24 May, 2022


South African Initiative Is Opportunity For Govt. To Restore Its Credibility

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the international community with the quantum of evidence required to ban the 16 Tamil Diaspora groups and 424 individuals it listed under a UN anti terrorism resolution has led to both the United States and Canada refusing to ban them.   The government spokesperson on the issue had stated that it banned them all following extensive investigations in which 65 arrests had been made.  But the government also weakened its case by stating that the compelling evidence it had found could only be provided after the investigations had been completed.   It would have been more appropriate to list the organizations and persons it suspected, but only ban them after getting more solid information.   The reluctance that the government has shown in convincing the international community about the threat posed to the country’s national security by those Diaspora groups and individuals it has banned will only serve to further undermine its credibility.

The government is also releasing some of those it had arrested in the recent past alleging threats to national security.  The first two who were released were well known human rights defenders, Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan, whose arrests led to protests by international and local human rights organizations who had a personal knowledge of them and their work.  These two human rights defenders were fortunate as they had many in the human rights field who were prepared to vouch for their commitment to non-violence.  However, in the case of many of the others who have been arrested, and for whose human rights they have worked, there have been no similar interventions on their behalf.  Both Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen Mahesan were personally known to many of those who lobbied on their behalf whereas those others who have been arrested in the North on similar charges have no such personal relations with more influential persons.

The fact that the lesser known persons who were arrested in the anti-LTTE crackdown are now being released, even though after several weeks of incarceration and interrogation, is to be welcomed.  It shows that there is a sense of justice within the security establishment that does not wish to see innocent persons being kept in detention just to make a political point.   However, the problem with these arrests is that there is little or no judicial supervision or review over their arrests and subsequent detentions.  It looks like the security forces have the discretion to arrest and detain, and the discretion to release them after interrogation, while the judiciary is like a passive postbox for whatever comes in and goes out.  It very much appears that there is no check and balance where it comes to arrests and detentions in regard to national security especially in the North and East.  The credibility of the government suffers as a result in comparison with international standards.

Sharing Experiences

It is not surprising that in these circumstances, the government’s credibility is at a low ebb, internationally and locally.  This is both with regard to its confrontation with the Tamil Diaspora and its strategy to contain the revival of the LTTE.  What can be seen is the government engaging in a number of activities, but not in a coherent manner that would take it to conflict resolution.  It is implementing sections of the National Human Rights Action Plan and of the LLRC Action Plan.  It has launched a National Unity Charter at a Convention by the same name organized by the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration.  It has released those persons arrested on unsustainable charges of having aided and abetted the LTTE.  But what it is doing is disjointed and not of one piece.

As a result, five years after the end of the war, Sri Lanka remains a post-war society that has yet to make the transition to a post-conflict society.  The political resolution of the conflict is difficult due to the ethnic and identity-based nature of the conflict which generates extreme insecurities on all sides.  While the violence has ceased, the political roots of the conflict that gave rise to war remain to be addressed.  There continues to be extreme political polarization between the government and the opposition, including the ethnic minority parties.   Most noticeable is the absence of political dialogue between the government and the opposition, particularly the TNA, regarding a political solution that would address the roots of the ethnic conflict.   However, there now appears to be signs of a change.

It seems increasingly likely that South Africa will be playing the key role in facilitating Sri Lanka’s transition from war to post-war healing and a political solution.  South African President Jacob Zuma told the South African Parliament in February this year that at the request of the Sri Lanka Government he was appointing Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s Special Envoy to bring about peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.  The special envoy is expected to visit Sri Lanka in June this year.  It is clear that the South African government is taking its peace building role very seriously.  The role that South Africa will be playing in Sri Lanka was explained to all levels of the ruling party at the ANC’s annual convention last month.

In his first public comments on his role, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, also Deputy President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said , “We are truly honoured to be chosen amongst many countries to go and make this type of contribution to the people of Sri Lanka,” he said. “We have a wonderful story to tell, and it is this wonderful story that the Sri Lankans see.”  He also said, “As South Africans we do not impose any solution on anyone around the world.  All we ever do is to share our own experience and tell them how, through negotiation, through compromise, through giving and taking, we were able to defeat the monster of Apartheid.”  He added, “We think we can share those experiences, and of course in the end, it is up to the people of Sri Lanka to find their own peace.”

Government’s Opportunity

The anticipated South African facilitation effort offers the Sri Lankan government an opportunity to restore its credibility and come up with an integrated plan for conflict resolution.  The South African side has always taken the position that they were invited by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but now that they have accepted the offer, they appear to be taking it most seriously.  This can only be to Sri Lanka’s benefit, as South Africa is a country that has credibility with both the Western and Non-Western sections of the international community.  From what the South Africans have been saying, whether it is Special Envoy Ramaphosa or High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Geoff Doidge, they want the Sri Lankan parties to be the decision makers and to be the owners of the process of national conflict resolution.

