21 May, 2024


Reconciliation ‘Muddled’ – Part II

By Chamindry Saparamadu

Chamindry Saparamadu

In the first part of this Article, I have tried to explain how reconciliation was conceptualized and approached in the Yahapalana Programme. In this section of the article, I briefly look at how the reconciliation agenda unfolded in the Yahapalana government through the various processes and institutions set up for the purpose of achieving national reconciliation.  

The New Mechanisms under the Framework 

In Part 1 of this article, I explained how an institutional framework proposed by UNHRC Resolution 30/1 and the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment under the Resolution came to define a national narrative and agenda relating to Reconciliation under the Yahapalana government. The four pillars of truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence are a new conceptualization of reconciliation that did not exist prior to 2015. The emphasis being placed predominantly on an institutional framework based on the four pillars led critics to say that other reforms/ interventions essential to achieve national reconciliation such as educational reforms, strengthening service delivery, psychosocial support programmes etc. were either not considered significant or relegated to a secondary place. Critics claim that the new institutional framework largely based on accountability and punitive justice, whilst being important is not sufficient to achieve national reconciliation through the articulation and formulation of a national agenda underpinned on the same. There was much skepticism regarding the sustainability of such institutions which were created outside the existing legal and institutional framework and the need for immediate integration of those into Sri Lanka’s existing structural and institutional framework has also been highlighted. 

The Institutional Muddle

The Yahapalana reconciliation agenda was not just marked by conceptual obscurity but also by a proliferation of reconciliation institutes based on terminological confusion and various stakeholder interests. In addition to the new institutions set up or proposed to be set up by the Geneva framework, multiple other institutions were also created based on a terminological spectrum between unity, reconciliation, co-existence and dialogue with unclear and overlapping mandates. The institutions based on this terminological muddle created further confusion regarding their role, mandate, and the linkage to the national agenda. Few examples of such institutions are the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), Ministry of National Co-exsistence, Dialogue and Official Languages and the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) etc. 

If one looks at the mandate of the ONUR, it is responsible for formulating and coordinating the implementation of policies and programmes to build national unity and reconciliation. The office conceptualizes and formulates programmes, secures funding & collaborates with other agencies for implementation. The Office is chaired by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) is tasked with the design and implementation of Sri Lanka’s reconciliation mechanisms and comes under the Prime Minister’s Office. It has been formed by the Cabinet of Ministers on 18th December 2015 and is headed by Mano Tittawella.   

The Ministry of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages was set up in terms of Gazette No. 13/1933 dated 20.09.2015 with the mission of policy formulation, promoting dialogues and facilitation and implementation of relevant programmes to create a developed society which ensure rights of all communities and observes mutual respect, cooperation and co-existence. The Ministry is headed by Minister Mano Ganeshan. 

It is apparent that these three institutions have similar functions and their differentiation is not based on any rational or scientific criteria but on terminology and actor interests. As such, critics have alleged that these institutions have been set up with a view to giving various interested parties positions and privileges in the government as well as a stake in the reconciliation agenda rather than on any strategic and institutional level intervention to address national reconciliation.

The ONUR and SCRM have both been created by special authority of the Cabinet and outside the public administration system. It is unclear as to how various consultants and staff have been selected and assigned for various functions in these institutions.. It is also not clear whether these multiple institutions with overlapping mandates have been crated based on any public demand. 

The illusive Political commitment and the National Ownership 

Concerns have also been raised regarding the political commitment and national ownership of the reconciliation agenda. The commitment to reconciliation among the political actors in the Yahapalana government seemed vague and ambiguous. The large majority of the political actors remained either disinterested or oblivious of the reconciliation processes. The absence of political commitment becomes even more pronounced by the reluctance on the part of both the President and the Prime Minister to officially and publicly accept the Report of the Consultation Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) after having appointed and mandated the consultation process. However, many say that this meager commitment should not come as a surprise, considering the various statements and positions taken by them towards reconciliation and democratization in the past where no clear and consistent position could be ascertained. 

