16 July, 2019

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Update On Advancing Peacebuilding & Transitional Justice In Sri Lanka

By Mangala Samaraweera

Mangala Samaraweera

Development begins with Reconciliation and that Reconciliation is essential for Sri Lanka to realize its vision of a stable, peaceful, reconciled and prosperous nation, for everyone.”

Remarks by Mangala Samaraweera, MP, Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka – Ambassadorial-Level Meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission: Update on Advancing Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka, New York, 17 April 2019:

His Excellency Ambassador Ion Jinga, Vice Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission,

Assistant Secretary General for Peacebuilding Support, Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco,

UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Hanaa Singer,

Excellencies,

Officials,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning to all of you.

It is an honour for me to be here to share with you, Sri Lanka’s experience in Peacebuilding. I am joined by the Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms Mr. Mano Tittawella, the Chairperson of the Office on Missing Persons Mr. Saliya Pieris, and the Secretary-General and CEO of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Dhara Wijayatilake who has just been appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council, as Chair of the Office for Reparations. 

I agree wholeheartedly with the Secretary-General’s words that, 

Efforts to build and sustain peace are necessary not only once conflict has broken out, but long beforehand through preventing conflict and addressing its root causes. And that we must all work better together across the peace continuum, focusing on all the dimensions of conflict. 

Therefore, I want to first thank all of you for the work that you do through the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peabuilding Fund, and the Peacebuilding Support Office, in connection with situations across the world.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

As all of you are probably aware, almost 30 years of conflict in Sri Lanka ended in May 2009. 

Yet, for almost 6 years since the end of the conflict, we did not succeed in addressing fundamental issues related to good governance, rule of law, human rights and dealing with the past, that are necessary for sustaining peace and securing economic development that are required for our nation’s long-term progress and prosperity. 

However, following the mandates given by the people at the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in January and August 2015, we were able to hit the re-set button to re-gain and re-launch Sri Lanka on a new trajectory to, 

reach out to the international community;

restore and renew valuable relationships and partnerships with the international community including the United Nations; and 

work towards restoring trust and confidence both locally and internationally, including with persons of Sri Lankan origin overseas.

The peacebuilding journey that we embarked upon in January 2015 to ensure non-recurrence of conflict was based on the pillars of – 

strengthening democracy and good governance; 

reconciliation; and 

inclusive and equitable growth and development in the country.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the present Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres, their respective teams at headquarters and the Country Team in Sri Lanka have all been extremely supportive of Sri Lanka’s journey since January 2015, from the moment we reached out to the UN. 

I recall coming to New York as Foreign Minister, to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on 13 February 2015, just a month following the January 8th Presidential Election. At this meeting, I explained the path that the National Unity Government that we had formed was taking on ushering in sustainable peace and reconciliation in the country, and sought the UN’s assistance through the Peacebuilding Fund. The funding we received from the Immediate Response Facility and longer-term funding have been invaluable to us in a multitude of areas, including resettlement of the internally displaced, holding country-wide consultations on reconciliation mechanisms, and obtaining the correct technical expertise and advice at the right time, in a timely manner which the constraints of Government procedures do not often permit.  

This was especially useful following Sri Lanka co-sponsoring Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” on 1st October 2015, taking ownership of the reconciliation and the transitional justice agenda. 

Through the Peacebuilding Priority Plan, and Peacebuilding Board, the UN and the Government have succeeded in working together to identify areas where assistance is required, and to bring on board most bilateral partners as well, so that there is clarity, and duplication is avoided.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although there is a perception among some that progress in Sri Lanka has stalled or that progress is way too slow, looking back, I can confidently say that Sri Lanka, despite several challenges, has managed to achieve much more than even some of us had imagined, in multiple areas of policy, and legal and economic reform, in just over 48 months since January 2015. 

This includes the 19th amendment to the Constitution and the setting up of the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions; the Right to Information Act; the Victim and Witness Protection Act; criminalising enforced disappearance; introducing Certificates of Absence through legislation; setting up the Office on Missing Persons and more recently the Office for Reparations; making Sri Lanka more free and open; making governance more transparent and fiscally responsible; becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and assigning the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka as the National Preventive Mechanism; and greater engagement with the systems and procedures of the UN. In fact we extended a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures in December 2015, and since then, apart from UN high officials, we have received 08 thematic special procedure mandate holders including 02 Working Groups. Just last week, we received the Sub Committee on Torture. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The best proof to demonstrate that Sri Lanka’s reform agenda since January 2015 has in fact worked is the peaceful resolution of the recent crisis that most unexpectedly plunged the country’s politics into turmoil and tested Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions. The peaceful resolution of the crisis through constitutional means was a triumph for democracy and democratic institutions. The 52 day crisis or coup as they call it in Sri Lanka demonstrated the resilience of our democracy and democratic institutions that had been strengthened since January 2015. The Independent Commissions, the Legislature, and the Judiciary – all acted with great responsibility and strength of purpose in line with the Constitution, rule of law, and good governance. In fact the assertion of judicial power to defend and uphold the Constitution was made possible because of the fact that the Constitutional Council under the 19th amendment to the Constitution is empowered to screen judges for impartiality, strengthening the independence of judiciary.  

