has proposed in this regard.

Phased Approach 

The government is following a phased approach in fulfilling its commitments by the international community. The first reconciliation mechanism is the Office of Missing Persons. The legislation for this is scheduled to be presented later this month to parliament. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that this legislation will be a model for other countries. However, it has come under criticism for having had insufficient public consultations regarding its content. The government was able to hold limited public consultations with the relatives of missing persons and with civil society organizations from both the North and South who have been working on this issue for many years. But this was not a comprehensive public consultation process. The government dispensed with his requirement due to its desire to have something in place to show to the UN Human Rights Council at its meeting in March of this year in Geneva.

The ongoing public consultations with regard to the reconciliation mechanisms being undertaken by civil society groups will shed light on public opinion. Reports from those conducting the consultations indicate a substantial degree of public interest. In one instance a group with several Buddhist monks had disrupted proceedings for a short time demanding that the consultations should be more widely publicized with more opportunities being extended to people to give their opinions. While the officially mandated consultations are going on there are also other civil society meetings taking place on the same topics led by peace and reconciliation oriented organisations which are also receiving a positive response. One such meeting held in Matara last week which I attended drew a participation of over fifty community leaders including religious clergy, government officials, lawyers and media personnel.

The meeting with community leaders in Matara was a manifestation of inter ethnic and inter religious goodwill which has begun to grow visibly under the present government. It shows the influence that government leaders have over the people, either positively or negatively, to take the country in the direction of ethnic harmony or ethnic conflict as the case may be. The unified stance by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on issues of inter community relations, together with the leaders of the Tamil and Muslim ethnic parties, is influencing the general public to also subscribe to values of co-existence and non-aggression to those of other communities. This is in contrast to the approach of the previous government which mobilized the forces of ethnic nationalism in which the government was itself a partisan actor on the side of the ethnic majority rather than being seen as a neutral arbiter.

Phased Process 

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe spent nearly two hours in the discussions with over a hundred members of civil society who attended the meeting at Temple Trees under the aegis of Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan and the government’s NGO Secretariat. As the invitations for the meeting had been sent by Minister Ganesan who has been a long term advocate of human rights and inter ethnic reconciliation, there was an expectation that the discussion would be primarily on issues related to the government’s reconciliation process in which the four transitional justice mechanisms have taken a central place. The invitation to the meeting did not give a specific agenda which left it open to be flexible. But it also meant that those from civil society who came for the meeting did not have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the issues that the Prime Minister himself brought up. It will be necessary to have follow up meetings so that the ideas introduced can be built upon.

The main thrust of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s presentation was his interest to strengthen civil society organizations to be able to work in a structured manner with government institutions at all levels. One of the problems that civic groups have experienced in trying to work with government is that they are often only on the periphery and are not brought into at the policy formulation and implementation planning stages. Indeed, during the period of the last government the work of civil society organizations and NGOs came under tight government scrutiny, with prior approval being required for work in the former war zones of the North and East, and surveillance by security forces the norm. It appeared that the Prime Minister’s interest is to find a way by which the voice and inputs of civil society can be institutionalized in government processes so that they can work in a cohesive manner at all levels.

During the discussion the Prime Minister sketched out a three phased process that could strengthen civil society organizations in their contribution to the development process. The first was to develop a policy on government – civil society relations that would ensure that civil society’s role in the development process from the grassroots level upwards would be ensured. The second was to find immediate solutions to the administrative problems and government circulars of the past which continue to be in force and restrict the space for civil society. Third would be to prepare new legislation relevant to civil society that would replace the existing legislation which is outdated in relations to the needs of a post-conflict society that is aiming for rapid economic development. The role of inter-community dialogue, mutual understanding and trust building will need to be an essential part of this endeavour so that no section is left out or feels left out.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    5

    Jehan

    Ranil is a good man. Tell me of one bloodletting issue that he was involved to tarnish his image. Srimavo, JR, Premadasa etc., etc were soaked the blood of the people.

    Ranil is different and is trying hard to create a tolerant society. His task is enormous and challenging as Sri Lanka is embroiled in hate politics for very long time.

    We need few more Ranil’s acceptable to everyone.

    I hope and pray he will be stronger as the days passes and he will put the strong foundation for Sri Lanka to become a respectable nation in the world map.

    • 10
      2

      You are right.

      Today, we see the oppposition marching against the current regime.

      In the past we failed to see it, since they the criminals thugs did not allow opponents to go protests.
      But fools dominated lanka will never see it right, may be interpret as if the days of MR ” they were no protests”. As to why the protests were no present – is not a question for them.

    • 6
      6

      Hey Menike;

      You have said;

      “We need few more Ranil’s acceptable to everyone.”

      Are you kidding .
      You know only “CELLULOID” or “POSTER” Ranil, so do not jump onto conclusions. He is an old big shrimp in the last phase of deceptive politics and seems to possess enough resources to hide the tracks. Do you know where SHRIMP stores shit.I am really baffled when you call for many large shrimps, may be you like shrimps too much.

      • 3
        4

        Dankotuwe Baba

        You are a Babaa and be and behave like a Babaa. How can Babaa understand mature issues. Pl. suck your thumb, snore and sleep.

