25 July, 2024


Strengthening The Reconciliation Process In Sri Lanka

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

I am pleased to have been asked to speak today on Reconciliation, at the meeting to mark International Women’s Day, because it is clear that women have a great role to play with regard to Reconciliation. Most important perhaps, in today’s context, is the need to act as advocates for coherent policies and actions with regard to reconciliation. I must admit to being deeply disappointed that this government, which we welcomed with such hopes, has put reconciliation on the back burner. It cannot assume that healing will come just because of goodwill, just as it cannot assume that prosperity will come to all of us through economic growth. We need concerted action, and that action must be based on carefully prepared plans.

One of the problems though with this government is that it is led by people who avoided the responsibilities of the political offices they held in the last few years. So we have no understanding of good government, because there was no effort to engage, and for instance promote efforts to strengthen Parliament against the encroaching executive. At Consultative Committee meetings with regard for instance to Resettlement, or Public Administration Reforms, members of the Opposition did not turn up, and they did not raise issues that continue to affect those who suffered in the conflict. And now they make platitudinous pronouncements about pursuing reconciliation, but have not set up a dedicated mechanism. They have ignored the work done by the LLRC Action Plan Task Force, they have ignored the draft National Policy on Reconciliation, which can easily be adopted, with amendments if needed. They seem, with no knowledge of mechanics, determined to reinvent the wheel, and are meanwhile content to trundle along on skateboards. Though the recent appointment of a Task Force on Reconciliation is welcome, it would have been better had this occurred as the government was elected, so that work could have commenced aat once.

I have sent the head of the Task Force a copy of the draft policy, because, prepared as it was with inputs from the more civilized elements in all political parties, as well as constructive members of Civil Society, it has a lot of suggestions that could easily be taken forward. The last government unfortunately did not want to act because, like ostriches with their heads in the sand, they wanted to claim that there was no problem.

Maithripala Hindu TamilIn the Policy we identified three areas for action. Women are particularly important in all three of them, and I will make some suggestions briefly as to all three, and hope that ways of moving forward will emerge in discussion.

The first is Recovery and Equitable Development. Though we poured in cement on the grounds that that would lead to development, we did not take steps to ensure that the people of the area could take advantages of the opportunities that we hoped were being created. Training programmes are minimal in the North, and what is worse is that government is not even aware of this. I complained for ages that nothing was being done about Vocational Training, and finally last year a new and comparatively decent Secretary arranged a meeting where the 101 agencies under his Ministry were to tell me what they were doing. It turned out that lots of work was being done on paper, and they were not aware, having never been to the area, that some centres were closed, others had hardly any students, and the massive training centre built at Mullaitivu was offering very few courses to very few students.

Moving forward though would be so easy, as I found at the five training centres I have set up with my decentralized budget in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. But this should be done through a needs assessment, and then there should be training programmes to develop teachers in the subject areas the people want.

In addition there should be micro-credit schemes. Unfortunately there has been no policy of targeting women specially. In one Division I found that credit was no longer available, because none of the loans had been repaid. They had all been given to men. Last week, when the Resettlement Authority came before the Committee on Public Enterprises – with no one from government present apart from myself, and indeed no one from the opposition either for an hour or so – it turned out that they did not have statistics on a gender basis as to the loans they had initiated.

The second area we dealt with was that of Political Participation and Administrative Accountability. Apart from the obvious need to encourage more women to participate in politics, we should also develop community consultation structures where women can play a role, and begin to realize their full potential as socio-political influences. Certainly, at the Reconciliation meetings I held in Divisional Secretariats in the North and East, women contributed significantly, and had a more practical approach to their problems.

In this regard I hope we can entrench the consultation mechanisms which the Ministry of Public Administration tried to institute last year. In addition the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs had set up Women and Children’s Desks in each Divisional Secretariat and was preparing duty lists, which would have ensured greater participation of women in monitoring the work of government.