The spontaneous yet peaceful mobilisation of people – young and old – including some who had never participated in a protest or demonstration in their lives – inspired much hope for the sustenance of democracy, rule of law, and non-recurrence of conflict. What was most heartening was that citizen mobilisation transcended party politics, ethnicity and religion, standing instead for universal values and norms, and respect for the Constitution and the onward march of progressive reform.  

While Sri Lanka had a coalition government since January 2015, with the two main political parties in the country coming together to form a National Unity Government, what we have now, following the resolution of the 2018 October 26th political crisis, is a Government of the United National Party that is in co-habitation with the President who is from another Party. 

While coalition government posed its own set of challenges as many of you would understand, cohabitation too poses challenges. Nevertheless, what is important to us and what must not be ignored is that through the crisis, Sri Lanka’s democracy was tested and emerged triumphant. And, we are determined to continue on our chosen path of progressive reform that includes reconciliation, transitional justice, and economic development to ensure peace, stability and prosperity for all our citizens. 

The co-sponsorship of Human Rights Council Resolution 40/1 on 21st March this year which was a procedural technical roll-over of Resolution 30/1 of 2015 is a demonstration of our commitment to continue working with the UN system, and our bilateral partners to advance our national reconciliation and development agenda for the benefit of all citizens. In taking this decisive step we have demonstrated that moving backwards toward the autocratic and exclusionary policies that prevailed in pre-January 2015 Sri Lanka is no longer an option. 

Excellencies, 

Our main message to our people through all our communication campaigns and through the mechanisms and processes for truth-seeking, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence is that ‘Development begins with Reconciliation’ and that Reconciliation is essential for Sri Lanka to realise its vision of a stable, peaceful, reconciled and prosperous nation, for everyone.

My colleagues who are here with me will explain in detail, the Transitional Justice Mechanisms that have been established and the processes that are presently underway. However, before I give the floor to them, I want to make one important point. 

With universal adult franchise introduced in 1931, Sri Lanka is considered as Asia’s oldest democracy. We are at present a nation of 22 million citizens – multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural – with a gross domestic product of approximately USD 90 billion. We are determined to make use of Sri Lanka’s geostrategic position to develop Sri Lanka as a hub in the Indian Ocean, to ensure that Sri Lanka finally achieves the status of economic development that has eluded us since Independence 70 years ago. We fully recognize that economic prosperity cannot be achieved without reconciliation, sustainable peace, and stability. 

As Minister of Finance, my staff and I have ensured that steps are taken to allocate adequate financing for reconciliation mechanisms as well as reconciliation related programmes and projects in our national budget. Yet, this is not a journey we can complete successfully on our own. We need your support in many ways, including technical support for the mechanisms that are being set up; training; and capacity building as well as sharing of experiences. 

If I may share a simple example – Sri Lanka has set a target of being completely mine free by the year 2020, and some of the countries represented here today support us in this endeavour. When Sri Lanka becomes completely mine free, however, the workforce engaged in demining work consisting several thousand including almost 50% women and some ex-combatants will become unemployed. We would appreciate learning how similar situations have been handled elsewhere and how best to absorb these citizens of our country who are currently engaged in this delicate work, risking their lives, into the regular workforce. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

As I explained earlier, the political crisis tested our democracy. The peaceful resolution of the crisis in line with the constitution and the rule of law was clearly a triumph for those who stood firmly on the side of democracy, values, and progressive reform. Especially as this year and the next are election years, this is the time that the people of our country who stand on the side of democracy and progress need the support of the international community the most. They must feel appreciated and supported. They must feel that the international community and the United Nations including the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office stands with them in their journey towards achieving sustainable peace, stability and prosperity. They must also feel that democracy, rule of law, sustainable peace and reconciliation yield dividends. Therefore, I urge you to remain engaged and continue to support us in this journey. 

