28 September, 2020

Blog

Taking Reconciliation Process Forward After Co-Sponsored Resolution 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government took a major step forward in rejoining the international community on equal terms when it reached agreement with the United States and other Western countries in the UN Human Rights Council to co-sponsor the resolution on the future its post-war accountability process. For the past six years Sri Lanka was on the defensive internationally for its conduct of the last phase of the war. From 2012 onwards it was at the receiving end of increasingly adverse resolutions by the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution in 2014 mandated an international investigation into the past. Each year the meetings of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva became the occasion of confrontation abroad and for political mobilization within the country in which ethnic nationalism took the centre stage.

The new government’s agreement with the United States to co-sponsor the draft resolution that will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday is an indication that both sides sat together to sort out the problem. Unlike its predecessor the present government has acted on the rational basis that a policy of confrontation would not solve the problem but only aggravate it. Although the confrontational approach of the previous government was popular at home it was leading to an internationally imposed outcome which would have made a bad situation worse. The government’s problem solving approach enabled it to convince the United States, and other Western countries, to drop the specific reference to a hybrid judicial mechanism. This was the most controversial feature of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka.

Kerry and Mangala 02 05 2015 Colombo TelegraphThe latest draft resolution of the UN Human Rights Council on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka affirms “the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.” This was in contrast to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s Report that called for a hybrid judicial mechanism with the participation of international judges, lawyers, prosecutors and investigators to ensure the credibility of the accountability process. The replacement of the emphasis given to the hybrid judicial mechanism and its replacement with a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism would give the Sri Lankan government a greater measure of credibility in dealing with the nationalist sentiment within the country.

Political Challenge 

The government is preparing to meet the political challenge that it expects from the opposition with regard to the compromises it is making in Geneva. Having dealt with the problem in Geneva, the government is now moving towards protecting itself politically within the country. It is aware that it is sitting on top of a volcano of ethnic nationalism. This is the same volcano that created the background for the assassination of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike in 1957 when he tried to allay Tamil nationalism by conceding language and devolution rights to the people of the Northern and Eastern provinces, to the uprising of the JVP in 1987 when President JR Jayewardene signed the Indo Lanka Peace Accord to bring an end to the Tamil uprising by conceding devolution of power, and to the downfall of the UNP government in 2004 headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he tried to have a negotiated political settlement with the LTTE through the Norwegian facilitated ceasefire.

Over the weekend the newly appointed Minister of National Dialogue Mano Ganesan called two meetings, one each with heads of media organizations and another with civil society activists to discuss the forthcoming Geneva resolution and how best to take its message to the general population. The meetings were chaired by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who pointed out that the Geneva resolution that the government was co-sponsoring was not only about a probe into war crimes allegations, but was also about restoring democracy and bringing national reconciliation. He explained that the judicial mechanism for accountability would be one that was Sri Lankan and approved by Parliament.

At the civil society meeting, he indicated that the presence of international legal personnel in this judicial mechanism would not be as mere tokens. He pointed out that Sri Lankan judges held high positions in courts in foreign countries and it could be the other way round too, especially in cases where the local expertise was either lacking or needed to be supplemented. Such an international presence is expected by the Tamil polity which has no faith in the Sri Lankan judicial process in relation to issues of the war and the conduct of the Sri Lankan military during the war and its aftermath. This would also be the position of international human rights groups and many foreign governments.

However, the involvement of international judges and legal personnel in the judicial accountability process in which the leaders of the former government and military are implicated will provide a political rallying point to Sinhalese nationalist leaders. The former leaders of the government who gave leadership to the war effort that saw the final victory over the LTTE and the military that made it possible have been widely perceived by the Sinhalese polity to be war heroes. There is little or no desire on the part of the ethnic majority Sinhalese population to see them differently. So far the news media appears to be cooperating with the government in downplaying the compromises made in Geneva and the implications for the country. The voice of the nationalists within the opposition has not been receiving the high levels of publicity that they received during the period of the previous government. But this is likely to change after the resolution in Geneva is passed with the Sri Lankan government co-sponsoring it, and the time for implementation begins.

All Inclusive 

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe appears to have taken note of the lessons of the past. During the abortive 2002-2004 peace process he and his government confronted the then president Chandrika Kumaratunga who undermined him. On this occasion the Prime Minister is working closely with President Maithripala Sirisena who has the credibility to give him covering support against Sinhalese nationalism. During the 2002-2004 peace process, the government did not actively engage with civil society in taking positive messages of the peace process to the people. The early meeting that the Prime Minister chaired with civil society groups indicates that he appreciates the role that civil society played in advocating the cause of good governance during the presidential and general elections earlier in the year. In a democracy unless there is popular understanding and acceptance of the need for reform it is unlikely to be successful. Sri Lankan civil society organizations have a track record in taking advocacy and educational messages to the general population.