In the absence of political ownership, the reconciliation processes seem to be driven mainly by civil society organizations and actors who have played multiple roles in the process. They have been a part of working groups, technical committees, drafting committees and consultative committees. They have made representations and submissions, arranged and facilitated submissions by victim groups before various consultative forums as well as represented them before these forums. The civil society that is closely associated with the reconciliation processes stems from the liberal peace building ideological standpoint

In many of the reconciliation initiatives, there was also an absence of clear connection between the government agenda and the bureaucracy who were, to the most part, not involved in the conceptualization or the design of any of the processes.  Much of the work relating to the reconciliation agenda was handed to external consultants. This situation can be distinguished from the relative successes achieved in rolling out the Yahapalana government’s RTI agenda. Throughout the process, from drafting to operationalizing the law, the state was engaged in a partnership of trust with the political establishment and the civil society. 

Further, it is not clear whether there was any public demand for the agenda or for the institutional framework as it was not part of the election manifesto and as such not submitted to approval by the people at the time of elections. There was no opportunity to assess whether it was sanctioned by a public mandate.  

Defining a Way Forward 

Conceptual obscurity, terminological confusion, proliferation of institutions with unclear and overlapping mandates, conflicting stakeholder agendas and interests as well as lack of political commitment and national ownership seem to have shaped the reconciliation agenda under the Yahapanala government placing same in a complex muddle of things. To move forward, Sri Lanka needs to define its national reconciliation narrative and agenda and the challenge would  be to come up with a model that will work in the Sri Lankan context given the contestations, polarized views and the contemporary national security challenges. 

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Before anything the Tamils and Muslims must learn the language of the land that they inhibit. SL is too small to have several languages. One language-one Nation. Look at Briton- an island where the three hostile nations of England, Scotland and Wales get along because of a common language. The Welsh , Scot’s and the nearby Irish all have their native languages called gealic or Celtic.
    The Tamils and Muslims tried to conquer this island and failed miserably over centuries. While they have forgotten this history – we , the Descendents of those who fought those wars -have not.
    Sports was introduced to the curriculum by the white man to teach the Savage tribal people of Africa and Asia- the concept of winning and losing. Also the grey area that is unknown- the draw. 99/ of sportsman are sinhala. Tamils and Muslims are unsporting as hell. They have no concept of fair play. In 1972 Ceylon added green and orange to it’s Lion flag to symbolize the minoritries. This is called fair play. What do we get in return- V. Prabhakram and zahran hashim. Not mention parkiyasothy savarmuttu and radika coomarasway

    • 12

      Fair play is all three languages being equal official languages.
      This is so in the constitution, but not enforced/practiced.

      • 0

        Justice and Fair play: : Even though you are Tamil, in the western country that you live, Does your children talk Tamil or IS it English only. In Wanni EELam, did tamil allow other languages ?.
        Miss Saparamadu is writing for his client.

    • 0

      Chamindry Saparamadu,

      RE: Reconciliation ‘Muddled’ – Part II

      Or is it Pregnancy ‘Muddled’ – Part II?

      “In the first part of this Article, I have tried to explain how reconciliation was conceptualized and approached in the Yahapalana Programme.”

      Title: “Who made the Kurunegala women pregnant ? .”

      Colombo Telegraph: Please let the Sinhala narrative given below from the Grape vines, Bulath vines, stand as it is very material to the above question and false charges and the news item.
      “මෙම කාන්තාවන් නොමග යැවීමට කටයුතු කර ඇත්තේ විමල් වීරවංසගේ උපදෙස් මත කුරුණෑගල නගරාධිපති තුෂාර විතාරණ විසින් බවත් ඒ සදහා මුදල් වියදම් කර ඇත්තේ ජොන්ස්ටන් ප්‍රනාන්දු බවත් මේ වනවිට රහසක් නොවේ. මෙම නුගත් කාන්තාවන් නොමග යැවීමට මහාචාර්ය චන්න ජයසුමන නොහොත් නාත දෙවියන්ගේ වරමක් හිමි මිත්‍යාදෘෂ්ටිකයා විසින් සිදු කළ ප්‍රකාශ විශාල බලපෑමක් සිදු කළේය. අතුරලියේ රතන හිමියන්ද බෞද්ධ ජනතාව උසි ගන්වමින් මුස්ලිම් විරෝධයක් ඇති කිරීම සඳහා මෙය අමු අමුවේම භාවිතා කළේය.”

