4 April, 2020

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What The Prime Minister Needed To Make Clearer During His Visit To The North 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The commencement of the UN Human Rights Council session this week has prompted the government to give renewed attention to post-war issues to which the international community has given its attention. President Maithripala Sirisena has said that Sri Lanka is considering withdrawing its co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council which wants the government to address accountability issues, including alleged violations of human rights during the final phase of the military operations to defeat the LTTE. The president had earlier promoted the idea prior to attending the UN General Assembly last September that Sri Lanka should withdraw from its commitments to the UNHRC resolution that was co-sponsored by the government. On the other side of the divide, a hartal and shutdown of Tamil areas in the North and East is taking place to protest against the government’s delay in implementing its Geneva commitments.

Among the key challenges to which the government has been giving its attention to since the co-signing of the UNHRC resolution are the return of land to the people, release of those held in custody for long periods without trial and the question of missing persons. In addition, the government is presently focusing on the replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was approved by the parliament as a temporary measure in 1979, but which has remained on the law books to become the mainstay in the country’s national security arsenal. It was used in full measure to tackle both the Tamil and JVP rebellions. The government has come up with a draft Counter Terrorism Act (CTA) which has still to be presented to parliament for its consent, which will most likely be forthcoming without too much revision.

The CTA is a considerable improvement over the PTA, especially in terms of its human rights protections, which includes making confessions given to the security forces inadmissible for legal self-incrimination purposes. Although more palatable than its predecessor, the CTA itself has yet to be presented to parliament which will be ultimate authority of passing and implementing the law. There have been criticism from the various sides of the ethnic and political divides. On the one hand, those viewing the legislation from the perspective of human rights have been critical of its potential for abuse. On the other hand, proponents of national security, to whom the president has become increasingly deferential, are critical that it is too lenient to potential terrorists. The difficulty of reaching a decision is compounded by the fact that after the breakdown of the UNP-SLFP alliance, the government does not have a majority in parliament.

Truth Commission

The other major legislation that the government is working on is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is one of the four mechanisms to ensure post-war justice in terms of the October 2015 UNHRC resolution. So far the government has fully established only one of these four mechanisms, the Office for Missing Persons, which has in recent weeks been playing an active role in ensuring that the mass grave in Mannar is properly investigated. This itself shows the controversial but yet important nature of this mechanisms. The remains of more than 300 persons have so far been recovered from this mass grave including those of nearly 30 children. Some of the remains have been sent to the US for laboratory testing with regard to the dates of their burial.

The government has also passed legislation to set up an Office for Reparations which is meant to compensate those who became victims during the past period of violence and repairing the damage to the extent possible. The law states that persons who have suffered damage as a result of loss of life or damage to their property or persons in four contexts are those who are entitled to reparations. These are in the context of the war that took place in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, in connection with political unrest of civil disturbances, in the course of systemic gross violations of the rights of individuals, groups or communities of people in Sri Lanka or due to an enforced disappearance. The closeness of the vote in parliament, with just 59 of the 225 parliamentarians voting for it, and 43 opposing it, reveals the wariness with which post-war reconciliation continues to be viewed. One of the controversial issues highlighted during the parliamentary debate was whether families of LTTE members would also be entitled to reparations.

The government has so far not publicly disclosed the content of the legislation regarding the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In October 2015 when the government co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution it referred to a truth-seeking mechanism that would be accompanied by a compassionate council drawn from the religious clergy. This suggested a provision for amnesty along the lines of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that functioned more than two decades ago. However, in the intervening years international law has grown more strict with regard to amnesties and certain types of offences, including war crimes, are not eligible for amnesty. While the draft legislation has been prepared, it is awaiting President’s Sirisena’s concurrence. In the context of the narrow vote in favour of the Office for Reparations, the president’s political support will be essential in mustering the required number of votes in parliament.