        Get someone to sing Onchili chili Chilla male song to have good sleeps.

        Sleeping dogs are sleeping dogs. They lack the brain to think fast and respond.

        • 4
          2

          Looks like you really got peeved by my comment about “CELLULOID” Ranil. Don’t insult or shoot the messenger, just because you don’t like the message. You have a long way to go to understand what is wrong with deceptive politics in Sri Lanka.
          By the way I know what to do with my big thumb with shrimps paying homage to shrimps.

          • 2
            3

            Dankotuwe Baba

            Your hermoplastic below the level thinking to issues is worse than insults that you deserve.

            Always be a poddi puta without dictating your babaa thinking to others.

          • 1
            2

            YOu are an another punnaku eater not knowing what you are talking about. You cant be a baba – if you really focus on the the issue that harm the nation. Ranil was attacked by MR media men for their political surivival. All what he or anyone would not have done were listed under his name for their political greediness. Today even 40 thieves though remaining called themselves as Joint destructive group – but do their all kind of protests as had not been the case under Maharaja Thugish adminstiration. Even the cabinet ministers under MR rule were not given to voice all these were done by their family men.Basil was the upper hand whatever was being discussed, Today, they have to pay the price loudly as they can being called to FCID or any other bodies as if they go to toilet/Bathroom. However, the manner they handled all the crook work seem to take longer than anyone ever guessed at. Once thing is certain as sunrise and sunset- that Rajaakshes will have to face Jail sessions though the investigations are being slowed.

            • 1
              1

              Hey Burampi;

              Yako umbala “Kahi gani Deela Hotu Ganiyek” gattha wage. May Dankotuwe mama is not a “Brown Nose” like you. Don’t insult Baba just because you cannot understand what is politics in Sri Lanka. Guys and Gals like you are the offspring of corruption. You are the very same fellows who brought Rajapaksa and the gang to power, without understanding the real objectives of these rogues. There is no difference between Hotu Gani and Kahi Gani- Hope you get the message.

              Corruption of one corrupt gang cannot be solved by another corrupt gang.

              • 1
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                Dankotuwe Mama

                Are you a member of the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam? They campaigned for Mahinda’s victory and lost.

                Ballota thiyanna yukthiya umbatta naha.

    • 1
      2

      Why Ranil is called Batalande Ranil. He was just listening to JVP youth screaming with pain while being questioned ?

      He did the same thing with Sleuths working against LTTE too by giving their where abouts ?

  • 5
    3

    Thank you Jehan. I was happy to read about the Meeting at Temple Trees with the civil Society.NGOs and civil Society organisations were easily suspected as stooges of foreign funds etc. and their freedom to contribute was curtailed. Hence this move of the PM to hold the Meeting at Temple Trees and get their cooperation to work with the govt. is most welcome. I will like that your positive views regarding such efforts are given in Sinhala and Tamil to help their thinking and winning their Support for transitional justice and rconciliation.

  • 4
    2

    A point of order: you make this comment about how MR made Temple Trees his “abode”. President Chandrika also made it her regular abode. They built a swimming pool there at that time because your Tiger Tamil buddies made it very difficult for her to move about safely or even go for a recreational swim. She did not want to live in President’s House because of its large size, and gloomy interior etc until the LTTE tamil terrorist activities became really bad and she was told to move there for security reasons. She only moved the after your Tiger buddies almost killed her. For security reasons MR kept going between the two places too. So get your facts straight.

    Ranil had old skeletons from the Batalanda period.

    But he is reformed and almost a born again Buddhist. He will do well. He is honest. His close Royalist confidantes are honest until the Medamulane clan. Remember who an Ambassador stole money on a sale of a house and engaged in Tea business and barely spoke good english after his Olevels?Another in Ukraine and Russia? Civil Aviation? Sri Lankan Airlines? Things are different now.

  • 1
    0

    This is all very well, but Ranil should also take note of what foreign journalists think of the situation in the North, where with the present ‘climate’ of suppression of civic rights and oppression of civil society, no civil society organisation can function.

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=38010

    Will he, and the president ensure normalcy so that this can happen

  • 2
    0

    Ranil is a good man BUT his brains have been screwed with Havard thinking for local matters………….

    S.J.Emmanuel & Ranil are in the same boat. Emmanuel has said, I mean when I state SAID, there was no meaning to him when consecrating bread & Wine to think it was of Christ.
    Furthermore, he has categorically stated that he is a Tamil first and a Catholic later.

    Its a Chicken and Egg situation.
    One has Harvard thinking for local matters and the other, its tamil first before his Master…………..
    AND
    Jehan.P with all the coveted qualifications from Harvard is aimless following His Master’s Voice for his supper.

    All in all, with an Ambassador stole money on a sale of a house and engaged in Tea business and barely spoke good english after his Olevels? Another in Ukraine and Russia? Civil Aviation? Sri Lankan Airlines? NOTHING IS DIFFERENT TO YESTERDAY.

    Emmanuel continue to wear his sqeaky white Cassoack, Ranil they say is Born Again unable to fit in Harvard thinking into the same old problems and Jehan.P will all his Harvard qualifications will continue to sing for his supper with same tunes.

