20 June, 2024


Reconciliation ‘Muddled’

By Chamindry Saparamadu

Chamindry Saparamadu

Of the ‘Yahapalana’ pledges, the one least fulfilled, in my view, is its rhetoric in achieving national reconciliation. Four and half years into government, we witness increasing polarization of ethnic and religious communities in a deeply fragmented society. Needless to say that the recent terror attacks by Islamic extremists, although coming within a network of a global phenomenon, have caused  considerable strain on relations between Muslim and other communities locally making national reconciliation an even more challenging aim to be achieved. These have resulted in aggravating fear and mistrust between communities leading to further polarization. However, it would seem that the tensions that were prone to manipulation and ignition were omnipresent in our society, even prior to the recent terror attacks, as was evident from the Digana riots that we experienced early last year. In understanding the failures to achieve reconciliation, or even part of it, in the backdrop of Yahapalana rhetoric, I would first reflect on the way in which reconciliation was understood and approached in the Yahapalana programme as a precursor to the failures that followed. 

Conceptualizing ‘Reconciliation; under the ‘Yapahalana’ Programme

Reconciliation was a hyped up theme that underpinned the Yahapalana discourse. However integral the theme was to Yahapalana discourse, the theme received relatively less significance in the Yahapalana design as the political discourse was not concretized in to an operationalizable  programme of action in the Yahapalana manifesto as was evident from the 100 days programme or the document titled ‘A Manifesto: a Compassionate Maitri Governance: a Stable Country’.  

I could imagine two explanations for the omission to define as well as lay out objectives, a design and a programme of action relating to reconciliation The first being, the presence of divergent views among the Yahapalana stakeholders and the inability to reach a common position with regard to a conceptual understanding or design on Reconciliation The views and approaches to reconciliation varied along polar extremes from land releases to demilitarization and war crimes investigation to state reforms. For example, the approach to state reforms between two main stakeholders in the Yahapalana programme, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) significantly varied. It is no secret that the TNA has consistently lobbied for a federal state structure while the JHU has been firm with regard to preserving the unitary structure of the Sri Lankan State while agreeing to make limited concessions. 

The second explanation is as a deliberate political / electoral strategy to keep things vague in order to reach out to minority communities, particularly the Tamil political forces, whilst also appeasing the Sinhala constituency. It seems therefore, prudent to have avoided dealing with the contestations surrounding the term. The Yahapalanaya movement succeeded in converging diverse groups into a single platform of abolishing the executive presidency, although contestations existed on secondary matters. Needless to say that implicit in the objective of abolishing the executive presidency was the desire to prevent a return of Mahinda Rajapakse. Then there was the issue of the ideological leanings and commitment of the common presidential candidate to the core objectives of the Yahapalana programme, whose selection was solely based on the need to defeat the incumbent. The movement, therefore, became a populist movement when it got enmeshed in electoral realities. Years later, various statements made by the same common candidate, make one wonder if there was ever a commitment to the objectives of the Yahapalana programme. 

The term was therefore conceptualized vaguely and loosely and no effort was taken to harmonize the diverse views. The movement as such was imbued with internal contradictions from the outset. I argue that this omission in conceptualization and design created a void leaving for interpretation particularly those externally imported and allowing the national narrative and agenda relating to reconciliation to be defined along those lines. I believe this set the stage for the confusion that ensued at the implementation stage. 

The Geneva Solution 

Reconciliation is an empty signifier – it is a term that can be variously interpreted and signified. It is a term that is new to the Sri Lankan context and as such needed definition and interpretation. In the Yahaapalana programme, the theme itself lacked conceptual clarity from the outset. The absence of a fermented national definition, focus and an operationalizable programme of action, created a void which led to reconciliation to be conceptualized predominantly through an institutional framework that came along with the Resolution 30/1 adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2015. 