Overarching Goal 

The most difficult mechanism for the government to deliver on in terms of its commitments to the UNHRC resolution of October 2015 would be the judicial accountability mechanism which would deal with the issue of war crimes. It is a difficult issue on because this would be seen by the general population as targeting those soldiers who won the war, and would be projected as such by those who are politically opposed to the government. Indeed, President Sirisena has gone on record several times saying that he will protect the armed forces. The UNHRC resolution also calls for the participation of international judges, prosecutors and investigators which is anathema to those who call for the protection of Sri Lankan sovereignty under all circumstances. In addition, the question of accountability has been challenged by members of the former government who are concerned that they will also be held to account through the international legal principle of command responsibility.

During his recent four day visit to the North, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe referred to the issue of past violations of human rights. Addressing a gathering in the former LTTE administrative capital of Kilinochchi, he said “It is time that Sri Lankan communities forget and forgive the past difficult history and move forward.” He added that “We all must admit that mistakes were made, apologise to each other and moved forward to achieve reconciliation.” In a reference to the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with issues of the post-conflict reconciliation he also said legal action against those responsible may achieve nothing but a lot more could be achieved by forgiving and forgetting the past.

However, the indications are that the prime minister’s words did not have the positive and healing impact he may have intended them to have. There is much evidence from psychological studies that letting go of hatred and vengeance is the better way forward for those who have suffered violations of their rights and human dignity. But while individuals may forgive and forget, the state needs to hold every wrongdoer accountable for their actions, whether high or low, which is the rule of law. Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has recently said both the security forces and the LTTE were responsible for crimes. He has also said that if those crimes were unrelated to the war, and such things actually happened and there should be punishment for the culprits. What he had objected to was a policy of pardoning one side and punishing the other. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe needs to make it known that his words did not mean that the Sri Lankan state would close the door on the past but it would continue to deal with the issues of crime and punishment in an overall context in which reconciliation is the goal.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    2

    Praising perpetrators ! serious human rights violators as hero’s ! Patriots !
    Is great fun. For the victors! How about stopping Mass Violence against minorities ! Not only after independence! But after the war with LTTE ( if not Tamils) !
    Bring them all to the court of justice! Bring them accountable ! For what they did ! Give us the guarantee of non Occurrence in the future !
    If you can do this we will not forget but forgive .

  • 1
    1

    Surely Jehan Perera knows that it is not clear, never will be, to the PM of the day as to what to say in a visit to N and/or E.

  • 9
    1

    Even now, people labelled as “LTTErs” are in jail without trial, as there appears to be no evidence against them.
    They are being called “political prisoners”.
    The PM could have called at least for immediate commencement of trials against them.

  • 6
    1

    If Former president’s opinion is that Security Forces and LTTE are responsible for crimes, all what they have to do is investigate both.

  • 4
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    Jehan PErera: Myanmar is safe because of China. Even Aun-sun- ku is getting wrath here and there but not from the International community countries but countries like South Africa and Korea. thailand also has the same problem. but, thailand knows something else. but their royal family is in trouble. Sri lanka has all these CRAP because of professional corrupts. Mangala Samraweera destroyed srilanka because he wants to become an important person. Sri lanka has to present another resolution ask why there is discrimination inside the UNHCR from countries that doe snot go with the International community. Anyway, every time the same old crap.

  • 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

  • 5
    3

    That young, articulate, charismatic,intelligent and Sinhala speaking leader of AVA who did a live TV interview with Chathura from Derana made me happy as well as frightened.

    Happy because that young man understand that there is no difference between the North and the South, when it comes to poverty, and lack of opportunity for the majority who are the poor inhabitants of the country.

    He is a young man with a lot of fire in the belly as well . I thought if he wants to be a Pirahaparn he has all the skills to do that easily..
    But he seems more Intelligent and more caring when it comes to treating the poor.

    His explanation how the Pirahaparn’ Suicide Capsule which has a micro blade embedded .cut the Tongue as soon as the Cadres chew on it .
    And delivered the Lethal Dose of Cn direct in to the Blood Stream,
    It was fascinating as well as frightening.