South Africa is a society that takes consultation and dialogue very seriously.  Its own peace process and post-apartheid political process has been marked by a determination to obtain the consensus of as many parties as possible.  The South African approach to governance is to make all systems of democracy work, with separation of powers, checks and balances and rule of law given priority. Speaking on the occasion of South African National Day last week, High Commissioner Doidge said that the South African government is presently getting the consensus within its own polity prior to entering Sri Lanka as a facilitator. President Zuma recently explained his country’s support to Sri Lanka at the annual convention of the ANC, where national and local members of the ruling party were present.  In addition, it has been engaging in dialogue with the Sri Lankan government and TNA which are essential to any process of reconciliation within Sri Lanka.

The evident interest of the Sri Lankan government to pursue South African assistance in these circumstances is significant.  It suggests that the government is serious about a political reform process that leads to conflict transformation.    It is important therefore that the Sri Lankan government concurrently takes immediate measures to improve the situation on the ground, so that its decision to invite South African facilitation is not seen as merely a hard headed decision to ward off the international community in Geneva.  Changing the fear psychosis in the North of the country, where over 65 were arrested in recent weeks and the targeting of the Muslim community by extremist groups who act with impunity would set the stage for the restoration of the government’s credibility.   The South African intervention must be seen as a process during which the government will get all systems of governance going, which is the best way to restore credibility.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Jehan, please stop writing nonsense. The legal system and security laws are raped by the Meeharaka President, so that he, his siblings, his children and his larger family can continue to loot the wealth of the ordinary folks of the country. South African what?

    • 3


      You are absolutely correct,

      JP is singing for his supper provided by the NGOs!

  • 0

    Does not the UNHRC Resolution quoted below:
    “To undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders;
    -restrain a TRC from being operative in Sri Lankan case? Can some one enlighten me since I am neither a lawyer nor a diplomat?
    Of course a TRC can be there if the GOSL is going to tell the UNHRC to fly a kite!!!!

  • 1

    Jehan, solution has already been provided which was WAR and it was gleefully accepted by tamil terrorists. our brave forces provided them with free transportation to hell.

    therefore, no more solutions….please…

    mind your own business with NGO vultures

    • 1

      ela kolla,

      Can you confirm that 150,000 Tamils were transported by your brave forces to hell?

      If so we’ll accept your solution!

      • 1

        150,000 or 1.5 million…i don’t care about the number as long as all of those tamil terrorists were safely transported to hell…but seems like there are few still lurking around without taking the free transport

        • 0

          Still make ready your transportation bill. It needs not to be free. There is price for everything. UNHRC is coming to check your accountability. They have their checks and balances too.

  • 1

    The present judiciary is not merely a passive post box. It is something worse. It always looks up to the likes of Gota for a nod before announcing a decision or taking action!

    If the GoSL is so genuine about reconciliation,should it look for any initiative from somewhere overseas? Cannot it do it of its own? It is purely a matter of sincerity and having a political WILL to find a genuine, lasting solution!

    Sengodan. M

  • 3

    South African mediation or any other mediation will work only if the government is genuine in reconciliation. The Govt had enough opportunities but their motive was different and their priorities are one family, not people or nation. The Sinhalese people are kept under dark about reality and Sinhala Buddhist extremism have the power to keep the people under darkness.

  • 0

    Sri Lanka’s neighbor India nurtured terrorism on their soil
    first and exported it to Sri Lanka. They could not tame the
    monster they created. So their peace efforts failed.

    UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe brought in the Norwegians and
    allowed them to play without checks and balances. The LTTE
    explioted it to the hilt. That is how they were able to fight
    Eelam War IV with the Rajapaksa administration.

    Now comes South Africa. It is no secret that their High
    Commissioner Geoffrey Doidge was a corrupt Minister in the Zuma
    Government. Do a Google search and you will learn more about
    him. He made $ 26 million and was sacked by President Zuma. He
    still kept him since Doidge was the Public Works Minister from
    2008 to 2010. Zuma is corrupt too.

    Then he sent Doidge as South African High Commissioner to Sri
    Lanka. It is a corrupt man who is going to handle the peace
    process now. There are clear parallels between Zuma, Doige and
    the Rajapaksas. They will have to watch out. Otherwise there will
    be turmoil not peace.

  • 1

    Jehan Perera does not understand that he is a clown here.

  • 0

    Jim Softy, please remember Jehan Perera is not a clown
    though he looks one in every respect. He gets foreign

    He masquerades as writer to show his grand daddy’s who
    pay him that he is cable of moulding opinion.

    On the other matter Jayantha Ramanayake is correct.
    See the sunday times newspaper last week. Doidge has
    lied that he kept envoys in Sri Lanka briefed on
    peace process. Why did he do that?

    The reason – Rajapaksa and company are using Doidge for
    secret talks. They have warned him not to speak out. They
    think they can work a deal whilst playing the chauvinist

  • 0

    You are spot on Wasantha Ramanayake. Geoff Doidge was
    involved in what is known notoriously in South Africa
    as the Nkandala scandal. As Public Works Minister he
    also helped Zuma. That is why he was given a HC post
    though he was removed from being Minister. A lady
    Minister who succeeded Geoff Doidge went public with
    what the latter has done. Now a deal is seemingly
    being worked by Doidge to get over UN resolution.

  • 0

    Jehan, please write sensibly. How dare you can you compare the world renowned and highly recognized Nelson Mandela and his rule with an alleged war criminal Mahinda Rajapakse and his criminal regime?

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