20 May, 2022


Truth & Reconciliation Commission: A Time Buying Ploy?

By Dinesh D. Dodamgoda

Dinesh Dodamgoda

Dinesh Dodamgoda

Is the proposal to initiate a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Sri Lanka with the assistance from South African government a time buying ploy to thwart the call for an international inquiry into war crimes? No doubt, the answer relies on Rajapaksa government’s sincerity in initiating a genuine post-conflict reconciliation process.

During the CHOGM in Colombo in last November, President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the South African President Jacob Zuma twice to provide assistance to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), similar to the South African model. However, it was learnt that the President Zuma replied and advised President Rajapaksa, “Not to rush” as the President Zuma views, “This is not something you do politics with”. Nonetheless, it was further learnt that during the CHOGM, President Rajapaksa wanted to announce the CHOGM leaders the TRC initiative that could secure the South African assistance, yet again President Zuma advised, “Not to rush”.

It is obvious that the Rajapaksa government is in a kind of a rush either to initiate or to show the world that the government is keen on initiating a post-conflict reconciliation process, four and a half years later to the end of conflict. As some critics also argue, “Why did the Rajapaksa government take so long to initiate such process?”

During his visit to Sri Lanka in late May 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proposed a post-conflict framework for Sri Lanka that had three key issues: resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), political reconciliation, and accountability for war-time atrocities. A few months later, then the US Ambassador to Colombo, Patricia A. Butenis, proposed a wider framework with four key issues: treatment of IDPs, human rights, political reconciliation, and accountability for alleged war crimes. Both frameworks suggested initiating a political reconciliation process. However, Rajapaksa government had a different opinion.

Giving an interview to Headline Today television, Defence Secretary Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 2011 thrashed “the political solution talk” and said that it was “simply irrelevant” as “we have ended this terrorism in Sri Lanka”. Nonetheless, no clarification was made by the Rajapaksa government regarding Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s position on political reconciliation and indicated Rajapaksa government’s endorsement to Defence Secretary’s opinion.

Nevertheless, on 15 November 2011, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) handed over its final report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa with various recommendations to build post-conflict Sri Lanka. As the report pointed out in page 368, the essence of the report is about reconciling the society: “What needs to be done for reconciliation and nation-building is that the State has to reach out to the minorities and the minorities, in turn must, re-position themselves in their role vis-à-vis the State and the country.”

With the LLRC report is in hand, the Rajapaksa government had the ball in its court. Nevertheless, the government did not have the political will or the courage to initiate a serious reconciliation process. At least, the government did not allocate a single cent from its budget to set up a Secretariat for National Reconciliation as proposed by the President’s Advisor on National Reconciliation, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinhe, M.P. on several occasions.

The absence of such process provided an opportunity for the Tamil Diaspora, especially to the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to lobby international community against Rajapaksa government. The international context went against the Rajapaksa government and adopted two consecutive resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013 urging government to implement LLRC recommendations and to initiate a credible internal inquiry into alleged war crimes.

Despite the UNHRC resolutions, a serious reconciliation process or an internal inquiry into alleged war crimes yet to be initiated. The situation, as warned by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, could lead to an international inquiry. Against this international backdrop that the President Mahinda Rajapaksa is keen on setting up another mechanism on reconciliation, a South Africa assisted TRC, whilst a much unique and internationally recognised LLRC report is in his hand.

However, with having much experience the South African President Jacob Zuma is in the opinion that in order to successfully set up a TRC, South Africa needs to consult different stakeholders, including the opposition, despite the External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peris’ attempts to limit the consultation to parties in the government coalition, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Hence, in reality, there will be more consultation and study tours here and there in the months to come and as predicted, the proposed TRC will not be set up prior to the elections for the National Assembly of South Africa in May.

Thus, the Rajapaksa government cannot and should not wait until May as another resolution against the government could come in Geneva in March, pushing for an international inquiry. The best possible solution for the government is to initiate implementing LLRC recommendations as promised to the international community on several occasions. The will and the courage that the Rajapaksa government has to implement LLRC recommendations will show observers that the proposed South Africa assisted TRC is a time buying ploy to  thwart the call for an international inquiry into war crimes or not!