Thank you

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Latest comments

  • 5
    2

    To reconcile!!!

    There’s harmony; people are getting on well with each other. (Except a handful of politicians & frustrated terrorists & their sympathizers).

    The UN seems to be a body; creating issues for its existence.

    Sri Lanka should see the possibility of politics without a ministry for foreign affairs as it gains nothing but only spending (& paradise for fools).

    • 3
      0

      I do not wish to comment on various aspects of Mangala’s speech as it will be too cumbersome. Nevertheless, I would like to refer to one of his recent statement on Gampereliya, where he said that a translation of gampereliya to Tamil is not necessary. Why? is it because you wish to Tamilize the Sinhal word or you just don’t care about Tamil language?
      Speaking of reconciliation, it should begin from the basics Mangala.
      It is a pity that the Tamil MP’s too did not press the matter as they are holding hands now.

      • 3
        1

        This is empty rhetoric to hood wink the international community. Peace is not mere absence of war. To say that people are getting on well with each other is far from the truth as tolerance does not mean acceptance. You will be surprised about the result if you hold a referendum among Tamils for independence. For reconciliation justice has to be meted out to Tamils, for which they fought. None of the agreed matters has been settled even during this regime.
        1. Release of lands – .Still majority of the lands have not been released to public. In some instances, army releases some lands but navy takes over some other lands to negate it. Lands are being appropriated from Tamils under various pretexts by archaeology, forest and other departments. Buddhist priests are encroaching lands with the support of government and law enforcing authorities.
        2. Release of political prisoners – Some are held over 15 years for minor offences and some for no offence just on forced confession. Attorney General’s department cannot say that they do not have time to file cases. This delay is deliberate.
        3. Missing persons – After a delay of two years an office was established to cheat international community, and after an initial flurry, they have gone into slumber. Just saying that they are dead will not do. Government must tell when they were killed and where their dead bodies were disposed of, at least for the relatives to exhume the remains and give a decent funeral.
        4. Political solution – After a delayed start, it is stuck at the first stage itself. As general elections are coming no Sinhala politician is interested in it, as it would affect their political career. Recently Sirisena told Sambanthan that when there are pressing problems, why do you want a new constitution. This clearly shows that it is the Sinhalese who are intransigent in arriving at a just solution.

        • 2
          2

          Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam,
          “Recently Sirisena told Sambanthan that when there are pressing problems, why do you want a new constitution.”
          President is right. Government has to decide priorities. Simply because a handful of Wellala elite politicians and ‘Koti Diaspora’ want a constitution giving them a Federal State, the Government should not waste their time and resources for that. Already they have wasted lot of money making few people rich but no more. Majority of the people who pay tax are Sinhalayo.
          These guys want Land and Police powers to oppress low caste Demala people. Low caste Demala people have told not to give Land and Police Powers to them. The Government should respect the view of the majority.

          • 0
            1

            Eekel Guy, Sambanthan did not keep quiet. He told Sirisena in no uncertain terms that if he is not going to take action to continue constitution making process, he will have to seek help of international community. Sirisena like a dog with his tail between his legs immediately summoned the constitutional council. Why are the Sinhala politicians scared to tell the world that they are not going to grant justice to Tamils, instead of telling them they will do it but continue cheating. This is why I have been stating that Tamils will not get justice without foreign intervention.

  • 3
    1

    Ladies and Gentleman ,
    What a fantastic progress report our current Finance Minster has delivered to you,
    Why do you lot still insists on sending Foreign Judges to punish the our Soldiers who eliminated Mr Pirahaparan.
    And demand the Govt go Federal as soon as possible.
    These have created mega problems for our Finance Minster’s Boss Dr Ranil?.

    I as surprised to hear Samare saying it is now totally a UNP Government ,
    Wonder what happened to the National Government.

    Your UN Resolution has caused so much heart ache to the UNP, that its Leader of the Sinhala Buddhist Faction is now branded as a Rabid Dog by the UNP Elite , Anglican and Vellala Faction.
    That is serious,
    Now Dr Ranil’s spokesperson for their UNP Faction and the UNP Deputy who heads the Sinhala Buddhist Faction are at full on war with each other…
    Now the UNP needs reconciliation more than our poor inhabitants.

    One thing though this UNP Government is a good outcome for the great majority of ur Inhabitants.
    Because Dr Ranil now can’t appoint the one Time War Hero as the Minster of Internal Affairs.
    Neither can Dr Ranil give Minister Posts to other losers to collect Ministerial perks for the next 15 months. .