The framework proposed institutions to be designed along the four pillars of truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence. The institutions along the four pillars were developed by a Working Group which was tasked to conceptualize the four mechanisms the government undertook to set up under the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 that is to set up the Office of Missing Persons, the Office of Reparations, Truth and Reconciliation Mechanisms and the Accountability mechanisms. While the capacity and integrity of the members of the Working Group is not in the least being questioned, concerns have been on whether the Working Group was an exclusive group with similar ideological leanings and did not represent the broader Sri Lankan society and its diverse and complex facets. 

The reconciliation discourse and the agenda being shaped along the lines of this framework led critics to say that alternative approaches outside the given framework were not considered and that the idea generation was in the hands of few stakeholders engaged with the Geneva processes as well as the technical groups that stemmed from similar political and ideological backgrounds. Some of the main concerns have been on the limiting nature of such framework, its suitability to local context as well as sustainability, and whether it is sufficiently representative of the domestic context to define a national narrative and agenda. Critics have alleged that the conceptualization has been on fixed conceptions and views devoid of a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Sri Lanka’s history and culture and that there were also no linkages or continuity from the previous processes, particularly the Lessons Leant and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) process. 

The consultation processes that preceded such conceptualization were said to be outcome oriented having predetermined outcome preferences and were conducted on a given framework and by implication limited to and by such framework. Discussions based on frameworks have a tendency to steer and fashion discussions towards an expected outcome. In addition, many eye brows were raised regarding the manner in which the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) Act was passed in Parliament. The OMP was established with the objective of ‘tracing the missing and disappeared and to inform the relatives of those persons, the circumstances of the disappearances and the fate of their loved ones.” There are concerns that while the establishment of such a body to address the grievances of the families of the disappeared was meant to be an outcome of the nationally mandated consultation process on reconciliation mechanisms (the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF)), the legislation relating to setting up of the OMP was presented and passed by Parliament prior to the conclusion of the CTF process. The process leading to the establishment of the OMP therefore raises serious doubts as to whether it was based on local demands or on a preconceived idea imposed by few and legitimized by local consultations

The present section of the article looked at the reconciliation process vis-à-vis the   Yahapalana movement as an entry point to understanding the confusion that followed during the implementation stage. The second part of the article to be published next week would look at how the reconciliation agenda unfolded through the multiple institutions crated to achieve national reconciliation.  

To be continued..

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Latest comments

  • 1

    You mean “On your way home” (“gedera yana gaman”). This lady must be appointed to look after the environs of Parliament. Sarath Silva must be appointed to oversee her work. Then there will be reconciliation.

  • 14

    The ethnic/religious problems are caused by the Buddhist Bhikkus as they did in the time of Dudagemunu. They are the trouble makers all the time but they were kept at bay during 450 years of colonial rule.

    After independence eery Sinhalese-lead government is under the direct influence of these racist/fundamentalist Buddhist Bhikkus. The majority Sinhalese Buddhist populations revere these guys and sway their votes toward the most racist Sinhalese politicians.

    So long as the Sinhalese leaders bow down to these ignorant racist monks no peace or reconciliation is possible in Sri Lanka:

    Sri Lanka will move from Sinhalese terrorist riots against the minorities, terrorism of all sorts including Sinhalese state terrorism, and civil wars.

    In the meantime foreign powers will exploit the divided communities in the island.

    In other words, free for all and it will become killing fields of Sri Lanka where the Mahnayakes and the Bhikkus play the tune.

    • 2

      The root cause of the ethnic problem is not Bhukkus, but racist fascist bigot Chelvanayakam.
      Chelvanayagam who was born in Malaya whose grandparents are from the Malabar coast entered Sinhale illegally and entered politics. For his political survival, he used racism and said that Tamils have an “Exclusive Homeland” in the North and East forgetting the fact that a large majority of Demalu in the North and East are the descendants of slaves brought from Malabar by Portuguese and Dutch. He started a project to distort the history of Sinhale to brainwash Demala people and depicted that Sinhalayo are the arch enemy of Demala people. Racist Wellala Demala politicians still carry on with that racist mentality. As long as racist Wellala politicians are there, there won’t be reconciliation.

