27 May, 2018

Blog

Unofficial Truth Commission Shows Way For Government

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

On Sunday a meeting of a truth commission took place in Kandy in which I was an observer. This was not the truth commission promised by the government to the international community in Geneva in October 2015. Rather, it was an unofficial body, a citizens’ truth commission, set up by the District Inter Religious Committee of Kandy. The District Inter Religious Committee (DIRC) had previously been involved in mitigating the violent situation that had arisen Kandy in early March 2018 and which lasted for a week in defiance of police curfews declared in the district. The DIRC members influenced the government officials, relevant religious leaders and academic persons in the area to take necessary action to solve the problem. In the midst of the troubled period, the DIRC also held a media conference to request all communities to be peaceful and to avoid escalating the problem.

After the riots had ended the DIRC decided to appoint a Citizens’ Truth Commission (an unofficial Truth Seeking mechanism) to find root causes of the incident that had taken place in Kandy. The members appointed as commissioners were Justice W.M.P.B. Waravewa, Retired Judge, Professor S.A Kulasooriya, Professor Milton Rajaratne, Attorney at law Chrismal Warnasooriya, Professor Amarakeerthi Liyanage, A.M.L.B. Polgolla, Retired GA, Kandy, Dr. M.B. Adikaram, Retired Director General, Mahaweli Authority, Dr. Kanchana Kohombange , Attorney at law M.K.M Shahin Hasan, S.L. Weerasena, Retired Director General, Agriculture Department and university lecturer R. Ramesh. The commissioners assigned two expert committees to collect the evidence from the victims as well as from the other people in the areas where the most serious incidents had taken place.

The investigation conducted by the commission was preceded by a public notice in the national newspapers announcing the setting up of the citizens’ truth commission, its terms of reference and the names of its commissioners. The final hearing of the commission, which I observed was to review the information of expert committees and also to give opportunity for those who were interested to submit further evidence. The proceedings of the entire hearing were conducted in public with the news media in attendance. Most of those who attended the final meeting of the truth commission in the heart of Kandy city were those who believed in the values of pluralism and people’s participation in governance and represented a cross section of society, which demonstrated the essentially democratic, pluralistic and human rights respecting nature of the Sri Lankan intelligentsia.

Silent Majority 

The truth commission held in Kandy is evidence of the silent majority who could be won over to the cause of peacebuilding and national reconciliation if there were sufficient political champions of those concepts as opposed to champions of crude ethnic nationalism. This silent majority is too often forced to watch silently and with disapproval even as atrocities are perpetrated in their names by others. As this was a nationally advertised and public event there were also unlike-minded persons also in attendance. There was some concern amongst the organizers that there might be attempts to disrupt the proceedings. But this did not happen. Those who wished to participate constructively in the truth commission were too strong in their presence and in their position for the proceedings to be derailed.

Explaining the rationale for the setting up of the truth commission, the coordinator of the Kandy District Inter Religious Committee, Gamini Jayaweera, said that shortly after the anti Muslim riots the government had announced that it would set up a commission of inquiry to engage in fact finding to ascertain the truth of what happened, whether it was spontaneous, or organized, and if so who was behind the riots. But the government’s inquiry has yet to happen. The police investigations also appear to be at a standstill. Although several of the ground level perpetrators have been arrested by the police, the master minds behind the scenes still remain at liberty. In this context of continuing impunity for the master minds, last week, an independent state institution, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka led by its chairperson Professor Deepika Udagama spent three days in Kandy engaging in fact finding. This was commendable as the Human Rights Commission did not wait for information to come to it and instead went out proactively to search for the truth.

The setting up of the Citizens’ Truth Commission can be seen as a civil society response to the failure of the government to find and publicise the truth of what lay behind the anti Muslim riots. There appears to be a general reluctance on the part of the government to get to the truth of violence that has occurred in the past. The apprehension of the government to probe the truth can also be seen in its reluctance to establish a truth commission to find out what happened during the course of the war. The general public, however, are not averse to such findings. Last year another civil society initiative led by the National Peace Council in partnership with the District Inter Religious Committee took place in Kandy in the form of a Truth Forum, which looked into the human rights violations that had taken place in the past, which was well received by those who participated, which provided the inspiration for the present citizens’ truth commission process.

