18 May, 2022


Strengthen Constructive Engagement By Faster Changes On The Ground 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The co-sponsoring of the Geneva resolution by the government and the support given to it by the TNA is a positive indication of the evolution of a spirit of partnership and joint problem-solving at the highest levels of national and international decision making that is necessary for promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. However, this goodwill needs to be seen in practical terms at the ground level too in which people become the direct and immediate beneficiaries. Most people appear prepared to give the new government a chance at this time. It is important that the people’s confidence in the process of transition is sustained. However, observations from the ground are that the majority of people are not aware of the significance of the resolution or the content of its recommendations. In the North there is frustration at the slow pace of change.

There are groups both in the North and South of the country that are trying to generate opposition to the UN resolution. A group of 71 Sinhalese university academics have issued a public statement expressing their opposition to the involvement of foreigners in the accountability process. In the North, on the other hand, there are Tamil groups that are angry that the resolution does not provide for the setting up of a fully international judicial mechanism. In Paris, Tamil Diaspora activists even went to the extent of violently attacking a meeting at which parliamentarians from the TNA were speaking. They accused the parliamentarians of betraying the Tamil people by agreeing to less than an international accountability mechanism. The TNA which won the overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats at the general elections has been taking a moderate approach in its relationship with the government.

The appointment of TNA leader R. Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament is one positive outcome of this process of constructive engagement with the government. The TNA has also shown seriousness in acknowledging the negative role they and others in the Tamil polity have played in the past in aggravating the conflict. it has said “We also accept and undertake to carry out our responsibility to lead the Tamil people in reflecting on the past, and use this moment as a moment of introspection into our own community’s failures and the unspeakable crimes committed in our name, so as to create an enabling culture and atmosphere in which we could live with dignity and self-respect, as equal citizens of Sri Lanka.” It has also called on the government to cooperate fully with the TNA and the international community in dealing with the past in a manner that will assuage the feelings of the victims of all communities.

Trust Deficit 

On the issue of the UN Human Rights Council resolution also the TNA has been playing a constructive role. The ideal position of the Tamil polity is an international accountability mechanism on account of the failure of previous domestic attempts to address human rights violations and bring the perpetrators to justice. On the opposite side is the view expressed by the 71 Sinhalese academics who oppose the international involvement. However the TNA has also said that it will support the outcome of the UN resolution which recommends a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism that has an international component in it. The TNA statement on the Geneva resolution said, “Nevertheless, the Resolution – if implemented – provides a genuine opportunity for real progress on accountability and reconciliation. We are grateful to the co-sponsors of the Resolution for engaging with the TNA throughout the process, and accommodating our concerns and views.”

Maithripala SampanthanThe main concern of the Tamil polity with regard to the proposed Sri Lankan judicial mechanism is that it will end up without delivering anything tangible either in terms of truth, justice, reparations or institutional reforms. There is a deep mistrust of Sinhalese-led governments due to past failures that needs to be bridged. Therefore it is important that the present government shows the Tamil people, in deeds and not only in words, that it is different from the past governments. The government has announced that it will set up the basic elements of the mechanism by January next year. But from a realistic perspective, the government cannot show its goodwill and trustworthiness by focusing only on the setting up the accountability mechanism as this is likely to take more time than anticipated.

The government’s intention to setup the accountability mechanism soon may not materialize for a number of reasons. One is the need to obtain consensus within the government itself. There needs to be coordination between the various institutions and power centres involved in its materialization, including the President’s office, the Prime Minister’s office, the Foreign Ministry, the office of National Unity and Reconciliation headed by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Ministry of National Dialogue, in addition to all the other government institutions that need to cooperate in implementation. It may be several more months before the mechanism becomes functional and begins to deliver results. In this interim period it is possible that opposition forces will gather in strength and discredit the process.

Rectify Injustices 

The setting up and implementation of the accountability mechanism is of primary importance to international human rights organizations and also local activists and civil society groups. Although the TNA seeks to work in partnership with the government, it has said it will “urge the government to implement the Resolution in a spirit of honesty and cooperation, in particular, the Council’s affirmation of the need for the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators and lawyers in a court enabled to try international crimes, through a Special Counsel for prosecutions.” But it is also important to bear in mind that the Tamil people on the ground have a wider interest. They want justice for past wrongs and non-recurrence of human rights violations through institutional reforms. They also want immediate changes in the ground situation that impact upon their lives.