      “They are the trouble makers all the time but they were kept at bay during 450 years of colonial rule.”
      They were trouble makers to colonial parasites. From 1505 to 1948, Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial rulers massacred Sinhalayo and tried to destroy Buddhism to promote Christianity. Sinhalayo fought back. Monks also played a role. As a consequence, several monks had to face the firing squad of British bastards. While Sinhalayo were fighting against British, ‘Para Demalu’ and ‘Para Muslims’ took the side of British and massacred Sinhalayo. and now want reconciliation.

  • 11

    What happened post Easter, riots against Muslims, anti Muslim campaigns, current activities of BBS , causing more hatred and violence by targeting Tamil religious sites , statements made by Ganasara and Rathna , does these help with reconciliation????. Did MS in anyway help with reconciliation as president,. Why did MS get Ganasara released in a hurry. Did Rajapaksas do anything constructive to help with reconciliation ???? did any of the past leaders to do anything constructive?? LLRC was just a SHAM and a eye wash to satisfy international pressure. Some retired geriatric members sat on sessions and produced a report, for MR to show in highly publicized ceremony where diplomats were invited and photos were taken , to let the world know. What did Rajapaksa do with their LLRC report. did they follow through ???The truth is Lanka never had a genuine committed leader who wanted reconciliation. They wanted more violence and hatred for their own political gains . SWRD, JR and MR has admitted to this in public. This is like Trump asking for reconciliation after telling congress women to go back to their country ?? When will Lankans come out of denial or stop giving bull shit excuses.

  • 5

    I take this as, you were born post Yahalpana and was not existing prior to that. Then why you need a part 2 ???? I suggest CT giving the age of the writers so that we know what we are reading here. This poor lady seems unaware (or is she pretending ???) of Lankan BS, prior to Yahalpana. Chamindry , it is bull shit all the way , not just with Yahalpana. Starting from independence Senanayakas, Bandas, JR/RW and Rajapaksas (mother of all) have all worked hard in not having any reconciliation but more hatred, division, paranoia and violence. If you think otherwise, give us your reasons , in part 2 of yours. If not you are wasting your time. “fool us once shame on you, fool us twice shame on us “

  • 5

    Is your thinking muddled??? RECONCILIATION the word it self is foreign to Lankans, because we have only heard it, but never felt it. If we had we will not be going to Geneva and South Africa to learn about it. There was no reconciliation in past, none at present , never in future. Period.

  • 2

    Sri Lanka is a country where majority Native Sinhalayo have to work according to the whims and fancies of minorities, Demalu and Muslims. For example:
    • When Sinhala which has been the official language until British changed it to English was made the official language after colonial rule ended, Demalu demanded Demala language also should be recognized as an official language. Majority agreed.
    • When the Government introduced the Sinhala letter ‘Sree’ to car number plates, Demalu opposed. So ‘Sree’ was removed and letters of ‘Para Sudda’ were introduced. Demalu had no problem with the letters of ‘Para Sudda’. What an unpatriotic bunch.
    • When Demalu said they want to sing the National Anthem in Demala, Sinhalayo agreed.
    • When Demalu said they want to keep ‘Thesawalamei’ which is a Malabari customary law brought to this country by slaves, Sinhalayo agreed.
    • When Muslims said they want Shariah Law, Sinhalayo agreed.
    • When Muslims said they want ‘Madrasas’, Sinhalayo agreed.
    • When the President said 19th Amendment should be scrapped, TNA and Muslim Congress politicians say they want it and Sinhalayo will allow them to keep it.
    • When TNA said they want a Federal Constitution, despite objections from majority Native Sinhalayo, dumbos in this Government agreed to that demand.
    • When Vigneshwaran said ‘NO SINHALESE IN THE NORTH’, the Government agreed to that and did not help the Sinhalayo who were expelled by LTTE from Yapanaya.
    • When TNA told to reduce Army in the North, the Government did that.
    • When TNA said not to teach history in schools, the Government agreed.
    • When TNA told to remove the name of King Gamini Abhaya aka Dutu Gemunu from history books, the Government did.
    • To please minorities, the National Flag of Sinhale was changed.