    When he compared that with the sorry actions of Pirahaparan and his Top Leadership Team waving White Flags and pleading for Mercy through Solheim and Kurcher was dumbfounding.
    Do those Reparations cover these Groups as well.

    Some of the examples of the poverty of the War Widows, and youth in the North which he gave during the interview were so sad.
    Dr Ranil who just toured the North promising Sun and the Moon has been sitting at TT for 4 years.
    All he and his mates have done is releasing the Lands in thousands of Acres to the TNA supporters..
    And allowing Diaspora Rich to invest in BOIs.

    But the Poor seems to be still poor according to this AVA Leader.
    And he even explained the meaning of the TNA’s main Party the Arasa Kittu which apparently means Tamil Kingdom Party.
    No wonder they are so keen in getting the Lands back before lifting up the poor …
    Pity I could’t remember his name..

    • 3
      0

      Dear Sumane,
      Above comment proves you have human empathy. AVA leade’s comments moved me a lot too. If I could I would appoint him to Sri Lanka’s Parliament via the national list. I also have known you have excellent analytical skills too. It is beyond my understanding why you employ such valuable personal qualities to shield uneducated, self-serving, power-hungry, criminal clan from Hambantota.
      Cheers!

      • 3
        1

        Ben

        Are you sure this is not the same sword wielding criminal AVA gang that was terrorising Jaffna peninsula?

        Some people say the AVA gang was the creation of Gota/Military Intelligence just like the Grease Yakka.

        Ada Derana
        Published on 11 Nov 2016
        Four individuals suspected of being associated with the ‘Ava Group’, a criminal gang operating in Jaffna, were remanded till November 16 after being produced before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court today – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2mruVfbFY4
        and
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSOtQT615Vo

      • 2
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        Benny,,
        There are no Good and Bad Politikkas in our part of the Planet, especially in our bit Srilanka.
        It is the result of the system which the British were kind enough to present to us.

        Chinese are the number one Power in the World.
        Over 90 percent of their inhabitants now have better living standards than the other countries in South Asia.
        Because they didn’t follow the British .And they eliminated the Crooks..

        Our inhabitants have only the choice between Bad and the less Bad.
        I do not sing Hosanas to any Politikka
        In fact I loathe them.

        But I have to look at what they have done for the Good of the Nation and its Inhabitants. Specially less advantaged who are the great majority.

        Economy was growing at 10 percent plus before 2015.
        In fact it was around 20% in Jaffna Peninsula which one of the current UNP Ecomonic Development minsters couldn’t understand.

        Today it is limping at 3 %.
        Just imagine how many Employment Opportunities alone have been lost due to that drop.
        Look at the Drug menace and the filthy pilfering of Public money which is going on under Yahapalanay in place of Development….Cheers Buddy..

    • 2
      3

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “Happy because that young man understand that there is no difference between the North and the South, when it comes to poverty, and lack of opportunity for the majority who are the poor inhabitants of the country.”

      I remember you claimed in 2013 or 2014 under Mahindawamsa rule the island had already achieved Middle Income country status. Was it the case? If so what has happened to the country since then? Maybe Mahindawamsa’s loot had had delayed action effect on the economy.

      Or were you fibbing as usual?

      • 3
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        Recently, PENTHOUSE RAVI said that Per capita income in Srilanka is $ 4200. So, how can you say Mahinda Rajapakse lied.

      • 1
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        Dear Native,
        If we maintained the same momentum of 10 % plus Growth which we had after Nanthikadal and Mr Pirahaparan , we surely would have been a Mid income nation by now for sure.

        Growth last year was barely 3% according to Dr Samy.
        That amounts a whopping 21 percentage points Loss over Dr Ranil’s 4 years of Yahapalanaya,which has wiped out 16 Billion USD from our Economy.
        That is even without compounding the Growth after each year.