    WHERE ARE WE HEADING FINALLY?

    Kabir in Indonesia SPEAKS about the construction of HANUMAN BRIDGE, Kiriella refuting it. SRI LANKANS IN THE DARK DEPITE OF RTI.
    And Jehan as usual hanging on to HMV.

  • 2
    0

    I dont think anyone is really interested in the phased approach the govt is taking with the international community.
    We are more interested in the promises made to us before and during the elections. We like to see that being honoured first.

  • 0
    0

    I thought NGOs became partners even before Batalanada Ranil got the PM gig..

    Good to hear that Batalanda PM does what Mano Ganeshan tells him.

    This is perhaps a sign of things to come, with the GIE ETCA kicking in before X Mas, as Malik Samre promises.

    I am glad this Big NGO Chief didn’t mention specific religions, when he said the clergy from the North , East and the South were sitting with the NGOs and Batalanda Ranil.

    Because I was just about to ask what the hell our Bikkus could do there with Batalanada Ranil and his NGO partners.

  • 5
    1

    In Sri lanka, NGO are very infamous as Crows looking for dead bodies.

    So, now they are called Civil society and they have more say in Sri lankan matters.

    That is what is happening.

    Ranil loves to bend to the west.

  • 3
    0

    Jehan Perera is asking what his pay master wants him to do. His Pay master has a long shopping list all from Sri lanka. That includes more say from NGOs which they call the Civil Society. Read ISLAND.

    [http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=132363]

    I think in that sense either the Mahinda Chintanaya or the Yahapalanaya can not be two different ideologies. It has to be the same.

    This is where Sri lanka has to be a true non-aligned nation and dictate the terms to every superpower if not becomes another cuba in Asia.

  • 2
    0

    Schemers and corrupt minds in politics have never been progressive. They are consumed totally by hunger for power and would do anything and would go the extra mile to fortify the grip on rule ; like partnering with evil forces (as one of the biggest schemers in Sri Lankan history said in late 1980s). For them it is a gamble with the future of our children NOT their broods. It is their psychological trigger for the daily routine of taking a good rest with a glass fine imported alcoholic beverage in the evening. The whole country is the gambling den for them and enjoys watching misery of people after rolling the DICE for citizens to pay the PRICE. They believe if people can’t eat cake they should be content with bread; in the case Sri Lankans Coriander, Sprats and Mysore Dhal.

    Kautilya 08/10/2016

  • 0
    0

    Jehan: What are these “Civil Society” and “NGO” that are invited to Temple Trees? Can you please name at least a few?

  • 0
    0

    This’s somewhat superfluous, when there’re MPs to represent people in the house why should PM take groups called civil societies for direct discussion.

    Ah. I can understand it, it may be due to the fact that people have no access to MPs they voted for, to represent them.

    So all the trouble makers in the guise of civil societies are entertained at public expense disregarding peoples pulse.

    Please Hon. PM, stop this bad practice and direct MPs to be with people and act according to the peoples voice.

    Unless what happened to Mahinda Rajapakse will undoubtedly happen to you.

  • 2
    0

    Agents of deceptive politics and political schemers- Is this a pure coincidence?

    On August 7th Laksiri Fernando comes-up with his proposal about the role of Civil Society Organizations Under the caption of “Building Inter-Ethnic ‘Social Capital’ For Reconciliation , He states “…..Two of the key objectives of the political change and thus the civil society were (1) the resurrection of democracy and (2) reconciliation of the ethnic conflict. I am not undermining the role of the political leaders or the political parties in the change, but emphasising the importance of the civil society organizations for the purpose of this article. The above was possible because of the long standing traditions of civil society organizations and networks etc…”

    The next day August 8th Jehan Perera has compiled a report under the caption of . “Prime Minister for expanding the role of civil society “and it says among other gibberish “Civil society members from all parts of the country walked into Temple Trees last week to meet with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.etc……”

    Is it a pure coincidence that these two were playing to the same tune of Ranil? Readers please read both articles by these two spin doctors and specifically read between the lines. As I have said many times Spin doctors are well sponsored.

    By the way, this question is for Jehan and Laksiri, why don’t you promote much deserved an electoral reform that includes “FIRST PAST THE POST” to elect qualified and suitable persons as members of Parliament? Do not bring some “toothless” civil societies to fix the national issues.

    • 0
      0

      [Edited out]

  • 1
    0

    First of all, Goldi thank you.

    As a silent observer, I always enjoyed reading opinion expressed by our Sri Lankans. Since “Goldi’ have exposed the role played Jehan Perera, all the other learned ones; Doctors, Professors and Anti-Sinhala Buddhists have been very quiet or gone into deep slumber during last 24 hours. So I have to believe that Jehan Perera and Dr. Laksiri Fernando as the agents of Ranil Wickramasinghe.

    By the way at least they should have courage to say “yes” or “no” to the question raised by Goldi: Do you believe in much deserved electoral reforms that includes “FIRST PAST THE POST” to elect qualified and suitable persons as members of Parliament?

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