      “To mislead these women, it was under Wimal Weerawansa’s instructions by Kurunegala Mayor Thisara Witharana, and the expenses for the project was by Johnston Fernando, and it is no secret. To misled these undedicated women, Professor Channa Jayasumsana made statements that made powerful and forceful impressions on the women. Also, Aturaliya Ratna Thero, by agitating the Buddhist people tried to create an anti-Muslim agitation, have used this raw lying incident .”

      Question: What is the punishment for the conspiracy by Wimal Weerawansa, Thisara Witharana, Professor Channa Jayasumsana and , Aturaliya Ratna Thero. Isn’t this a criminal act?

      Comment: This is Para-Sinhala Para-“ Buddhism”, that is an insult to Buddhism and to the Buddha.

    • 5

      Language of the land. Your Sinhalese language that is a mish mash of many languages , only originated in the 7Th -9Th Century and Tamil is the largest contributor to its vocabulary 40%. Take the Tamil contribution from Sinhalese , there will be no Sinhalese but just Pali and Sanskrit. This is not what I state but what many Sinhalese historians and scholars have stated. The Sinhalese people again are largely a mixture of many people , again the largest contribution to the present day genetic pool of the modern day Sinhalese is Tamil . Both local and Indian. This is why the Sinhalese share a 70% DNA with Tamils. The so called highly touted genetic NE Indian contribution is only 25%. everything about you Sinhalese reeks as Tamils, dress, food, culture, music, dance, festivals, gods worshipped , as most of you area converted Tamils. The native language or dialect of the island was not Sinhalese , that only originated after the most of the Tamil Yakka and some Naga and other tribes started to corrupt their Tamil dialect with Pali and Sanskrit after they converted to Buddhism. The native Naga living in the north and east did not convert or converted to Buddhism and reconverted back to Hinduism , so retained their ancient Tamil identity and in these areas Tamil has been the native language from prehistoric times and these areas have never been Sinhalese . Even your Mahavamsa comic book admits to this fact and describes these areas as Tamil lands. Tamil is also a native language and you Sinhalese only are ruling this island thanks to the British and foolish Tamil politicians who betrayed the Tamil people,. For your information the mother tongue of low country Scots , who make up the vast majority of Scots , is not Gaelic but Scottish , which is a form of English and this was the literary language of most Scottish poets. It is only in the highlands that Gaelic was and is still spoken.

    • 5

      niro – the language of the island is corruption….

    • 1

      One-language One Nation. That is Sinhala only, Sinhala Nation. What about the Religion? Buddhism only- Decendants from ???/?
      Where were you during 1500 to 1948?
      Habe you forgotten JVP Wijewwera?
      Zaharan was the best friend of Goatapaya?

  • 2

    There is no such thing called ‘Sri Lankan’ narrative and to construct one is to deny our own. Our experiences were not defined as Sri Lankan but as Tamil.
    Reconciliation may happen between two people with parity of status, not when one is forced to live under Sinhala military occupation.
    ONUR itself is chaired by a war criminal, CBK. What better to expect?

  • 1

    The only person who got really benefitted out of reconciliation is Choura Regina who managed to stack lot of $$$$$$$$$s enough for the rest of her life.

  • 6

    idiotic people like Niro to express idiotic views is excusable because it was and is the mistake made by the then and the present Tamil Politicians. They led down the Tamil people for their own self seeking benefits. It was from the day Sir P.A and Sir. P.R gave their nod for majority rule in Sri Lanka and followed by other Tamil politicians, the Tamils are in the current situation. It was Amirthalingam who encouraged armed struggle and we all know what happened? How could the present Tamil Trio politicians became so rich and making way for their kith and kin to represent the Tamils after having failed the Tamils.

    The unity the Sinhalese have when they betray the Tamils, the Tamil politicians do not have that unity to fight. Why? There won’t be any reconciliation but the Tamils have to serve under majority rule

  • 4

    How can any reconciliation succeed? The majority and the minorities are at each other’s throat, chocking & strangling. There is no TRUST among the communities. Unity only comes with visionary leadership within Sinhalese, Tamils and Moors, which has lacked in Sri Lanka for many decades. This has stagnated progress and current squabbling and cunning leadership does not bode well for future Sri Lanka.

    What are poor and underprivileged 40 % of the population going to do!!!!

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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