A priority concern in the North, especially in Jaffna its capital, is the return of land taken over by the security forces for the purpose of establishing high security zones. These were established to prevent the LTTE from infiltrating and firing their long range artillery into military bases. But today the elimination of the LTTE and total destruction of their long range artillery means that there is no need for the high security zones. This land is now either growing wild or is being utilized for commercial purposes by the security forces, while the people who own the land are in camps for the displaced. The conditions in these camps are poor in general and become atrocious in times of rain and in some cases the people do not have access to basic amenities such as their own wells. There are about 30,000 internally displaced persons still living in Jaffna.

Another issue is the continued imprisonment of persons accused of being members or supporters of the LTTE. Recently one of them, a woman, was released by the High Court without charge after having been held in prison custody for 15 years. In court she complained she had been tortured and had marks to show it. The government did not have any evidence other than her confession taken by torturing her. These are the sores that rankle in the Tamil polity, and which were told to me when I visited Jaffna last week. Those who spoke to me said that the people had voted for the government in the expectation that it would take immediate steps to release their land and those kept in government custody. They had expected these changes to take place immediately after President Maithripala Sirisena was elected in January and the new government was formed. There is a sense of being let down by the slow pace of change that can become metamorphosed into a sense of betrayal by those who are in opposition to the TNA and do not believe in its constructive engagement with the government. The government needs support and understanding from the North when it deals with the pressures from the South.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Valid points made by Jehan Perera. Hope the government listens to people like him.

    • 1

      Yes. Thanks Jehan for consistently and dedicatedly raising relevant issues for justice and reconciliation. I wish to emphasize three areas.

      1. On the implementation of the UNHRC resolution, I think there should be a Secretariat or Coordinating Secretariat preferably under the PM.

      2. Given the campaign is already started against the UNHRC resolution and its implementation, there should be strong educational and campaign efforts to explain to the people both in the South and in the North (and more in the South) about the needs and benefits to the country of going through the accountability process for reconciliation, rule of law, peace and development. These could be both governmental and civil society. There were over 40 academics supported the resolution. There must be more. I daily come across some prominent people making interventions against the resolution. I hardly see similar efforts by the well-meaning others. The NPC also can make a major contribution here and perhaps could convene a meeting to launch joint and separate campaigns. Radio, TV, newspapers, press conferences and social media can be used. Why not seek support of CBK? No need to be confrontational. However, myths and concerns should be addressed. It should be recognized that some of the matters in the UNHRC resolution are complicated and new to the people and the country.

      3. I completely agree as Jehan has highlighted that there should be ground improvements to encourage Tamil youth, victims, affected families and the general public in the North towards reconciliation. (1) Addressing unemployment is important (2) Releasing of land should be expedited. (3) Detainees without charges should be immediately released (4) People with minor charges also should be released on good behavior and after rehabilitation. (5) More interactions should continue between the government and the TNA and other parties.

      • 0

        Dr Fernando and Jehan perrera are both right. We cant win the hearts adn minds of the people if we would not go to them. As it is the case with those suffering in Gaza or and other parts of the world, srilanken notherners need the help. Lanken leaders should engage more in the activities in those areas rather than going only to sinhala dominated areas. If an earth slip or the like is affected to other areas, should be equally treated- if similar incidents would have been the case in Northern or Eastern areas. People shold be given the feeling that the govt is there to help them. What blocks all these being done ? If the govt really want to do it ? Wimal and Gommanpila would go and crying but that people will interprete accordingly, and the media men should work impartial in today s environment – that is the other factor. Just to attack the current regime for any little thing could block everything at once, since the lanken folks in general are not normal – memory losers of high grade.
        That way only, you could give the feeling that the current govt means what they promised to the folks. It could be that southerners of UPFA radicals could stand on your way, but with the support of JVP todays situation can be managed well.

