By Gnana Sankaralingam –
A Truth and Reconciliation commission is to be set up to usher peace in Sri Lanka. There is pressure exerted on the government to settle Tamil demands for autonomy in a meaningful manner. For reconciliation to begin, justice must be meted out. This is what happened in South Africa when power was transferred to Africans. When not only there is denial of justice, and people continued to be harassed, speaking about reconciliation is mere empty rhetoric. Attempts to get Eric Solheim and South African government on board to show some sort of legitimacy failed as they have categorically told that the rights of Tamils should be addressed first. Stuck with no option, government has begun this hood winking exercise by appointing the commission with intention to play for time.
Confession and repentance, absolution and atonement are Christian concepts which went well in South Africa because both perpetrators and victims were Christians. It may be in the minds of some section of Buddhists and Hindus, but hardly among Muslims. Thus to expect people in Sri Lanka to speak out the truth and apologise for their misdeeds is far fetched. In the South African instance, it was mooted by statesmen like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu with the sole aim in promotion of peace and harmony between the ethnicities. In Sri Lanka however it is being proposed with ulterior motive in order to divert the attention of the international community to show that they are sincere. So their attempt is bound to fail right from the beginning and nothing will come out of it.
With hordes of Tamils protesting to know about their missing relatives, to get their lands occupied by security forces released and to stop appropriating their lands to settle Sinhalese, how is reconciliation to be achieved. When Tamils with no crime committed languishing in prison without being brought to trial, and Sinhala and Muslim perpetrators of atrocities on Tamils walking free, how does one expect Tamils to forget and move on. When Sinhala criminals convicted after lengthy and fair trial are receiving presidential pardon, giving excuses to deny this to innocent Tamils in remand for more than 15 years is not justified. Similarly paying compensation to Sinhala and Muslim victims and not extending this to Tamils who had suffered more than others cannot be accepted.
Justice is paramount for peace and reconciliation. Tamils had been struggling for justice to live as first class citizens with dignity and safety in their traditional homelands without interference from Sinhalese. This was the result of racial discrimination and state sponsored violence over several years. There is no willingness on the part of Sinhalese in meeting this demand at least half way mark. Often it is told that the solution should come from within the country, which cannot happen without the support of Sinhalese who hold the majority in the parliament and outside. When other than few Sinhalese, the rest are not in favour to share power and territory with Tamils in meaningful manner, how could any reasonable solution according to international norms be found internally.
Truth and Reconciliation is possible only under a statesman, and at present there is no such person among Sinhalese weilding power in major political parties. Truth and reconciliation is not lies and patching up. Any person embarking on truth and reconciliation must as precondition, release all political prisoners unconditionally, vacate lands occupied by security forces and stop appropriating new territory on various pretexts, account for all persons arrested by security forces and since gone missing, resettle all persons displaced internally and living in India at the original places of residence and formulate a plan which ensures contiguity of Tamil homeland which they could administer with same rights and privileges enjoyed by Sinhalese. Otherwise it will only be a futile exploit.