It is significant that the draft resolution recognizes the need for a process of accountability and reconciliation for violations and abuses, including those committed by the LTTE as highlighted in the UN report. The Sinhalese people need to know that the accountability process is meant for all who violated human rights and committed war crimes, and is not targeted only against the government. Action against financiers and other international operatives and agencies will be an integral part of the criminal investigation that the UN High Commissioner’s report has proposed through the recommended involvement of international personnel in the accountability process. At the same time, it is also necessary for the government not to lose sight of the concerns of the Tamil population on the ground. They may not need to be convinced of the merits of having an international component in the Sri Lankan judicial mechanism to ensure accountability. However, their interest in a swift return to normalcy needs to be taken into account. The needs of the war-affected people of the North and East are urgent ones. The government has announced a mechanism to deal with the past that will be based on a fourfold system which will include a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, an Office of Missing Persons, a judicial mechanism with special counsel to be set up by statute and an Office of Reparations.

As initial confidence building gestures, the government can have a prison census and people find their missing ones so that no one gets lost in the system, either deliberately or inadvertently. It can also speed up release of persons detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act without charge and also the release of land taken over during the war back to the people. There is also a need to assist displaced persons who still number in the tens of thousands to resettle in their original places if that is what they want. This is a problem that continues to affect a large proportion of the 90,000 strong Northern Muslim community who were forcibly evicted from their homes in the North by the LTTE in one of the war crimes that took place during the course of the war. The benefits of the transitional justice process will be applicable to all communities, as will accountability. Many of the necessary actions do not need any new mechanism but the political will of the government.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    It is being said that President Sirisena during the meeting with Sri Lankans on his NYC visit embraced the MR lickspittles to the exclusion of those who worked very hard among local voters here to support Maithripala. Foremost among them was Sanath Vitharne alias porno Kingpin, owner of a porn shop located at 42nd street , New York, feeding salacious gay appetites. Wonder whether Mangala had any hand in sending out invitations to meet the President. There is also a pretty picture that appears alongside the story today.

  • 4
    0

    Dear Jehan Perera,
    Taking Reconciliation Process Forward After Co-Sponsored Resolution

    “This is the same volcano that created the background for the assassination of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike in 1957 when he tried to allay Tamil nationalism by conceding language and devolution rights to the people of the Northern and Eastern provinces”

    Assassination of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike which occurred in 1959 cannot be attributed to Premier allying with Tamil Nationalism, since Banda-Chelvanayakm agreement had been abrogated since 1957, though there was a riot against Tamils, when they erupted to oppose the implementation Sinhala only as Official Language, island wide.
    Somarama Thera an easily excitable character regarding Nationalistic issues was used by shrewd Buddharakkitha, then chief priest Kelani Vihara, to settle a personal vengeance against SWRD Bandaranaike as Premier, – for categorically refusing to comply with illegal rice import permit, and for refusing highly expensive sugar factory project, Buddharakkitha Therar lost millions at that time despite approaching the Cabinet through Wimala Wijeywardene a cabinet minister at that time. Both were arrested few weeks after incident. Buddharakkitha Therar was sentenced to life imprisonment, Wimala Wijeywardene was acquitted while Nationalistic Somarama Thera was sent to gallows.
    On hearing the verdict Nationalistic Somarama Thera decided to become a Anglican Christian, and so Baptized by relevant Reverend before execution.

    This is just to highlight the point that SWRD was not killed for Sinhala Nationalism but by Nationalism as a tool, for petty gains as it is today as well.

  • 6
    1

    Jehan,
    You failed to mention that the Military in the north and east should be reduced substantially. I would recommend that the density of the population of military and support personnel should be the same per sq km in the coastal and inland areas of the whole island. All other land should be reverted to that province and if private lands it should be given back to the owners is the same condition when they occupied it or in a better condition. The Govt also should compensate for any damages and when undamaged houses were occupied due rent should be paid. If the houses were destroyed the owners should be compensated for it.
    May be you can put this in your next article.

    • 1
      0

      Thank you, Ethir.

    • 3
      1

      These unscrupulous fellows speak of reconciliation on a one sided view. They do understand why the Tamil youths took up arms and how the Sri Lankan Army on the orders of higher ups raped and murdered the surrendered women fighters and those male fighters when surrendered, were shot at close range and their bodies bunt. Nearly 40,000 civilians perished during the latter part of the war. About 10 villages are still occupied by 125,000 army personnel and they roam about in groups where the lands were released. 25,000 to 30,000 people who own these lands are still languishing in camps and relative’ homes. The government has no intention of releasing these lands. The government is still not releasing the political prisoners and not even being charged. Jehan is speaking of reconciliation and our Tamil leaders are not doing anything about it. They confuse the people by their twisted tongue.