    Although FM Samare reckons him and his Buddies in Govt have given you so much in reconciliation and reparations, there is no Development, despite Samare’s theory that Reconciliation goes hand in hand with Development.

    My Elders tell me even the Mine Clearing was all done before 2015.
    And the Economy was growing at 8% plus then.
    Now it is barely touching 3% and most likely will be under 3 % before the next Election.

    One thing though ,the Deputy Leader of the UNP has openly castigated his colleagues as crooks who have collected big time under this Yahapalana Government.. .

  • 0
    1

    Lankans especially Rajapaksa, s not only fail to learn from past mistakes but also dumb in making bigger mistakes. Today in their press statement SLPP acknowledged that Gota knew Mr. Roy Samathanam well and by accusing him as a former LTTE member they also acknowledged the fact that Gota gave the orders to torture him while in custody. All this stupidity was to score a point against SF and Wigy. (by portraying pictures of both taken with Roy). This may impress the Retarded Lankans but not the international courts.They accused NGO/diaspora of false allegations when SF him self was thrown into jail with the help of colluding CJ/judiciary.

  • 4
    3

    There is not a single word of justice in this speech. Sinhalam wants the world to forget about violent-carbon-dating for genocide of Eezham Tamils, and now the structural genocie of Tamils in full swing, under the pretext of peace-building, reconciliation development gibberish.

  • 3
    1

    International newspapers report that the Ukrainians look set to elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian and actor with no political experience, as their new president on Sunday. Sri Lanka leads the world in that department.

  • 6
    5

    Dravidians from Hindusthan never allowed native Sinhalayo of Sinhale to live in peace during the past 2500 years and they will not allow Sinhala people to live in peace for the next 2500 years. Sinhalayo should get prepared to face that challenge. Reconciliation is waste of tax payers money but a gold mine for some.

  • 5
    5

    Why only Sri Lankan tax payers pay war reparations? Indians also should pay for the crimes committed by Indian Army against Demala people. They should pay for men and women killed, rape victims and for the property damages. The problem is Wellala Demalu are scared to tell this to Modi. Modi will tell ‘Go to Hell’

    • 2
      1

      Eagle!
      India is the first accused in the genocide of the Tamils. This is their 2nd war with the Tamils in an underhand manner, Ist being the IPKF attack .They fired their guns through Srilankan army during the war.. The second accused is Britain, 3rd accused is Pakistan and the 4th USA and the 5th Srilanaka. If you investigate further the order may change but the accusation will remain. If not for the 1st 4 accused, Srilanka would not have attempted to tackle LTTE , even if they attempted they would not have succeeded. To day things would have been different. Perhaps Tamils and Sinhalese would have come to terms and continued their journey of ‘understanding’
      Because of their involvement in the genocide , India in particular is hesitant to accuse Srilanak in Geneva. If they did it would have boomeranged.
      Eagle, at least once we agree in parts.

  • 3
    1

    The present Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera recalls “….. coming to New York as Foreign Minister, to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on 13 February 2015,…..sought the UN’s assistance through the Peacebuilding Fund……”.
    You got the funding. What did you do with it? Has the GoSL achieved anything?
    .
    You forgot to boast that towards ‘reconciliation’, you cleared the danger of land-mines.
    Who cleared them Mangala?
    The mine-clearing work was NOT done by the Lankan Armed Services.
    As you speak two mine-clearers were blown up.
    Why did they have to choose this hazardous work?

  • 3
    4

    Peace building and TRansitional justice looks like an INGO sponcored by the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. Mangala Samaraweera, even though he is the FINANCE MINISTER. he has a section of the foreign affairs ministry for himself in MATARA, is supposed to involve all the INGO work and comment on their activities. Otherwise, why should a MP repsenting an electoral district and not an electorate talk about Reconciliation, Transition Justice and all the related CRAP. What about so many CHE GUVERA youth died in the MATARA elelctoral district. Those parentsdo onot ask about their sons and daughters. Those parents went mentally deranged. Why PEace builders are not interested in those. Is it because mostly Sinhala youth.Besides, these tries are very good at hiding Destruction of the country going oninside the Finanace Ministry. So, Sri lankan women keep on earning for the International community and Srilankans get Autobhan and Cancer, Fertilizer, pesticides and rotten kidneys.
    che guvera youth then LTTE youth and after Farmers and farmer communities were killed. Because, Sri Lanka is a really primitive country. Many politicians working to make their father’s dream alive and NEPOTIOSM is PART of that.