        I hope you know what I am talking about…

        • 1
          2

          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

          “I hope you know what I am talking about…”

          I have been trying for the past as many years as I could remember.
          However one day I will when you type sensibly.

          “If we maintained the same momentum of 10 % plus Growth which we had after Nanthikadal and Mr Pirahaparan , we surely would have been a Mid income nation by now for sure.”

          Are you saying this island never achieved middle income status?
          By the way there were about 6 and 1/2 years between 2009 and 2015 and why do you think Mahindawamsa couldn’t achieve the imagined status? Was it because Mahindawamsa achieved richest clan status?

  • 2
    0

    It is great irony that no ” leaders” today are able to go through without bias, the UNHCR Resolution, specifically the establishment of International judiciary. YES, there were atrocious war crimes committed by both parties, the LTTE, the para-militaries and the Government forces. The war crimes committed through JVP era should also be included. All, RW, MS and MR are pathetic ” leaders” with no vision and are NOT PATRIOTIC. This will stagger the progress and in the eye of International community, Sri Lanka will be ” Pariah” state, like Zimbabwe or Somalia.

  • 5
    2

    Are the US embassy controllers telling you what to say? Why don’t you examine Trump and his racist, ignorant demagougery first? They fund you,. You are afraid to talk about global realities and his abuse. He calls the Press THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. Not one Sri Lankan leader says that. He applauds attacks on journalist. No leader of Sri Lanka has done that. He lies daily. He is a sexist. He is under investigation. Yet because the US Embassy controls you, you are mute. Time for you to be HONEST about whose agenda you are fulfilling. NO EELAM and NO separatism. No harm in retaining Buddhism as pride of place because it is STILL NOT THE SAME as an official religion. Malaysia is only 60% Muslim but has an OFFICIAL RELIGION: ISLAM; Sri Lanka does not have an official religion. You are a Christian so you have a different agenda.

  • 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

  • 2
    2

    Co sponsorship of the partisan UNHRC resolution by yahapalanaya/Mangala Samaraweera was a violation of the fiduciary duty they had towards the country and it’s people. It has been very well established that UNHRC is a tool of global powers to maintain and expand their global hegemony. By co-sponsoring the resolution, yahapalanistas thought they will receive generous investments and other support from their Western masters though nothing has materialised (not even the VW factory). Consequently yahapalanaya cannot show any achievement during their tenure other than continuous failures in every sphere. Sri Lanka now boasts one of the lowest growth rates in SAARC itself (forget about the rest of the world). As the President has indicated, it is best SL withdraw from the resolution and chart it’s own path towards reconciliation and peace. International meddling doesn’t solve country’s and it’s peoples’ problems.

  • 5
    1

    Jehan

    Frankly I havent read your article but you are a decent man but decency doesnt count for anything. We have fallen foul of many Sinhalese decent men. Couple that springs to mind are RW and Mangala. There mission in life is to protect the War Winning Criminals . It is obvious from that, that every Sinhalese agrees with what you all have done. For you our struggle for Freedom was Terroism and that is where the argument stops. Our struggle was a fight for survival from Sinhalese atrociotes which continues unabated. We are not going to get justice from within Sri Lanka which has to come from outside. Wiggi is right we need a UN office in the North. Even if we dont get Justice at least I am happy that Sinhala Lanka is no longer Sovereign thanks to Mahintha.. I am sure if you look around you will see India is controlling everything . If Mahintha is releted he will surely learn what fighting for Freedom means this time from the Clutches of India

  • 0
    0

    Jehan is simply a ‘liberal’ apologist for Sinhala nationlist policy.

    How can Ranil be taken seriously, when Sri Lank is failing on so many aspects of reconciliation. A decade on the military still owns people’s land? This is simply about the rule of law today. The military does not own Sinhala land – only Tamil land. The country has no rule of law. How can anyone speak about justice, when there is not rule of law today.

    Stop being such a pathetic apologist – just accept, you like Sri Lanka the way it is.

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