    • 0

      Let sinhala [Edited out] do their job, but the govt should only focus on more inter activities between northern and other folks. This is a long journy. But it is doeble with genuine hearts and minds. All the obstacles that could arise can be manageble if peace keeping folks would join hands to go against minority sinahal nationalist like Dayan jayathilaka, GOnmanpila, Buruwanse etc.

    • 0

      It is not easy to pass the view that we need them and they need us – but it is doeble with patience and systematic approach. Politicians if they are whole hearted – they should plan it properly asking media NOT to stand on their way – media is a most dangerous factor to paint any kind of happening in a subjective manner. So media factor should be discussed even more open.
      Dayan Jayathilaka is on once side, Malinda Seneviratne is also inthe same bang wagen – while senior penisless leftists would do anything to protect their perks all in all – the majoirity peace loving ones would WORK heart real values as it was the case in chasing Rajapakshe out of active politics to this date.

  • 4

    Most of what Jehan Perera has said is absolutely true. The government should be firm and resolute in tackling the problems of the affected people in the North and East without further delay.
    Sengodan. M

  • 0

    Colombotelegraph should start its own independent local radio channel of commercial, government, community media

  • 1

    Hi Jehan

    I am unable to gather from your article anything substantial when you say that the TNA has given support to the Sri Lankan Government for a domestic investigation which will bring Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights. I shall point out two main things that concerns the Tamil people at the moment. 1. The Tamil political prisoners imprisoned since 2009 and not charged, not released and suffering in the cells. Is this what you call Human Rights. If the president wants, these prisoners could be released tomorrow. What is the reason for them to be imprisoned for such a long time?. The government and the LTTE fought the war; many thousands raped and murdered, many thousands civilians perished. The prisoners are one party who fought the war and in it there may be innocent people as well.
    2. 125,000 army personnel are stationed in Vali North and forcibly occupying 10 villages along the costal areas. Around 30,000 Tamil people are homeless and living in camps and relatives homes and who were residents of those 10 villages earning their livlihood. why cannot the Army immediately release those private lands to the owners for them to resettle. Is it a ground for reconciliation and Human Rights for the government.

    Although you have admitted that this has to be rectified, the government is not willing. It is my understanding that the TNA leadership has succumbed to the Government leadership and thereby he achieved his position as Leader of the Opposition. Of course I would prefer all races in the Island live with equal status with happiness and prosperity. It is the politicians and the government who should lead the way without racial hatred and subjugation of the minorities.

  • 0

    King of white washing, Jehan Perera is stealing the crown of King od cut and Paste, Dayan De Silva.

    ““We also accept and undertake to carry out our responsibility to lead the Tamil people in reflecting on the past, and use this moment as a moment of introspection into our own community’s failures and the unspeakable crimes committed in our name, so as to create an enabling culture and atmosphere in which we could live with dignity and self-respect, as equal citizens of Sri Lanka.” “ Jehan Perera is very tightly holding the TNA’s words to demand out the performance for that. He is very conscious that TNA has accepted that Tamils too committed crime. The main part of the OISL’ report is talking about LTTE controlling Tamils. The specific incident they mentioned about the war crime of LTTE committed is Human shield usage. Hope our white washing king was not caught in the Vanni that time. Did he? So, for whom is this crocodile tears?

    The King in white washing has been telling Brother Prince had offered him to work with the NGOs, while he was selecting individuals to murder. The hooligans have not accepted one single murder they committed from 1948. Closer to a millions has been killed and missing and millions deported as refugees. Those who ate the free rice purchased selling blood of Tamils will have short memory of after killing 1983 what JR said. That is understandable. He has too much memory of What TNA said. For 65 years the nasty governments have been continuously miss-interpreting the laws to their advantage and have not implemented one single promise they gave out to Tamils or to the international government about Tamils. Now this white washing king is insisting that they can cheat on the co-signature of the resolution but TNA has to stick on to the word it gave out. Even today Dinesh Gunawardena has said that the government is hiding the truth to people (white washing only no educating them) and he will bring that to the people. He means the investigation is hybrid and Lankawe has agreed to implement the OISL’s recommendation. Jehan is not the one ever to interpret the resolution in that way.

