By Jehan Perera –
The government achieved its main goal at the UN Human Rights Council at the session just completed in March. It was able to obtain a two year extension to deliver on the promise it made at a previous session of the UNHRC in October 2015. There is a consensus that the government’s performance has been inadequate. The government itself has not denied this. Not one of the four reconciliation mechanisms that the government promised to establish are yet operational. Only one of them, the Office of Missing Persons, has received parliamentary assent, but it is still only on paper. The OMP has yet to be operationalized. In the meantime, the fate of missing persons continues to remain as unknown as it was 18 months ago when the government promised to set up an Office of Missing Persons which would be tasked with the mission of ascertaining the whereabouts of those still missing or what actually happened to them.
Equally deplorably most of the land taken from people by the military during the time of war, and even afterwards, remains under military occupation. Some of this land appears to have no visible military use being used for sports and agricultural purposes. This is noted even by Sinhalese who work at the community level in the North. At a recent meeting of an inter-religious committee in Vavuniya, a Buddhist monk said, “This is a good opportunity for us because all ethnic groups and religions are represented. In the Vavuniya District there are many unresolved issues. People are suffering because there is no way of earning a livelihood and no infrastructure programs. People did not respect the leaders of previous government because of human rights violations. However, this government is also unable to find solutions to the people’s suffering. Although people’s attitudes have been changed because of the conduct of new political leaders, land occupied by the military has not been returned to the owners. The government should immediately respond to these issues.”
These are only some of the issues that continue to oppress the people who lost so much during the war and are presently left to fend for themselves without adequate resources to sustain themselves. The gulf in communication between those who became victims of the war and the rest of society has meant that most people are not fully aware of the problems of those affected by the war. So they are concerned about issues of economic development, jobs and prosperity even while another section of society continues to languish in their losses. A good society is not one that permits the burden of catastrophic loss to remain on those upon whom it falls.
Nonetheless the world being what it is, Sri Lanka is relatively advanced in terms of its post-war normalization when compared to other countries that have recently experienced conflict. This was the main reason why the international community was prepared to give the Sri Lankan government another two years in which to implement its promises made in October 2015 to the UNHRC. From the time the war ended in 2009, governments have tried to improve the situation of the war affected people even if not to the satisfaction of the people concerned or meeting their priorities. The former government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa sought to build up the economic infrastructure and left a network of good quality roads that stands the people of the North and East in good stead today. The international community is willing to give the present government the benefit of the doubt. They know they cannot take on to themselves what the Sri Lankan government has to do.
But though the government got the extra time it asked for this does not mean that its problems are over. It still has to deliver on the promises it made in October 2015. The issues of missing persons, land returns, demilitarization, amending of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to reflect human rights standards and vetting of public officials to ensure that those who commit human rights violations do not continue to hold places of public responsibility are all difficult to address and to resolve. The opposition gives attention to matter of national sovereignty and national security. The government will be hard pressed to cope with this challenge when it comes to the realm of public debate. In the minds of most people national security will tend to receive more deference and priority than any other issue. The United States under President Donald Trump is the latest example of this reality.
In this unfavorable political context, a key to moving forward is to unhinge the concept of transitional justice from its present pivot of accountability for war crimes. The problem today is that the entire transitional justice process is being held hostage to the pursuit of accountability for war crimes. Transitional justice is not only about accountability, it includes truth seeking, reparations and institutional reforms. The experience of other countries shows that ensuring accountability is a lengthy process often taking several decades. Those who are accused of war crimes are still powerful both in the political opposition and in the military. They also have the support of large segments of the population on account of saving the country from violent division.
It is in this context that important commitments of the government are being blocked at every level. It should be clear by now that a war crimes-centered process of transitional justice will not move forward. The demand for international tribunals and hybrid courts to ensure accountability strengthens the hands of those who oppose the transitional justice process. They claim that ascertaining the fate of missing persons and providing reparations for loss of life and property are part of a package aimed at providing hard evidence that will be used in war crimes prosecutions and for punishing of war heroes. Therefore, instead of emphasizing retributive justice in which the primary remedy is punishment, there could be an alternative in the form of restorative justice. There is a need to look for examples from other parts of the world.
The government also needs to move swiftly to regain the trust and confidence of the Tamil people who voted overwhelmingly for the government at the last elections that saw the government change. They are feeling particularly let down. During the past weeks as the UNHRC sessions were being held in Geneva, members of the Tamil Diaspora and civil society visited European capitals to lobby for international direct intervention with regard to the truth-seeking commission and the special courts to try war criminals. But they did not succeed in their missions. In this context, the Tamil polity is feeling very much abandoned and left out by the government that they helped to bring to power by voting for them at the last national elections.
