6 December, 2022

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Truth & Reconciliation Need To Be Manifested In Deeds On The Ground 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The Tamil polity has responded with a degree of skepticism to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration that he will talk to Tamil leaders and find a solution within the course of the next year which is also Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence. They are aware that the promises made by successive governments since the 1960s were never delivered wholeheartedly if at all. The president’s previous periods of governance were not any different. In the period 2015-19 as prime minister he promised a new constitution in which the concept of power sharing would be entrenched. He was arbitrarily sacked by the then President Maitripala Sirisena in 2018 in the infamous 52 day coup. It was the Tamil leadership in parliament and outside, such as TNA leaders R .Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran who led the fight for his restoration. When the prime ministership was regained by him, there was still a hope he would deliver on his promise of constitutional reform. But nothing happened. Not even the provincial council elections were held.

Apart from seeking a political solution to the ethnic conflict, President Wickremesinghe is also giving leadership to a new truth and reconciliation process. He has met with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss getting South African support to a Sri Lankan truth and reconciliation commission. Foreign Minister Ali Sabry recently met with civil society leaders to share with them his concept of a truth and reconciliation commission and ask for their feedback. He expressed confidence that there was strong political will for the success of this commission. He also said that the armed forces were supportive of the concept of a truth commission as they wanted their names cleared. At the current time entire divisions of the Sri Lankan armed forces are blacklisted by international human rights groups and by some foreign governments. The minister was keen on developing a mechanism on which there was consensus before it was operationalized in a manner that was credible and would win public support.

The main challenge for President Wickremesinghe and the government is to convince the general population that he and the government and serious and sincere in what they are doing. There are reports that the government is planning to send a delegation to South Africa to study the South African reconciliation process. Such studies have been undertaken in the past as well. More important than the optics of commitment is the reality. Truth and reconciliation cannot be offered to one section of the population and at one moment in time. Truth and reconciliation cannot be compartmentalized. It cannot be offered to the Tamils and not to Sinhalese and Muslims. Keeping two of the student leaders under prolonged imprisonment without charge is neither truth nor reconciliation. The government’s sense of justice needs to be evenhanded and it needs to demonstrate its commitment to the wellbeing of all.

Postponing Elections 

The demand of the protest movement for a system change that would eliminate corruption, misallocation of resources and accountability is not confined to university students. It has a much wider base even though not being overtly manifested in the form of public protests and demonstrations. A moulavi in Batticaloa at a civil society meeting last week said that the reason they were not so active in the protest movement was the fear that they could be arrested and put away for a long time like the two student leaders and many others have been. He said that the demonstrations against the unjust incarceration of the two student leaders were very large, but the government was unyielding. In these circumstances, people who want change but do not want to be arrested can only look forward to elections as the democratic right they have to indicate their wishes and aspirations.

Despite his democratic credentials and desire to solve problems, President Wickremesinghe is demonstrating reluctance to commit himself to elections at this time. There are two sets of elections that need to be held- local government and provincial council. To his credit, whenever he has been in a position of power the president has given emphasis to reviving the economy and to resolving the ethnic conflict. This was the case in the two earlier spells he had as a national leader, as prime minister in 2002–04 and again in 2015–19. Unfortunately, on both occasions he lost power, losing heavily in the elections that followed. At present the government is under the leadership of the president who has retained the finance portfolio and has embarked upon a course of economic reform that is controversial and at the behest of international funding organisations, particularly the IMF. The president is also making pledges to tackle the sensitive issue of national reconciliation, which he once described in 2002 as being akin to sitting on top of a volcano.

This background may explain, though it does not justify, the president’s apparent determination to press ahead with an ill-timed reform of the election law at this very time. Local government elections are due in March having been already postponed by a year. The electoral reform process that the government is launching is likely to extend beyond March. This will be a replay of the government’s strategy in 2017 when it proceeded to reform the electoral law just prior to provincial council elections. The provincial councils, which were set up as a solution to the ethnic conflict, have been dysfunctional for the past four years. Instead of being devolved authorities, with decision making taking place closer to the people, they are all run in a tightly centralized manner by governors appointed by the president. The postponement of provincial council elections in particular has made a mockery of the devolution of power. The governors act as agents of the centre in a manner totally at odds to the wishes of the people of the province.