I hope too that we can work swiftly on the new Local Government Act, which I have suggested to the President should be expedited along with the Education Act on which the last government labored for five years with no results. I have already sent him a draft for a new Higher Education Act, and tabled a Constitutional Amendment with regard to Electoral Reform. These were two of the pledged reforms we urged the last President to implement before any election, so I hope that this government will go through with these before the next election.

One of the main points of the new Local Government Bill is to institutionalize Committees for every local authority. The initial draft had these appointed by the authority, but we must make sure they ar composed of representatives of community organizations, and in particular Women’s Rural Development Societies. The capacity I have noticed in the last few years in such organizations can be given full play, to ensure that local administration is truly responsive to people’s needs, and not to the benefit of politicians.

Finally, the Reconciliation Policy looked at Justice, Truth and Reconciliation. The last government was far too slow about this, though I am glad that they finally appointed a Disappearances Commission. But the mandate of that Commission must be expanded and strengthened, so that it can swiftly implement a process of restorative justice. This is vital for women, who have been the most affected by bereavement, and who need psycho-social as well as economic support to rebuild their lives.

But the Commission should also give up inviestigating possible war crimes, because that requires a different sort of mechanism. I have no doubt that government can move swiftly on this matter, as recommended by the LLRC, on the lines of the work of the Udalagama Commission. Already I would assume Mr Desmond de Silva and his team, whose inputs have been sought by this government too, have clarified the ground so that proceeding with any cases where there is strong evidence can be expedited. I would presume that the work of those experts makes clear that the emotional attacks on the Sri Lankan government and forces are misplaced, but we need to argue that case forcefully, without adopting the ostrich approach. That can only be done if we have credible investigations into those cases where criticism is not misplaced. In particular we must ensure justice for those individuals who, at the end of the trauma to which the LTTE had subjected them, claimed that they were separated from their loved ones who had also survived the ordeal. Those memories must be overcome, and without that reconciliation will be difficult.

I should note again that I have just introduced some ideas for what I hope will be a fruitful discussion. But let me conclude with the Mission and Values that we thought should inform the National Reconciliation Policy –

  • To ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities without alienation and discrimination of any kind.
  • To wholeheartedly accept individual identity and respect religious and cultural diversity within a united Sri Lanka, to acknowledge and address the needs and aspirations of all communities residing in the country and to foster a sense of belonging amongst all peoples and communities irrespective of language, ethnicity, race or religion.
  • To enhance sovereignty of the people at all levels of governance.
  • To encourage a sense of caring to be shown by the State to all citizens and communities and readiness to acknowledge and address fears and insecurities of all communities.

*Strengthening the Reconciliation Process in Sri Lanka – Text of a presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha at the Celebraton of International Women’s Day, March 10th 2015 Arranged by the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus

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Latest comments

  • 2

    And presumably this future will be based on truth and accountability and justice? Or is it only in where there is a ‘strong’ case that justice will be rendered – i.e. if the perpetrators were silly enough to actually commit a war crime on camera? Hmmm a good start but for a liberal party, strangely illiberal.

    • 0

      Particular professor is only at Teaching. I am sorry to see him politics.

      Not a single prof has performed well in Lanken politics recently. Most that they feel as know-alls cant go that far in politics of developing nations such as ours.

  • 4

    Reconciliation typically works when the aggressor decides to call it a day. The aggressor says “Give me a deal so I can turn off my aggression”.

    A classic example is South Africa when the white Apartheid regime lead by Botha made a deal with Mandela and ended white aggression. There would not have been any kind of reconciliation had Botha did not give up Apartheid but eventually forced to give in.

    Another recent example are the Philipino MILFs whom made a name for themselves with their brutal bush penetration tactics. They made a deal and stopped the aggression.

    I don’t believe there is any scope for reconciliation when the aggressor does not heed and then beaten in his own game. Ala Nazi Germany and Italians Fascist et al. There were neither “reconciliation” with Nazi Germans nor Fascist Italians.