At the present time, Sri Lanka is fortunate in that it has a government that is sincere about making life better for all people, including Tamils. This government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is not anti-Tamil or anti any section of the general population. But they are also politicians who assess the pulse of the people. Any government that wishes to win the next election needs to be mindful of the Sinhalese ethnic majority for whom economic development matters more than transitional justice. The government needs to be supported and strengthened to shift the emphasis on transitional justice away from war crimes trials. When prosecuting war crimes is made the centre piece of transitional justice, as demanded by sections of the international community and Tamil polity, it is even harder to get popular support for transitional justice.
Unreal / March 27, 2017
The write up is the usual insipid stuff of an NGO earning his stipend.
Look at, ‘In the minds of most people national security will tend to receive more deference and priority than any other issue. The United States under President Donald Trump is the latest example of this reality’.
Really? How do you equate or compare any national security threat the US faces with any of SL. It is unkind to even speak of a threat from within, – from the Tamils who are staggering under the burden of State antipathy.
The only threat the country is confronted with is from the politicians.
The President is insecure. He is more concerned about himself than the country. The Prime Minister is no better.
They both are treading the path of least resistance, to ensure that their terms of Office continues uninterrupted. There is no effort to fulfil the needs of the country.
No harm will come to the country from Tamils. Tamils are of this country. Who else appears to be the threat!
A federal form of government will ease any tension that exists between the communities. Any demand for accountability will soon evaporate once an atmosphere of trust and equality is brought about.
The average Sinhalese man cohabited with Tamils, before the politicians from the majority community ruined it.
It is time for the man on the street to resist being deceived by the men after power.
sinhala_voice / March 27, 2017
If there is a Federal setup based on Indo-Lanka Accord, which in turn was based on Thimpu Principles, which in turn was based on Vaddukodai resolution …this can go on and on to 1920s and 1940s the genesis of separate territory for ethnic group Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Under these circumstances there has to be a “Sinhale” for sinhala people.
Up until 1987 with Indo-Lanka agreement and 13 amendment there was no territory associated with an Ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
Even though NON-Sinhala Buddhists complain about this being a sinhala-buddhist chauvanist country …there is NO LEGAL document specifying this to be a Sinhala-Buddhist country.
The 13 amendment viewed together with the Indo-Lanka Accord (1987) specify the Northern and Eastern province to be the historical area of habitation of Tamils.
There is NO mention of even Tamil speaking Muslims leave alone Sinhalese.
So if a federal setup is proposed this has to be NON-Ethnic based purely functional. But the Tamils are NOT interested in purely functional federal setup. They would like to keep Northern and Eastern provinces purely Tamil whilst living in other provinces and reaping the economic benefits of living among Sinhala people in Sinhale.
At the same time complaining to the world that Sinhalese are no good.
Only thing left for the SInhala buddhist to do is to LEAVE this country to the Tamils and Muslims and migrste to another part of the world…
This is the end game of ALL ANTI-Sinhale groups. Either we stand up and try to Keep part of Sri Lanka as Sinhale for Sinhala/Sinhala-Buddhists OR we will be assimilated into GLOBAL Tamil and Muslim communals….
IT IS TIME FOR SINHALA-BUDDHIST TO WAKE UP and demand Sinhale. Sinhale IS NOT WHOLE OF SRI LANKA.
Native Vedda / March 28, 2017
“Under these circumstances there has to be a “Sinhale” for sinhala people.”
What are the Thimpu Principles? How these principles link with Vattukottai resolution?
jansee / March 27, 2017
Jehan, a nice try or call it “testing the waters”. You are a shameless creep with an inconsistent streak, unless you consider the Tamils as not being citizens of SL that they should not get the justice due to them. Let me be frank about this – this country cannot sleep with a clear conscience ever with the rapes and murders on its own citizens.
Today the regime is insisting that it has the resources, means and capability to conduct the investigation on its own. Two years on from the 2015 resolution, there is not even the slightest indication that the regime is even looking at the paper on which the resolution was written. The crux of the problem, says the regime and now jokers like you, is that the majority Sinhalese will oppose the exercise because their “war heroes” may have to stand in the dock and this will translate into diminished votes for the ruling regime. Pray, tell me what is new here, that we have not heard before.
Sampanthan and Sumanthiran made a colossal mistake by not pressing from day one after the passing of the UNHRC resolution. They, in their idle belief, placed their trust on a race that has shown times and again that it has not produced a single leader who has a backbone and is honest enough to treat all citizens alike. May be it was wee too late before they realised their folly that prompted them to issue half-hearted statements. It also now makes sense why the Sumanthiran’s planned assassination by supposedly the LTTE remnants was cooked up just before the UNHRC assembly.