    • 1
      2

      My comment was misleading. Why a Matara M onefrom the down south and the , Finance minister was invited to talk for an INGO.

  • 4
    2

    Absolute nonsense and BS by Mangala to mislead Intl Community as Sinhala Buddhist state sponsored oppression and Sinhala colonization in Tamils’ lands going on unabated; Mangala is a Sinhala hardcore against Tamils’ and minorities, uttering rubbish to protect war criminals from accountability; The International Community and UN leaders must be insane to listen to propaganda information without forcing for an international investigation, engaging International Criminal Court to investigate all crimes without delay to deliver Justice by bringing perpetrators to accountability;

    There will never be any reconciliation with war criminals, serial killers and rapists and this is illusion and not reality; Political corruption helps Sri Lanka leaders from accountability to date as unethical and immoral leaders support the alleged war criminal regime.

    No country will prosper and no communities will reconcile without Rule of Law applied equally to all without any bias, no war criminals, serial killers and rapists evade from accountability and Justice;

  • 0
    1

    Ranil removed Mangala from FAM and put in FM. He has engaged Tilak in FAM. Mangala is a good liar. Not a strong fighter. Further, like Ponny, Mangala too has personal grudge against Olds. But, Tilak saved Old Royals from Avant Garde arms smuggling operation, with Deal dasa. So Ranil wanted Tilak to go last March and deny doing any of the agreement Lankawe did with UNHRC. Though Mangala is no longer in FAM, here basically that is what he is doing. Here Mangala is saying that Lankawe signed the resolution 40/1 because they want to work with UN. Tilak is not great in this king of lying. So Ranil is using here Mangala.

    The speech sound like Mangala is doing a political campaign against Old Royals, on the UN arena, but not in local stage or in Aandu Pashawe. Mangala keep repeating that he has peacefully resolved the coup. But, during the coup, Mangala was the only minister claimed that the Rapist Army and Rapist police is under the Defense Ministry which they owned. It was Ranil saved Old King and New King on violating the constitution. Ranil, after meeting Western Indian envoys, warned in Presidential Palace, New King and Old King that they may face immediate travel ban unless otherwise they stop the coup. So they had passed an injunction to stop Old King’s cabinet and rearranged everything safely.
    Thirukural Couplet 517:

    Transliteration:
    ithanai ithanaal ivanmutikkum endraaindhu
    adhanai avan-kaN vidal
    Translation:
    ‘This man, this work shall thus work out,’ let thoughtful king command;
    Then leave the matter wholly in his servant’s hand.

    Explanation:
    After having considered, “this man can accomplish this, by these means”, let (the king) leave with him the discharge of that duty.
    Taking Ranil Order on his head, now, World greatest liar Mangala is cheating all.

  • 0
    0

    Alarming of burning and critical problems democracy,its survival of system turn into emergencies of new terrorist attacked had been neglected by newly elected president of MS and his cronies. …UNP’s.
    If we have no answer such political, economic and social that turbulence and innumberal upheavals,chaos among People of Island that crisis has grown rapidly since 2015 Jan 8th.
    How is that most corrupted regime of UNP remain in power of Democratic society like Sri Lanka?
    In political democracy in Parliament discussion that NO answer UNP regime remained in power is meaningless.
    Are they wanted hide factors by impending catastrophe of Island by New Regime of UNP of RW and it unholy alliance of CBK of (SLFP) TNA, JVP, and Muslim Parties.?
    What are those reasons ?
    We have to look for answer of that ? The citizens who pursue a politics of top down control ,therefor find emergencies are extremely useful that function of order of Democracy of People of Sri lanka.
    The key word is that 2015 January 8th only One mandate an obtained by Gamaralaga Sirsena allies that Mathripala Sirisena has won 6.2 million voted have been voted by citizens elected President of Island .
    1 The FIRST STEP was we accepted that by even right thinking citizens that norms democracy patten of Island since 1948 by change of govt, by ballot.
    2 Second step of wrong move by President of MS has been an appointment most corrupted PARTY of UNP the leaders of Ranil Wicks being of that minority party of 42 membres in chamber as Prime-Minster of
    Sri lanka.
    This is an undoubtedly of that unconstitutional that Coup was back by Western embassies Colombo of that USA, UK, EC countries ,Japan and Indian RAW intelligence services.
    That was A NEW of TYPE regime change; it was that blatantly violated against norms of Parliamentary sovereignty tradition of an Island while undermined Three pillars of democracy of executive, legislative and judiciary upside down by UNP leadership .

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