    • 0
      0

      OISL Report said to have mentioned 400 defense officials in the report. around names were listed as criminals. Past President and Present President were included in the criminals list which was erased out by the pressure of Ranil, before it was released in UNHRC.

      Unlike OISL, without having any open procedure to determine the accused, Ranil has said Pirapaharan and his LTTE are the ones have to investigated. Ranil bargained to refuse to go for international investigation with America. Last night, in the Hyde Park (Philip Gunawardene Grounds) meeting he said the LTTE was the criminals and they are one has to be investigated but not mentioning the names got wiped(Including the past and the present Presidents who been found criminals by testing 6000 witnesses) out in OISL report by his pressure.

      OISL wanted to form hybrid court to investigate both parties. Otherwise by internal investigation, Lankawe has been blaming the Tamila for 1956- Sinhala Only and 1958-emergency, but never accepted the truth. Tamils have been calling for the UNHRC resolutions and consented with international investigation for the reason of bringing out to the why they had taken arms.

      In the last Old King’s Government time, after Justice Minister Hakeem giving the LLRC report to Hillary Clinton only he came back and dismissed Shiranee Bandaranayake to implement Divineguma over the defrauded 13A and defrauded implementing the National Action Plan.

      But Ranil has said in the election campaign that no one leader, commander and soldier will be investigated. America says as Lankawe is co-signing the resolution, it will implement it. But Ranil has reiterated that LTTE will be only one investigated. Everybody who have have in their torture chambers, which are listed in the OISL report but denying their existence and refusing to produce the victims of these tortures to courts, secretly will be processed through the newly implementing “Hanging”. If that misses, UNP government will not hesitate to plug the eyes of the prisoners and beat them to death like they did to Kuttimani and other 30 inmates in the past UNP Government.

      Ranil who is coming from the UNP that did most heinous murders for Sinhala youths and Tamils is taking about justice and prosecuting one side Justice. Satan can preach the bible but not Ranil who never wanted to accept where UNP started the communal rules from the time DS was got released from prison by Sir Pon Ramanathan.

      If the LTTE was responsible why Ranil does not want to sign for the ICC as in the OISL report? Why he does not want the Hybrid court?

      While Ranil is repeating in Hyde park the the JR’s 1983 speech, Jehan PhD is white washing here.

      • 0
        0

        ” around names were listed as criminals.”

        Correction:

        “Around 50 names were listed as accused criminals.”

  • 3
    1

    This is good article. SL needs good progressively thinking citizens like you who could take the country forward especially among the sinhala Buddhist community…

  • 1
    1

    Killing of Bandaranaike by Buddhist Monks has nothing to do with Bandaranaike’s deal with the Tamils through abrogated Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam agreement of juky 1957. It was a business dealing between Bandaranaike and the monks. JVP utilized the signing of Indo-Lankan pact of 1987 to whip up racist sentiments of the Sinhala Buddhist in order to take revange against JRJ government for for proscribing the party in July 1983. JRJ did this in order to divert the attention of his party’s senior politicians active involvement in planning and executing anti Tamil pogram of July 1983. Knowing the violent and racist politics of the JVP they were waiting for an opportunity to mobilise the Sinhala Buddhist support constituencies and this seen as a golden opportunity. If the JVP was not banned in 1983, they could not have organized such a massive protest by instilling suspicoan about the pact. SLFP launched a violent protect against the pact and being a larger Sinhala Buddhist communalist party, their protest activities did not last beyond a few days.

    President Chandrika is known for her life long anti UNP hatred and she could not tolerate a UNP government gaining international recognition and support for the peace process. She utilised her closest associate in her regime, Mangala Samaraweera to mobilise entire anti Tamil constituency to dismiss RW government and to instill Mahinda Rajapakse. Whet was the end result of MR regime. Chanrika herself admitted through her own confession thar her decision to dismiss RW was totally a wring one when her decision affected her interest drastically. Therefore, your conclusions oon all three events are not correct. Chandrika’s present association with Ranil was totally self centred. She used Ranil to take revenge against Mahinda and once Ranil become a unwanted force for her, please wait and she what she will do to Ranil. Vimikthi

    • 1
      0

      Vimukthi’s comments explains it all the eruptions for the so called “Sinhala Nationalistic face.

  • 3
    0

    Matters stated in the last para of this article should be given a much greater priority and attended to with utmost urgency than looking for scape goats and prosecuting offenders. Quick measures towards reconciliation will quickly heal the wounds of affected people and soothen their minds. Obviously nobody is out there to seek vengeance in the name of Justice!
    Let us see how the government proceeds.
    Sengodan. M

  • 3
    0

    Let me begin where you ended: ‘Many of the necessary actions do not need any new mechanism but the political will of the government’.