*Dinesh D. Dodamgoda is a lawyer and has obtained a M.Sc. from the British Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham (Cranfield University) on Defence Management and Global Security. He was a national list MP for UNP from 1995 till 2000.

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Latest comments

  • 10

    Sri Lankan government headed by the strongman Rajapakse wants to fool the world all the time because the Sinhala ruling elite and its leaders have no intention of giving the due rights to the Tamil nation in the North-East.

    The right to rule themselves they enjoyed till 1832 when Britain annexed the Tamil territory to form Ceylon.

  • 1

    Dinesh, forget about Rajapaksa! Do YOU want any kind of reconciliation commission? Why do you want one? The tamils are fleeing Sri Lanka as fast as they can. Now why do you want this to stop? Have you become a Christian or something? Didnt your parents teach you that the Tamils have to be destroyed? Havent you learned the gramscian political science of the disk jokey or dumb joker who has been our plenty potty some time ago? Dont you young goats ever learn?

    • 1


      disk jokey or dumb joker = dayan jayathilake right? His gramscian political science is indeed plenty potty. :D

      • 1

        I thought pp was plenipotentiary….

        • 1

          But of course you can be a plenty potty plenipotentiary!

  • 11

    Indeed it seems like a “Time Buying Ploy”. Good Analysis Dinesh !
    SLG want to hang on to anything just so it can eyewash the west/the Indians/ and surely the Sri Lankans as well, assuming they will buy it for 1 more year !

    SLG is hoping for a miracle where one day they wake up to find that no one is pointing fingers at Rajapaksa Regime, in fact all are in love with them !

    • 4

      “SLG is hoping for a miracle where one day they wake up to find that no one is pointing fingers at Rajapaksa Regime, in fact all are in love with them !”.

      Then they can go back and celebrate again eating Kiribath, Kawum, Kokis and partying in the street….. remember how these morons celebrated the war victory with ZERO civilian cassualities????? what a joke. :-)

  • 1

    Seriously, did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) achieve anything tangible in South Africa? The reader can answer that question for himself. What the TRC did was to offer a sort of sop to pacify the rumblings of those who demanded redress for the wrongs of the past. It was more symbolic than substantial, but it sounded magnanimous and noble of intent and importantly it helped to put the past behind

    The SL government and its most consistent critics find themselves now in a hopeless mess, SL’s critics are unable or unwilling to follow their criticism to a logical conclusion, and all the parties are hoping in their heart of hearts for a way out. And a TRC would provide just the answer. So, why not use that as a device to get out of the present impasse? Never mind the ethics of it, governments usually look at the practicable.

  • 6

    Rajapakses warming up to a T&RC at this late hour only adds to the widespread lack of credibility they have gained in the eyes of the world. They have managed, so far, to delay the Judgement Day. Sadly
    in March in Geneva it has to be encountered. Time to take Kudu Mervin along in the Jumbo team for the gangster to renew his marriage offer.


  • 5

    APRC, LLRC, what more. Always need more time for a homegrown solution. Half the time is spent gallavanting around the globe to meet useless third rate leaders like Abbas and Netenyahu. Other half spent in temples and unveiling statues.

    • 2

      What about the purpose of gallivanting the world is to hoard the ILL GOTTEN wealth!!!

  • 3

    When the International Community wants the implementation of the report of the LLRC , why do you need Truth and
    Reconciliation Commission. If MR is sincere and has the political he should implement all the recommendations of the LLRC
    Otherwise setting up,of T RC will be seen as a time buying ploy.

  • 0

    how do you buy time with a TRC . I thought the whole point was to get the truth out there and not be any penal consequences . ?

    • 0

      Does Mahinda know the meaning of Truth and reconciliation?

  • 7


    You are only partly correct because in addition to it being a time buying exercise the intent of the Rajapaksa regime is to use it to deflect the calls for war crimes accountability. Remember, the culpable people in the war crimes are Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gota, the military commanderers and some top diplomats. TRC is a God-send to the regime and it will do its best to try and push its creation. I don’t think the tamils in Sri Lanka and the diaspora, the US, the UN, the EU will buy this devious plan of Mahinda Rajapaksa this time.