  • 2

    You need two hands to clap.

    Ranil/Mangala strategy at UNHRC to appease the minority only widened the gap.That is as far as Hindu/Christian Tamils are concerned.
    There is no cure for Islamophobia(fear of Islam).


  • 0

    Sri Lanka is the only country in which both the Politicians and the media that talk double talk. They talk about reconciliation. Yet they say Sri lankans form one side, from another side they talk about different ethnic groups and religious groups separately. On the other hand, Sinhala people, particularly the Sinhala buddhsits are not allowed to be assertive in their own land.
    Since 1505, when European Colonials took over the control of the Island, Buddhism was destroyed. It looks around, 1940-1945, USA had taken over that control. Since 1978, when the Neo-liberal politicians became the country’s leaders, the destruction of the country social structure is being simply destroyed and that continues.
    IF you read about Asia, This is happening all over the Asia, predominantly in Theravada buddhsit countries. There is something similar is happening in Islamic countries and predominantly in oil rich Arab countries. They have been destroyed with the introduction of Wahhabism (Salafism). Those Wahhabi groups are destroying muslims as well as non-muslims. But, handler countries are behind them.
    Western commercial culture is extremely corrupt and is political. It is simply dig eats dog culture. Sri lanka has embraced that culture and the Sinhala parliamentarians who are the majority has destroyed everything. Even the next election will be about electing which of these scum bags as the prominent politicians and ministers.
    They are stupid, they do not know about how education, job creation and development are interrelated. Instead they try to their best in the most destructive way.

  • 3

    The international community is sad that Sri Lankan politicians are still ignorant of the true meaning of Federalism. The JHU is thriving itself my misleading the people that Federalism is separation when Federalism is the form of government which will strengthen the unity of Sri Lanka. The politicians always show their clumsy handling of the affairs. Moreover, when Maithripala Srisena & Ranil Wickremasinghe took over the government they promised good governance. While the people were expecting good governance, the Muslims were gradually achieving their hidden agenda by misleading the Sinhala political leaders. Islam is a religion that will not compromise with other faiths. Meanwhile Mahinda Rajapakse with the plundered wealth had tried many gimmicks to mislead Maithripala Srisena to capture power again and has shown his unpatriotic meathods. Confident building measure was a vital element in rehabilitation. But it was revenge that was taking place in place of reconciliation. The religious leaders failed to show any signs of reconciliation and Wahabbism was rearing its ugly head throughout the world and Sri Lanka was no exception. Having been aware of the presence of ISIS in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese politicians ignored it and what was most surprising the Sinhalese political leaders went to the extent of saving some notorious Muslim politicians. In addition, the President went on to pardon Gnanasara Thero and released him from jail and the entire Nation witnessed how Maithripala Srisena had deviated the attention of the public when in fact, such release took an ugly turn. Whatever said or done. Mangala Samaraweera and Karu Jayasuriya demonstrated their Statesmanship which is vital at this crucial hour. President should realize that the IGP should be given a free hand in tackling the Islamic problem. There should be no interference for the Police, the religious dignitaries, the academics and the professionals to form an association and thrash out unwanted problems with swift handling.

  • 0

    Reconciliation , I mean Dr Ranil’s Version is dead as a Dodo for sure..

    If Medumulana Mama wasn’t rolled, even most of our Dalits would have been on or close to that USD 3000 GDP per Capita , if one extrapolates the minimum 6 % plus growth which Lankawe enjoyed after Nanthikadal

    Most importantly those 300 Innocent Catholic Lives wouldn’t have been lost .
    And the 500 maimed would have been enjoying that GDP per Capita as well.
    That is all History now.

    Dr Ranil’s Reconciliation was, letting the Mates rob the CB first. obviously to shore up the UNP finances and prepare a War Chest.