    This political will is a thought process. Governments kept changing, but the political will remained stubborn, all throughout.

    In short, no mechanism will be productive even if the government relaxes its political posture.

    The country is a long way away from a truly nationalistic outlook.

    We don’t need to go very far. Sampling the comments from the readers in this very forum itself will reveal that the thought process is embedded in a mentality that the Tamils are aliens.

    You might have changed your attitude today, but once, at the height of ethnic polarization, you were fuelling that burning fire.

    See how hard it has become today, to undo the effects of your actions.

    Undoing will take double the time and effort. But, it needs to be done.

    The house belongs to both ethnic groups. Tamils are not boarders in your annexe.

    Could you spread this message?

  • 2
    0

    Why is Jehan Perera blaming “tamil nationalism” for the murder of SWRD Babdaranaike, when in fact he was killed by Somarama as instructed by Buddharakkita for a private vendetta?
    JP should retract his words in order to remain a credible commentater.

  • 0
    0

    None of the matters Jehan said in his preamble are are true. The murders was by the private disputes. Even Bandaranaike family was implicated in that in the court.

    Bandaranaike implemented Sinhala Only. This is to stay above UNP by raising the anti-Tamil feeling. JR made sure that is not that way. He took major part in 1958 emergency. This was clash of the titans. JR is more cunning win the game and established communal feeling to challenge the control of Bandaranaike. But JR lost and Sirima was elected. This tells the murder and Sirima’s that election victory are not based on Communal feeling. There was coup to murder Sirima. If it was successful what would have Jehan written on that? Then Dudley won. The reason was Sirima’s comparable notoriety to Old King. That is why he won. He made a pact with SJV like Bandaranaike. But Dudley was not murdered. He lost the election by rice politics. Sirima brought brought the rice from moon. JR started 1977 and 1983. He gave an speech that “‘I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people … now we cannot think of them, not about the lives or their opinions … the more you put pressure on the North, the happier the Sinhalese people will be here … Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhalese people will be happy” . He impeached Opposition Leader. He did not loose elections. Premadasa won. He again like Sirima establish record like Old King. Chandrika was voted in to make peace with Tamils. UNP government was dismissed by Chandrika. Old King was not elected for anti-Tamil stand. Tamils did not wanted to vote for Ranil for his foxy games. So he has not come as a president so far. Sinhala Intellectuals always play race card to improve their performance. But 2010 election was only one won by race card.

    Jehan, as a Sinhala Intellectual, he has to twist the history. But there was nothing truth behind it.

  • 0
    0

    Mixed messages in JP’ s article.

    SWRD deliberately took the short cut to power, riding on the sentiments of the rural population of the Buddhist Sinhalese majoriry. That population at that time needed the socio political recognition through democracy but not at the expense of the minority communities, making them lose their rights as equal citizens. After coming to power SWRD realised that he has to recognise the minorities. He wanted to take the whole country forward. But he couldn’t. He had to abort the BC pact.

    I don’t think people like Gomin D, DJ are for a united multi racial multi religious country based on equality and justice. Both wants the minorities as 2nd class.

    JP, Gomin D and DJ are different yet have common factor when it comes to rights of the minorities. The degree of this common factor among these three varies with regard to a political solution recognised by the International Community.

  • 0
    0

    Please remember that We are at the post war juncture and not at all at the post conflict juncture. This is the post war and ethnic conflict unresolved situation. Reconciliation is essentially a post conflict affair. The aim of the reconciliation should be to create and consolidate a situation that could prevent utilizing past grievances as seeds of renewed conflicts. Immediate steps after the Geneva resolution should be aimed to promote transitional justice procedures that could establish the truth of what has happened, acknowledging responsibilities by both sides, SL government and LTTE, war crime trial for perpetrators (or agreeing for conditional amnesty only if the victim agreed), adequate financial reparation for the losses of the victims (compensatory justice), political solution to the ethnic conflict that could be agreeable and acceptable to all three (minority) ethnic communities. Any meaningful and effective steps for peaceful reconciliation can only began after the said steps are fulfilled. Only people like MR, GR and GLP and the civil society supporters of the former regime can fool the people about the reconciliation without fulfilling these steps. Vimukthi

  • 0
    0

    He has only mentioned the 90,000 Muslims who were evicted around 1990, but makes no mention of the 27,000 Sinhalese who had been evicted from Jaffna peninsula before 1981. The latter group too should have the same right of return to their former places of residence with state assistance as in the case of other displaced persons.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.