  • 0

    Let the UN issue an indictment on something first, without pretending to know something, they don’t, or have something, they have’nt! This is an old trick of the West and the Rajapassa’s have learnt their ropes well from the Chinese and Russians. They are essentially calling the West’s bluff!

    Navi Pillai and her lot should put up or shut up!

    As for the Tamil’s demonstrating overseas, the less said is better.

    • 4


      “Navi Pillai and her lot should put up or shut up!”

      A very good advice.

      However I suggest Sri Lanka withdraws its membership from UN and then ignore this Navi Pillai.

      “Rajapassa’s have learnt their ropes well from the Chinese and Russians.”

      The rope may come handy if and when MR decides to hang himself.

      China and Russia don’t give two hoot about who is ruling this island.

      Saddam and Gaddafi were two dictators misjudged their business relation with these two countries. Both thought they could buy loyalty in exchange for more businesses with them.

      China and Russia knew that there was life the morning after.

      If I were you I would not bet on China and Russia.

    • 1

      “This is an old trick of the West and the Rajapassa’s have learnt their ropes well from the Chinese and Russians.”

      We aren’t Chinese nor the Russians, If you don’t believe me or may be you are still in deep slumber, just google and see what happened to Col. Gaddafi in recent past…… :-)

  • 0

    Dinesh Dodamgoda:

    Government is not the only party who is and has been engaging in time buying ploys. So is TNA and they still are.

    Why is TNA against introducing any Sinhala presence in the North by the government? They say they are not against people moving by themselves but how many years do you think it would take for Sinhalese to feel comfortable moving to Jaffna to do business?

    When the government came up with standardization of university entrance, Tamils were dead opposed to it. They wanted the government to develop schools instead. How many years do you think it would take the government to develop schools in the country to put in place a level playing field? Now is this not a time buying exercise?

    When LTTE leader was around both CBK and Ranil tried their level best to get LTTE to talk a political solution. Was the man interested? No. LTTE wanted “normalcy” returned to North before any political settlement. Was the TNA (including its present leader Sampanthan) against this? NO. They were not. They were only interested in getting as much fuel, cement, radio technology, equipment, heavy machinery to the North. CBK and Ranil both bent over backwards to please LTTE by proving them everything they asked for but did it work?

    Not everything in 13A is acceptable to Sinhala people. If you want to implement it AS IS and beyond, you will have break their back first. LTTE tried one way of doing that; blasting them to oblivion. Well that didn’t work. Now Tamil Diaspora are trying a different approach. Using media to demonize Sri Lanka and squeeze Sinhala masses into submission by bringing in political and economic sanctions with the aid of the western countries.

    So what’s wrong with MR buying time? What else can he do other than cave into demands and dictates of TNA/Diaspora? There is no solution in sight.

    Wigneswaran does not know jack shit about politics. He is as much a puppet like Manmohan Singh. Even the few words he spoke against Tamil Nadu poachers, he was made to swallow back with his pride behind his legs by TNA, BTF, GTF, TGTE who are the real puppeteers.

    • 7


      “Not everything in 13A is acceptable to Sinhala people.”


      What is acceptable to Sinhala/Buddhists?

      Perhaps a complete genocide of all minorities may be the starting point for meeting of minds.

  • 4

    Good analysis, Dinesh!

    The TRC surely will not relieve the government of accountability to its war crimes.

    Sengodan. M

  • 1

    Dinesh, there is more likelihood of the BBS opening a branch office in Beruwela than the government fully implementing the LLRC recommendations. In the light of unrelenting international pressure, the GOSL should *leave the UN *leave the Commonwealth *abrogate treaties that make unreasonably demands (e g the HR act). We should show the world the courage of our convictions. Now that would be a turn up for the books. Alas, this won’t happen because MR and cronies are trading on our UN vote, and need somewhere other than China to bolt to. Still, at this moment,the world needs SL more than SL needs the world.

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