    What happened in Ceylon was the latter. Virtually the entire world came together and gave the Gon Demala’s an opportunity to end the aggression. Although for the 11th consecutive time it does not does heed. It was then the Tamil aggressor was wiped out as with Nazi anywhere else in the world.

    The reason reconciliation does not work is because the Gon Demala went to create a separate state despite Ceylon’s genuine efforts to reconcile prior.

    These are universal rules and past best practice that Ceylon must follow too. There is a need for reconciliation. However, I think it should be between TNA/LTTE and the Tamils.

    TNA should reconcile with Tamils as to the tactics adopted over 65 years resulting in the outcomes it has so far achieved.

  • 0

    Is the Parliamentary Women’s caucus not aware of the recent attacks on women undergrads by male undergrads in the Colombo University – reported by teachers of the university?
    This is probably the first time this has happened in any university in sri lanka.
    Rajiva who was until recently the State Minister of Higher Education too has ignored this.

  • 5


    Go and fly a kite; this is what you are good for. As soon as you hear words such as Tamil, Reconciliation, Human Rights, and Accountability, you start to hear voices in your head and you lose it all together; you become a complete bigot! Your hatred for the Tamils is well-known on these forums; I bet these [Edited out] Demala” are keeping awake at night!

  • 1

    Rajiwa Wijesinghe does not want to understand that he had made a fool himself in front of every body and keeps on jabbering.

    Supports of the most ruthless terrorist organization, relatives of suicide bombers and black tigers want reconciliation because they lost.

    What others get for 30 years of destruction ?

  • 3

    War criminals and 65 years of Genocide against Tamils and you talk reconciliation prescribed the same racist like Desmond and LLRC.
    You must be joking. Till the Tamils accept that they are treated equally not only the Tamils even the Sinhalese can not live peacefully and prosperously. Rajiv has been the supporter of a war criminal and after five years talking about reconciliation. International community has stated very clearly.It has to be acceptable to Tamils. Northern representative is Wigneswaran. His credibility is well known. Not a third rate power hubgry racist like Rajiv or Ranil. Therefore till something acceptable to him is presented, Tamils will fight here and elsewhere and will not allow rest of the country to live peacefully

  • 4

    Remove the Army from the North- Return all private lands to its owners. Then consider reconciliation with a referendum for the Tamils of North and East to decide their fate, whether to stay in or out in a Unitary state.

  • 1

    Tamils may have a hard time listening to this professor, cos he is the one that compared sinhalese soldiers visiting the camps at night to rape Tamil women in camps as the ones that went to discuss Greek mythology.

    Professor should know that whatever he said and did against Tamil will haunt him forever. Good luck with your efforts, Sir!

  • 3


    I welcome your efforts to strengthen Reconcilation. But we cannot reconcile when those who caused the wounds are still at large.
    Accountability has been put on the Back burner for six months and it is too early to talk about reconciliation. One follows the other.

    There are thousands of Mothers,Fathers and Wifes are looking for loved ones with no answer in sight and how do you expect them to Reconcile and with who.

    Accountabilty first and then Reconcilation.

  • 1

    War crimes denier now in the healing buisness?

  • 0

    As shownby you people with skills are lacking. Steps should be taken to encourage people to migrate to the northan Provincefrom abroad and from the rest of Sri Lanka. People who have exceptional skills in south India should be given full facilities in Sri Lanka.Ownership of Land, assests and tax exceptions to attract Investment to Sri Lanka. With Leaders coming to Sri Lanka the toime for action is now.Training Institutes should attract aid from abroad. Many countries have promised aid as part of a plan for reconciliation. The university and other institutes should have shifts to accomedate skills training. a plan for productivity enhancement should have a timetable to achieve stated levels of productivity. Power requierements should be predicted and a plan to meet demand. Singerpore and Malaysisa developed fast and have a high level of productivity. Let us do the same.
    Your participation in Education in the North will be appreciated. Rathnajeevan Hoole is a another prerson whose expertoise is needed. We must achieve what is possible.

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