    Buy the Votes in Kotte even at a colossal sum of LkR 150 Million min to Each , to give a fully Independent Homeland in the North for the Vellala Party TNA to Rule…

    Muslims seeing the Opportunities, got on the Gravy Train and did very well at what they always do . That is make Money ,
    And they did all right with Muslim Ministers and their Families becoming serious Landlords in the East. wiping out any chances for the Vellala Party TNA getting hold of Batticolao.
    And now backing Dr Ranil after the Muslim Terrorists destroyed the Catholic Community and their Holy Places.

    Besides Dr Ranil’s other agenda was to destroy any influence of the Sinhala Buddhist after the 30 Year Tamil Terrorism.

    Dr Ranil’s hidden plan was to finish off the Sinhala Buddhist influence through his New Constitution .
    It was visible like a Dog’s Balls although our inhabitants took a while to realize it.
    Dr Ranil sending his hand picked Police Chief and his new UNP inspired Investigative units to harass the previous Leaders who eliminated Tamil Terrorism . and harassing and jailing the Buddhist Clergy who helped the previous Regime made the Majority wake up.

  • 2

    It is not only the reconciliation is muddled. The whole land is muddled in putrid politics and religious fanatics. No one in the current Political arena is either capable or have the passion to solve the current dilemma. The country is destined to be a Failed State and a “pariah” in the eyes of International Communities. Even Burkina Faso, a land locked West African country is going beat Sri Lanka, in better economy index and political stability. Sri Lanka is a country is full of myths and erroneous history. One cannot live in lies in twenty first century. All Sri Lankan must hang their head in shame.

  • 0

    The ‘Reconciliation’ that Chamindry Saparamadu and we layLankans have in mind may appear to be ‘Muddled’. But is it? Looks like the muddles have been designed and engineered by business interests.
    The language-divide was created to edge out businesses owned by Tamil minority. Few pogroms and a civil war later one half of the minorities, Lankan Muslims, remained. The advent of the language/religion-divide was inevitable.
    The pogroms against Lankan Muslims had a surprise in store – the ‘tragedy’ that was 2018 Lankan Easter Sunday. At the sametime the business mafia wanted to establish the territorial boundary.
    Gnanasara Thera outmanuered all. His tool is BBS_Buddhism.
    Founded and led by Gnanasara, BBS-Buddhism, encourages violence. Lankan political leaders have portrayed Gnanasara as an Angel.
    Gnanasara is laughing all the way to the bank.

    • 1

      K Pillai

      I am old enough to remember a time when we all lived peaceful lives, celebrated things we had in common, and tolerated the differences and shortcomings of our neighbours. Then came independence and following that the urge to take power. Our devious politicians hit of the strategies to capture the Bauddha-Sinhala voter. ‘Sinhala only’ and ‘ape-aanduwa’ became fashionable. The wedge between the Sinhalese and the rest was driven into place. Ever since then, extreme elements, controlled by political puppet masters, have worked to an agenda to grind down the minorities. They will not rest until they exterminate or totally subjugate anyone who is not Sinhalese AND Buddhist.

      Some puppet masters may portray Gandasara and his evil coterie as angels; rubbish! They are devious devils with heads full of shit who will make ALL our lives a misery for years to come. AND, you know what? in this sad situation it is the majority who will suffer the most.

  • 1

    First explain to the idiots the meaning of reconciliation. While have ethnic based rules and regulations and justice and what bloody reconciliation they are talking of. Before reconciliation treat the guys for their morbid fear, complex, phobia, paranoia, uncertainty, hallucination, and then let us think about reconciliation. The Monks are breaking hindu kovils and building pansalas over them and no law to stop them, no government to stop them and no one to protest about that and the jokers are talking of reconciliation. Just forget it. Let us just carry on on violence, suspicion, hatred, destruction, accusations and so on for ever until all the able fellows will run out of the country while the sediments including the mad rabid monks will be left behind and lead a primitive life of incest, bestiality, patricide, matricide, wantonness, betrayal and many more. Let them also dance in their amudey that they are the original modayas.

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