Colombo Telegraph

Sustaining Peace – Sri Lanka’s Priority Number One

By Mano Tittawella

Mano Tittawella

Sustaining Peace is, and must be, the number one priority. The new Government took office with a commitment to securing long term peace and reconciliation, premised on the principles of good governance while strengthening democratic institutions and ending long years of impunity and inequality.

*Speech made by Mano Tittawella, Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechnisms at the event with the participation of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Thank you, your excellency, Secretary General, for your remarks and continued support.

Having emerged from many conflicts and the resultant years of oppression and suffering , Sri Lanka knows only too well the value of Peace. Perhaps , for the first time, we are in a position whereby we can look to a prosperous and peaceful future from a point of stability, hope and opportunity.

Sustaining Peace is, and must be, the number one priority. The new Government took office with a commitment to securing long term peace and reconciliation, premised on the principles of good governance while strengthening democratic institutions and ending long years of impunity and inequality.

The Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM) was established to help take these priorities forward, and we are working in close partnership with civil society, including youth and victims of conflict, the private sector, the United Nations and other development partners and of course the many arms of Govt both national, provincial and local.

Indeed, I would like to especially thank the Secretary General for the UN’s support to our nationally led peacebuilding efforts, and in particular the recent commitments that have been made from the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund.

Sustaining peace is a complex and long term endeavor that requires

  • Addressing the core grievances of affected communities;
  • Helping these communities to deal with the past and look to the future with optimism and hope;
  • Building trust and a sense of unity across ethnic and religious groups; and
  • Strengthening institutions so that they effectively, equitably and transparently respond to people’s needs.

In the last several months alone, some important initiatives have got underway

The Consultation Taskforce has held public hearings with communities across the country, and initial reports indicate a willingness to cooperate, need for trust building, a viable commitment and action plan for ground level delivery of high quality public services and the need to create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

The Government has taken steps to move forward with the establishment of the Office of Missing Persons and the issuance of Certificates of Absence. Moves that will help families across the country to establish what happened to their loved ones, enabling them to move forward in an appropriate way. The Reparations and Truth Seeking Commissions will be established and a suitable Accountability Mechanism will follow.

More families have been able to return home through the release of land. More releases are in the pipeline.

A new National Security Act will replace the often maligned and abused PTA. The practise of confession based convictions will give way to more modern, humane and effective investigative practises.

The Constitutional Reform process has begun, a process that will hopefully bring a lasting political settlement

The Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, ONUR, has continued working to promote mutual understanding and harmony, through initiatives with schools, government officials and communities.

The critical importance of psycho social support and assistance for enlightened education has been recognised and plans are being drawn up to support these initiatives..

Rectifying gender inequalities and empowering women, remains at the core of all these plans and will bring justice and equality to them too.

The reconciliation and no recurrence programme touches and advances the progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals that Sri Lanka is committed to.

These are just a snapshot of the important work that is taking place, and much remains to be done, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.

What is critical is that we see sustaining peace and promoting reconciliation as a national responsibility. It is a commitment requiring the hearts and minds of people from all corners of Sri Lanka and for this I especially count on the support of everyone here today.

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