Civic Example 

Unfortunately, there seems to be a continuing apprehension on the part of the government that a Pandora’s Box of revelations will emerge from truth seeking mechanisms that cannot be put back into the box. As a result the promises made by the government at the landmark session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in October 2015 still remain unfulfilled for the most part. The joint resolution at that session, which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka stated that the government would set up a truth commission, an office of missing persons, an office of reparations and a special court on accountability to deal with the outstanding issues of the war. Three years later it is only the office of missing persons that has seen the light of day. The problem is that establishing the reconciliation mechanisms, and getting them going, does not appear to be a priority of a government that has many other problems to deal with.

On the positive side, the government has been acting more decisively in recent times to pass new legislation with regard to accountability issues, especially after the defeat of the no-confidence motion against the prime minister. Three recent examples are the passage of the judicature act, and presentation of amendments to the bribery commission act and the clearing of hurdles to the national audit bill. All of these changes in the laws will strengthen the systems of accountability. Through these measures the government is giving the law enforcement agencies the necessary tools to act against those who are law breakers. The lacuna to fill is to instill in the law enforcement agencies the confidence that they have the political backing to take action.

The District Inter Religious Committee of Kandy’s decision to conduct a truth commission is as testament to the space that the government has created for constructive actions, but which it is not doing itself. The members of this committee have become champions of reconciliation and shown leadership and initiative which is presently lacking in the government when it comes to dealing with issues of healing the traumas of the past. The success of this civil society initiative and its acceptance by people is an indication that this micro level initiative can become a macro level initiative if taken on by other civil society groups. There could be a plethora of civil society truth commissions where people mobilize themselves to discuss and find answers to those issues that are central to their lives and pressurize the government to give its own answers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 24
    9

    The best way for Srilanka to get out of the mess is to import foreign judges.
    Our law and order and Judicial system is highly corrupted.

    • 12
      5

      Dr Jehan: PLEASE Tell us the facts and truth! Who owns, operates and FUNDS Mahasohon Balakaya – the perpetrators of the violence against Muslims?
      Where did it come from – Pathala Champika Ranawaka and BBS Gotabaya Jarapassa.

      Enough big words and FAKE RECONCILIATION and FAKE TRUTH – shows for victims. We need to know the truth about the perpetrators and action against them.

      Also,Who funded this Truth and Reconciliation show in kandy? EU, USAID, MCC, UNDP who operate fake reconciliation without ECONOMIC JUSTICE in Lanka?
      Moral of story. The Hate Speech and violence against minorities is Bi-partisan UNP-SLFP operation to cover up the high level corruption of the party leaders. Bi-partisan UNP-SLFP corruption is the model of fake reconciliation promoted by global peace industry all over the world – fake peace without real justice is what we have!
      The post-war governance model in Lanka today is Divide, Distract the masses with Hate Speach and attacks on minorities and loot the people to promote interests of Western Capital and Global 1 percent.
      Ranil’s looting of the Central Bank and the Bond scam was buried by these riots organized by his JHU sidekick pathala Champika Ranawaka. Ranil and US citizen Gota are the God fathers of the violence against minorities in Lanka today.
      Wake up and stop making shows for the victims of violence. Tell us about the Perpetrators.

      • 5
        2

        Quite right Dodo. The anti-Muslim riots were like 1983 Redux.
        Jehan and his foreign funded civil soceity friends who are involved in fake reconciliation without economic rights and justice with their foreign advisors should have asked some hard questions about what has been achieved after the millions spend on civil society reconciliation shows since 1983 attacks on Tamils by political thugs of UNP govt
        The fact is that it not ordinary people but corrupt politicians who mis-use religion that are accountable for violence. against minorities by distracting moda Sinhala masses from political corruption and looting of Central Bank.
        The International Human rights and Fake truth and reconciliation Industry is a global project to mis- diagnose the problem and use identity politics to distract everyone from the galloping corruption that benefits global 1 percent and the ensuing economic inequality that is the ROOT CAUSE of conflict – not just in Lanka..
        Long live miracle of Modayas

      • 0
        3

        This is always what happened to the west. They always misdiagnose it. Look like the project is doomed on the design table. Hindia says we are wacthing it.