Your article makes it abundantly clear that the victims may never get justice, and your cited reason is VOTES. This is the reason that the Tamils have always insisted on their own homeland because it is amply clear that the Tamils will never get justice in a Sinhala land. Contrary to the victory feeling that surrounds the regime, this may be a turning point for the Tamils to look elsewhere for justice, which may also mean the sidelining of moderate leaders like Sampanthan and Sumanthiran, something we all hoped would not happen. How more foolish the regime can be.
Mallaiyuran / March 28, 2017
“This government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is not anti-Tamil or anti any section of the general population. But they are also politicians who assess the pulse of the people. Any government that wishes to win the next election needs to be mindful of the Sinhalese ethnic majority for whom economic development matters more than transitional justice. (Sinhalese did not vote for New King in the last election. So let him win with the Sinhala votes in the coming election.)The government needs to be supported and strengthened to shift the emphasis on transitional justice away from war crimes trials. When prosecuting war crimes is made the centre piece of transitional justice, as demanded by sections of the international community and Tamil polity, it is even harder to get popular support for transitional justice.”
Jehan PhD is a bully who blackmails Tamils, but worrying about getting support for transitional Justice for Tamils.
Richard Kaz / March 27, 2017
“At the present time, Sri Lanka is fortunate in that it has a government that is sincere about making life better for all people, including Tamils. “
That is yet to be seen. There actions only show that they are only interested in staying in power, in fact didn’t the PM say that in a recent ‘Big Match’.
S.R.H. Hoole / March 27, 2017
Jehan, please stop sticking up for was criminals.
Last week you wrote
I was very upset with that article and today you write, despite the government’s happy failure to scale back its commitments as you wanted,
People like me, especially many Tamils who do not see too many people standing up for Tamil rights, are well-disposed towards you and appreciate your commitment to human rights (particularly of Tamils).
So please do not let us down by going overboard in speaking up for a government that has repeatedly lied to us on this matter.
Based on the government’s statements on never charging those who butchered Tamils, you surely know that even the government’s co-sponsorship of this new UNHRC resolution to fulfil the unfulfilled parts of the 2015 resolution is disingenuous and a farce.
With fond wishes,
sach / March 27, 2017
Those who butchered Tamils are the ones who held a human shield and shot at fleeing civilians. The SLA is not at fault and has not violated any laws.
This resolution and so called war crimes is nothing but playing politics
S.R.H. Hoole / March 27, 2017
Sach, in that case you have nothing to fear from an impartial inquiry and should welcome the opportunity to clear the army’s name and yours too if that is applicable.
sach / March 27, 2017
Yes ‘impartial’ inquiry is needed like we did in Krishanthi Kumaraswamy’s case. I hope you know how to differentiate between crimes at war front by individual soldiers and war crimes. We will inquire the first but not the second which are based on bogus, anonymous evidence. Actually UN too does not have enough evidence to charge the second.
Atticus / March 27, 2017
There is no such thing as an impartial inquiry. There is only the Western powers playing politics with each other, with India, and with the Tamil diaspora.
Eagle Eye / March 27, 2017
Do you think these international judges will be impartial. Tamil Diaspora will buy them. If they managed to buy Hilary, buying these international judges want be a big deal. As ABBA says ‘Money Money Money’
jim softy / March 28, 2017
nothing to fear from an impartial inquiry and should welcome the opportunity
How do you describe impartial here.
Itis all to support the tamils’ dream of a state ?
Why suicide bombrs, black tigers, LTTE financiers and those like you who cried out loud for LTTE angels of Jesus are not included ?
AJ / March 27, 2017
so you agree Tigers are at fault. So war crimes should be held to bring the remaining tigers to be held responsible.
K A Sumanasekera / March 27, 2017
NGO followers in and around Vauniya have nothing, absolutely Ziltch according to Dr Jehan .. Right..
What a contrast . Yahapalana Ministers are racing towards Millionaire club after collecting the free car permits.
And James Lang Realtors reckon Colombo has the fastest growing USD 30 Mil plus Millionaires on this side of the Planet.
Dr Jehan’s mates in the Diaspora are snapping up ever single Luxury Condo which is coming up in Yahapalana Colombo.
In fact Shangrila, & AltAir, Road show dudes were boasting that even at USD 600 000 onwards for a pad they are selling like Hot Cakes.,
And they assured the potential investors that that there is no Bubble.
Looks like this Gaypalanaya is only good for the haves..
Wonder whether our local Yahapalana suckers know what a Bubble is?.
Native Vedda / March 27, 2017
KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera
I cannot help but being bit nosy about your family business, is Bandula Jayasekara your twin brother?
Another crab walk perhaps.