Changing Priorities 

The economic crisis requires more than increasing taxes, decreasing government expenditures and getting a loan from the IMF. It requires a system of government in which people feel their participation makes a difference. The purpose of the provincial councils was to create devolved structures elected by the people of the province and responsible to them. If the provincial councils had been permitted to function as they were meant to, with sufficient resources allocated to them, Sri Lanka might have been able to withstand the economic crisis better than it currently is. Instead of sharing the national budget equitably with the provincial councils, the central government took the lion’s share for itself and with it the power to engage in development projects with large scale corruption that exceeds the budget of the provincial councils and which became white elephants. Ensuring devolution of power is part of the system change that is needed to get out of the economic morass the country is currently trapped in.

In this context, Batticaloa civil society leaders who felt that the government was not doing anything for them, spoke in terms of educating people to do more home garden cultivation and engage in self-employment projects to boost their income and consumption. But home garden cultivation can be at best only a poor supplement to the type of employment and earnings that are required for people to take advantage of opportunities in the modern age. In the discussion that took place in Batticaloa, there was criticism of the government’s budget proposals and lack of empathy for the problems of those at the bottom tiers of society. However, there was satisfaction expressed for one of the new policies. Budget proposal No: 13 says: “Although preliminary activities related to the disposal of government lands are carried out by District Secretaries through Divisional Secretaries, at a later stage such duties were also allocated to Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority and the Land Reform Commission which were established for special requirements. It is reported that there are occurrences of discrimination and malpractice as preliminary activities related to disposal of lands are done in various ways by the respective entities.”

The budget proposal goes on to say “Therefore, as the aforementioned special requirements have already been met, a programme will be prepared during the next year to enable preliminary activities in relation to the disposal of all government lands, including the disposal of lands under the above two institutions, only by the Divisional Secretaries.” Previously when the Mahaweli Authority was in charge, decisions regarding the utilization of land in most of the country could be made from Colombo. The decentralization of decisions pertaining to land alienation to the divisional level will give people at the community level the possibility of having a greater say over the utilization of lands by the new property owners who are more likely to live closer to the area. This is in the spirit of the devolution of power which can lessen corruption and misallocation of resources, improve accountability and give a sense of belonging to all people in the common enterprise of reviving the national economy.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    Truth & Reconciliation Need To Be Manifested In Deeds On The Ground

    Reconciliation helps to repair fractures caused by an absence of trust between State and people.

    Read the calls to action, of the people that is election and action, and the reconciliation is after election. Now Promises by the special interest groups will be owned for resolution then after election the cause diagnosed incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

  • 6
    0

    JP, Neither Truth nor Reconciliation can be manifested in and from those who do not have those qualities, and which they do not understand. So chase them off and put in place those who have the integrity without money lust or jealous insecurity, and are committed to bring honest and visible transformation in nation. For reconciliation humble, all inclusive groups need to take the lead.

  • 10
    1

    “They (the Tamils) are aware that the promises made by successive governments since the 1960s were never delivered.”
    Jehan, Forget about them. How about you. Were you not aware?
    Did your past printed scribbling indicate any awareness.
    .
    “Keeping two of the student leaders under prolonged imprisonment without charge is neither truth nor reconciliation”.
    Neither truth nor reconciliation is in the mind of Sinhala politicians. They clutch at these slogans to hoodwink the foreign governments. (Tamils are past being convinced of the deception.)
    .
    “a system of government in which people feel their participation makes a difference.”
    Here comes the worst thorny issue. It is not just the Tamils, even the Sinhalese do not feel their participation/involvement/decision making privilege.
    .
    Believe me!
    I had to scroll to the very top, every now and then, to convince me that this piece is from Jehan Perera himself.
    (Yehali Sangakkara must be thrilled to have Jehan as the latest recruit! )

  • 8
    2

    “Truth & Reconciliation Need To Be Manifested In Deeds On The Ground”

    Yeah! Kill all the minorities …….. then only the “Sinhalese” will be left.

    And then let lose the “Sinhalese Buddhists” on the “Sinhalese” then no one will be left.

    After 74 years of the prescription/formula …….. we are almost there.

    No one is as talented as the “Sinhalese Buddhists” at destruction …….of all kinds ……. of all manner

    And there’s the truth ……. try to reconcile with that ……..

    • 10
      0

      nimal fernando

      “And there’s the truth ……. try to reconcile with that ……..”