    • 6
      2

      Jehan Perera

      “The truth commission held in Kandy is evidence of the silent majority who could be won over to the cause of peacebuilding and national reconciliation if there were sufficient political champions of those concepts as opposed to champions of crude ethnic nationalism.”

      Good to hear the silent majority has come out from its secure shell put its neck to dig out truth. We should welcome it with open arms.

      However it is the destructive noisy minority that wreck peace and cause more conflicts out of nothing.

      • 0
        3

        Dumb NAtive Vedda show the project to devide the Sinhala buddhists, planning to cheat and lie to them. Tele Evangelists are very smart.

        • 2
          0

          Jim softy dimwit

          “Tele Evangelists are very smart.”

          Is that why you could not chose televangelism as your vocation.
          Hallelujah.

    • 0
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 1
      1

      Missing peoples commission is operating Tamils say it is not the Sinhala Army but the IPKF that killed most of the Tamils in the North.thereafter Pabakaran who killed the largest number of Tamils. So, they are scolding the Tamil politicians. I heard even the south Indian Politicians scold Sri lankan Tamil politicians why the MOP os not discussing Atrocities that happened in Yapanaya.
      Here you are in a hurry to propose we need now foreign judges. IT looks TNA is finished.

  • 3
    2

    Wonder whether this Committee compared the monthly disposable incomes of the Committee Members and the members of the labour force in Tea Estates around Kandy ,the worshipers at Malwatta, NGOs who hold those Workshops , Muslim Merchants and the Majority Inhabitants , both who are lucky to have jobs and ones who have no Jobs at all.
    Rights of the Stomach are more important than the Civil Rights, if the stomach is empty.
    My Elders ask me what about the Politikkas.
    They look like needing “Stomach Stapling” rather than filling it.

    • 3
      0

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      Alright, now you under the influence of malt. Come back tomorrow and type whatever you want to type.

  • 3
    0

    “The setting up of the Citizens’ Truth Commission can be seen as a civil society response to the failure of the government to find and publicise the truth of what lay behind the anti Muslim riots”. A highly commendable initiative. Notwithstanding that this organization has no official status, we hope its findings will be made public and the Government will have a moral duty to answer the people of the country.

    • 0
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 0
      0

      Steve reading the Wijewardena report to the UNP leader, and considering the quality of the group that prepared it, I am very disappointed and do not see a bright future for this country. With people like Ajith Perera, I would expect the group to press on the Unity of the state and it’s citizens not to cater to the Sinhala Buddhist group.It was that concept of the Sinhala parties and the crude vivisection by late Lalith Athulathmudali as Minister of Trade that led to the war. LA did not care a farthing for the sensitivities of the farmer. In the north it led to the war and in Uva it led to the fall of the UNP.

      I also do not see a bright future for our economy. That report suggest that all defeated candidates should be found places in the State Ventures with cars to boot, – obviously as Directors. That was what killed the state ventures and provided ammunition for some bogus economists to call them White elephants .

      Only good God can save this country not our politicians.

  • 2
    1

    So there was inconvenient truth and now we have unofficial truth! Is the choice of words getting throttled like the truth in Sri Lanka?

    • 1
      0

      Percy the pathetic

      What is truth?

  • 0
    1

    Quite right Dodo. The anti-Muslim riots were like 1983 Redux.
    Jehan and his foreign funded civil soceity friends who are involved in fake reconciliation without economic rights and justice with their foreign advisors should have asked some hard questions about what has been achieved after the millions spend on civil society reconciliation shows since 1983 attacks on Tamils by political thugs of UNP govt
    The fact is that it not ordinary people but corrupt politicians who mis-use religion that are accountable for violence. against minorities by distracting moda Sinhala masses from political corruption and looting of Central Bank.
    The International Human rights and Fake truth and reconciliation Industry is a global project to mis- diagnose the problem and use identity politics to distract everyone from the galloping corruption that benefits global 1 percent and the ensuing economic inequality that is the ROOT CAUSE of conflict – not just in Lanka..
    Long live miracle of Modayas!