    He is telling the crimes has been accepted by TNA and get the investigation hell out of the way. This is guy explained that the UNHRC resolution only about Internal Investigation and the implementation of it has reserved only to New Royals. He is pointing out there are “A group of 71 Sinhalese university academics” opposing the investigations. They are the Sinhala Intellectual trained in leadership and Brigadier title conveyed Heroes. The white washing king didn’t want to talk about some other academics invited Hybrid Investigation too.

    This half-baked communist is attempting to use the TNA’s good will to put America out of the door. Because it was the Tamils and they have now accepted it all! But Tamils still have a glimpse of hope. As Jehan said earlier, Appe Anduva has the monopoly of implementing the UNHRC resolution, the same way it got the 13A implementation from Rajiv. That is where IC and America bound to take their lesson. So, hopefully we could meet again the Sinhala Intellectual and their Sinhala supporting actresses at the Geneva Hotels on the 34th sitting too. It will not be as quickly over with the TNA’s acceptance as Jehan wish to have cheated with. And , soon a long open wall will stretch out and Jehan will be getting busier on white washing it.

  • 1

    I never miss any of the writings by Jehan Perera in these columns for the simple reason that they reflect real ethical journalism explicitly without vagueness or ambiguity. This kind of journalism is very important to impart informative and educative knowledge to the masses with the sole aim of leading the country to prosperity preventing it from treading on a ruinous path.

  • 0

    The world was being told that there were no longer any Tamil political prisoners of war. What is the truth? Bensen

    • 1

      If all of them were done to death, the statement is true.

  • 0

    Army stationed permanently in the North. There were two upraising in the South. But there was only one in the North. The explanation not to station in the South but in the North is LTTE will come back. The Most peaceful place in the Island the North. Northern police units, Many times until the war broke out, consecutively won the best price in the Island. Then why the lawmakers thinking LTTE will come back? The answer is, it is for the same reason why it originally comes out. That is seeking relief from oppression. That is fighting and taking that pain is more relaxing than the never ending oppression! Why the JVP will not come back? They believe JVP will not come back. They have fixed it by Standardization, Sinhala only to work, all the developments only to South, Tsunami money, War rehabilitation, Chinese developments money, Airport, Harbor, stadium. In fact from Kalloya project to Mahavaliganga projects even up to the Mavilaru project where Tamils were denied UN’s drinking water project. 65 years only South was taken care to make sure no more third JVP uprising.

    This is not what happened in the North. The law makers do not see any change in the near feature to the condition of oppression. They do not expect any change to take place in the minds of Tamil. They will not remove army. Period. Jehan is best crooked journalist to whitewash this condition. He does not have shame like Dayan. But Dayan is not in. That is why Jehan appointed as new Allucose of Tamils. That is why he is not out there with the rope.

    Opposition leadership is one Sampanthar stretched out his beggar bawl got from the Appe Anduwa and got it as an alms in his begging bawl. It did not for the as constitutional due for the second leading party in the election after government. It was not given to Tamil as they legally, constitutionally got it. Further it was not given as a turn in the course of the government from oppressing the Tamil and denying them their dues. At the top of it is certainly not as a friendship and cordial jester from the government as the King of whitewash trying to portray. Utter dishonest action from Jehan!

    If the constitutional change going to take place by government, is the opposition is the best palace for the Tamils to receive it? Come on Jehan! Don’t fool the people already have the great name as Modayas. Tell them the simple truth. The National government was formed only save the war criminals. EP and EP (Executive President and the Executive Prime Minister) were formed to eliminate the Tamils influence in the election, like the one took place in the January 8th election. After all, can Jehan give me list what the TNA going to do with the greatest gift, Opposition leadership, given by the Appe Anduva ?

    Please tick the one you thinks right.
    1.TNA going to remove the army from North.
    2.TNA going to Implement minimum of the 13A.
    3.TNA going to stop PTA.
    4.TNA going to rehabilitate the war torn livings.
    5.TNA going to release the innocents herded in the prisons.
    6.TNA going to find funds to run NPC.

    Tactfully isolated TNA from being a real nuisance during the debate. Now if TNA says anything from the opposition chairs the answer is “Aren’t they the opposition party?; Aren’t they oppose the government action?; What is the big deal on this? “
    Real Horas!

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