MR / March 27, 2017
Tamil leaders did not get anything when they helped UNP to form a government in 1965. This time, after fifty years, they got houses and duty free vehicles. This is enough , more than enough, and we all should thank the govt for doing this !!
Wait and see these cheaters will start criticising the govt closer to the next election and cry for Eelam at each and every election platform but ordinary people cannot be fooled this time and they will wait with broom stick.
Shan / March 27, 2017
One cannot expect those who went to the UN human rights council to speak for the government to speak in a different voice. They are paying their ‘homage’.
Douglas / March 27, 2017
Mr. Jehan Perera: You said: ” The Government need to move swiftly to regain the trust and confidence of Tamil people who voted overwhelmingly for the Government at the last election that saw the Government change”. Do you think that statement is politically correct? Is it only the Tamil people who voted “Overwhelmingly”. Why talk of “Tamil” vote at all? Should it not be referred to as “Peoples’ Vote”? In my opinion, a Government elected to power by the Peoples’ Vote must work not only to win the hearts and minds of only those who voted for it, but also of those who voted against. To establish that “Trust and Confidence” the Government must work on a well designed National Plan of work on all fronts viz. Political, Economic, Social , Justice and Administrative aspects. If the Government action plan is visible, accountable and initiated with CREDIBLE ENDEAVOUR , there is no need to swiftly to move to regain trust and confidence of the people; it will automatically come around. As things stand today, do you think this Government is even capable to SWIFT to regain its already lost CREDIBILITY. I have my doubts, because it has completely forgotten its MISSION.
justice / March 27, 2017
Never mind the War Crimes tribunals which Sri Lanka introduced in the resolution along with USA, what about everyday crime?
How about prosecuting the five policemen who shot dead the two undergraduates peacefully riding a motorcycle?
If the military regime cannot do this, how do you expect justice in what you call “transitional justice” minus the War Crimes?
K.Pillai / March 27, 2017
Can see Jehan’s anguish.
The prevailing mindset is “…. Successive GoSL are angels … “. This implies that there were no wrong doings. This is being forced by the Lankan armed services and Police.
The armed services form the all powerful shadow GoSL. They have sworn allegiance to certain individuals and are just waiting for instructions.
During a recent visit to Jaffna, Chandrika went to meet the army top brass to assure them that there will be no prosecutions for anything. If GoSL says “…. Release occupied lands …… ” the answer is an arrogant “No”. Army has got used to the hospitality industry established and does not wish to give up the perks.
Jehan must keep up the pressure.
jim softy / March 28, 2017
Is UNHCR funded by Stateless Tamils living Overseas ? I saw a Jordanian Prince having a photo of wwith some British Tamils ?
Veyangoda / March 28, 2017
Isn’t Jordan giving loads of money to Law Doctor Jehan Perera’s CONGO, so-called National Peace Council to do peace programs with the Royal family’s blessings?
How did they chose Jehan Perera? Funded by British Tamils?
I think the name PEACE should be dropped from his NGO National PEACE Council to be fair by the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers.
Jehan Perera used to be a better person once. May be Money, Money, Money killed Catholic feelings for the widows and the orphans and the destitute.
Aj / March 29, 2017
I saw Jordanian prince taking photo with Sri Lankan monks publicly wearing traditional saree
Mallaiyuran / March 28, 2017
Jehan PhD is the only one from any NGO’s supports Old Brother Prince. He is longing hard to have him saved. In 2014, Brother prince had a meeting with all NGO’s. In that he had threatened all if they not obey his orders to face destruction. Of Cause anybody bought that Biryani talk had been awarded with laptop too. Nimalka and other came out and accused him of threatening them. Jehan PhD came out and wrote in CT that the Old Brother Prince had promised to him in the meeting to work with him. He is such a crook.
His repeated visits to North and East are to bully them with the golayas he always take with him. Famous one was after the Jaffna University students last year’s brawl in Vavuniya on the reception day. He has not appeared in the Kepapapulavu protests, but many Sinhalese did. This guy cheating his donor of reconciliation.
But Jehan PhD went to UNHRC and came back, declared, even without President Trump repeal the Resolution 30/1, it was abolished by him and Mangala. Then he had a celebration on CT with firecrackers and Kavum. But now realising still Ranil has not signed with China for the Hangbangtota sales. So he is taking different route to bully the Tamils.
Jehan PhD is extremely dishonest, unreliable and the classic example of destructive Sinhala Intellectualism.
jim softy / March 28, 2017
What some one wrote was, Jehan has a LAw Degree called JD degree. It is offered by private colleges just like you can buy some PhDs from private business colleges.
You can browse the internet and see, it is available every where, if you have money.
AJ / March 29, 2017
I agree. That’s how most Sinhalese get their degrees, unlike Tamils , Muslims who work hard to gain their degrees.