  • 2
    3

    and if anyone tells any untruths there are the 2 hamuduruwo who will give you a thundering slap which will send you spinning away.They have not been doing bodybuilding for nothing.

    • 1
      1

      Yes they were bodybuilding to please some of your family members who secretly admire them without you knowing!

      • 0
        0

        dala pootuwa

        now i know why bears are not found anymore in srilanka due to evolutionary process.

        When i see some politicians i know why gorillas and chimps are not thre anymore.

    • 1
      0

      shankar

      Are you sure they aren’t going to slap liar’s butt?

  • 1
    0

    Truth commissions are necessary because the investigative arm of the state – Police – are inefficient/corrupt/communal minded.
    Armed forces are same.
    The state, even now, after inter communal clashes were over, keeps a section of the population under an unofficial oppressive military regime, depriving citizens of their homes, lands and livelihoods.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    2

    Now the 2020 common Candiate project has set up their board of directors. What will be the role of MAno Ganshan. What will happen to Jehan PErera, he will get more money from the govt of Ranil or Hindus will start money from India asking you guys stay in the middle do not go with them. One professor says, this time we present our case all the communities should be treated equally. Ranil is the this time presidential candidate. Ranil is awaiting until all the interest groups present their case to announce his decision. On the other hand, there is another WAR WINNING GENERAL thinking what to do because both sides have asked from him to represent their side in the presidential election.

  • 0
    0

    I heard the westerners who were used to live in the Javahar lal Nehru’s country now know their project is a wastage of money and they are thinking what would be the next step.

  • 0
    2

    SL government is elected to serve Sri Lankans and only answerable to Sri Lankans, not the UN bastards.
    /
    The Muslims who had been arrested with explosives were given bailout within hours, and the by standing innocent Sinhalese who’d been arrested, have been remanded for weeks without bailout in sight.
    /
    ‘The truth’ means here is the made up lies which will demonize Sinhala-Buddhists who are trying to take their mother-land back.

    • 1
      0

      Johnny Baby

      “SL government is elected to serve Sri Lankans and only answerable to Sri Lankans, not the UN bastards.”

      International politics and relation are too complicated. I suggest you leave to the experts. If you do not like UN, UNHRC, ………………. please pull the little island from 150 or so international organisations.

      “The Muslims who had been arrested with explosives were given bailout within hours, and the by standing innocent Sinhalese who’d been arrested, have been remanded for weeks without bailout in sight.”

      How sure are you the explosives were there or planted by fascists like you to create and justify violence?

      ” ‘The truth’ means here is the made up lies which will demonize Sinhala-Buddhists who are trying to take their mother-land back.”

      Where is the mother land?
      The branding of Sinhala-Buddhists appeared only in the hundred or so years.
      I see lots of people on the streets, mostly the descendants of Kallathonies. I do not see Sinhala-Buddhists in any part of this island. I must have missed them altogether. In order to identify the Sinhala/Buddhist swiftly either they ought to Tattoo their brand on their forehead or Bronco Brand them on both cheeks.

  • 0
    0

    I am for any attempt to build bridges between communities, however ineffective it might be. The reality of the matters is that Sri Lanka cannot escape from the global politics and knowing its structure and form the disturbances are a manifestation of global operation as applicable to Sri Lanka, which a Truth Commission, whether official or unofficial, cannot unravel. I am not asking anybody to copy the structure of another country. Can for example, anybody spread extremism of any religion or ethnicity in Singapore? Definitely Not. Study the simple solution they adopt and if one prefers to think a Sri Lankan adaptation of that solution can be evolved.

  • 0
    0

    Truth Commissions are expected to unravel the real reality. The Desmund Tutu Truth Commision was a vehicle for reconciliation.
    ‘Unofficial Truth Commissions’ have been used the world over to inform and educate. Two achievements by ‘unofficial truth commissions’:
    In the US, student protests, mock trials and ‘teach-ins’ contributed to the ending of the Vietnam war.
    Similar student actions in UK, brought about the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
    In Lanka we have been lulled into considering reconciliation as of secondary importance.
    This mindset
    must change. Thanks Jehan for stressing this.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.