      International force behind SL’s economy: MR
      An international force is behind Sri Lanka’s economy and this force is still active, Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament today.
      https://www.dailymirror.lk/
      22 November 2022
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIgQr3b6oSY

      Nimal
      Mahinda blame you for the disruption in this island.
      What is your response?

      • 3
        2

        “Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament today.”

        Isn’t Mahinda a “Sinhalese Buddhist?”

        Case closed.


        Would you like to add the other great “Sinhalese Buddhist” Ranil as well? ……. Or is he a westernized Christian “Sinhalese Buddhist?” ………. Hence exempt? :))

        Who are we trying to fool Native? Ourselves?

        • 2
          0

          nimal fernando

          “Or is he a westernized Christian “Sinhalese Buddhist?” ………. Hence exempt? :))”

          Perhaps Ranil is a Protestant Buddhist, may be somewhat a refined one.

          Lets discuss a much serious issue:
          Talks underway to remove ethnicity on birth certificate
          NOVEMBER 23, 2022
          The Morning
          https://www.themorning.lk/talks-underway-to-remove-ethnicity-on-birth-certificate/

          When Tamil speaking people seriously campaigned about genocide has been perpetrated on their people I did laughed it off. Now it appears a serious existential issue.

          Since Kamala’s defense department is involved in this matter it must be deadly serious.

          My suggestion to Kamala, please issue birth certificates with two options of ethnic categories, one should be Veddah and the rest Kallathoni.
          I am serious.

          As usual SJ will keep his .. whatever to himself.

  • 3
    0

    The discussion is about the ground level manifestation of concepts. In other words, sincerity. In any matter, sincerity is hardly visible in the Sri Lankan scenario. As per thoughts mooted by International personnel, the Office of the Missing Persons was established to find especially those disappeared in the North and Eastern Provinces during the “War”. I hear no satisfaction about it from stakeholders in the concerned provinces. We had a thing called the LLRC. It earned a lot of criticism from proponents of both the ethnicities. The establishment of a TRC should not be yet a mechanism to waste money down the drain but to give some tangible results so that the stakeholders are happy with the outcome. In any case, Sri Lanka had constituted so many Commissions, Committees etc. The percentage of recommendations of them implemented is dismally low. The real issue is the satisfaction of the stakeholders. On the other hand, is trying to please everyone sensible?

    • 1
      0

      Good sense
      “In any matter, sincerity is hardly visible in the Sri Lankan scenario.”
      Mahinda Rajapaksa also stated in Parliament that his principle is not to sell state organisations, but to make them profitable. And this is the idiot who appointed his brother- in-law to run a previously profitable Srilankan airline into the ground.
      That’s Sri Lankan sincerity for you.

  • 3
    0

    nimal fernando

    “And there’s the truth ……. try to reconcile with that ……..”

    International force behind SL’s economy: MR
    An international force is behind Sri Lanka’s economy and this force is still active, Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told Parliament today.
    https://www.dailymirror.lk/
    22 November 2022
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIgQr3b6oSY

    Nimal
    Mahinda blames you for the disruption in this island.
    What is your response?

  • 6
    1

    I am seriously shocked and I would expect that Eagle Eye and Chiv would be too at all these negative comments in respect of sinhala buddhists (the sinhala land protectors of the most peaceful religion in the world of the same ilk of islam) and negative comments in respect of the buddhist bhikkus with their luxury cars and polic protection squads (wonder whom being protected from!) and airconditioned accommodations (AKA Viharas)

  • 2
    0

    Mahinda said I never left you like Peron. Mahinda said Foreign forces left us bankrupt suggesting dollar robbery from outside SL. Mahinda said Yahapalanaya was responsible for the zero in economy. Mahinda never said he could try to get more dollars now knowing that robbers are waiting eagerly to swallow dollars. So here we have the fullest manifestations of truth and reconciliation. Why wait for more.

  • 5
    0

    65 Years since the Banda-Chelva Pact…………..
    57 Years since the Dudley-Chelva Pact…………
    35 Years since the Indo-Lankan Accord and the 13th Amendment………..

    President Ranil is setting the stage ready for a Ranil-Sampanthan Pact………
    Jehan Perera is having a go at the forbidden fruit………..

  • 1
    0

    Ranil,

    Why do you have to wait until Feb 2023 and what you are going to talk to Tamil MPs? You have to talk to SLPP, JVP and SJB before talking to Tamil MPs and should have a referendam on what you agree with them because the decision makers are not you but the people and 225 thugs in your parliament. can you do it?

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