Submission- National Peace Council

Posted on August 18, 2010


 

 12/14 Purana Vihara Road

Colombo 6

Tel:  2818344, 2854127, 2819064

Tel/Fax:2819064

E Mail:  npc@sltnet.lk

Internet:  http://www.peace-srilanka.org

 

 18.08.10

 

 Mr S M Samarakoon

Secretary

Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation

Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre

24 Horton Place

Colombo 7

 

Dear Sir,

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that was established in 1995 with a mandate to work towards a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

As an organization dedicated to peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, we wish to place before the Commission the submissions that follow below.  They come in two parts.

  1. General Background and International Experience  (pages 1-8)
  2. Relevance for Sri Lanka  (pages 9-13)

 We will be happy to clarify or provide further information on the matters contained in our submissions and will also be grateful to receive an audience with the Commission.

 Yours sincerely,

  Jehan Perera                                                                                        John V Thambar

Executive Director                                                                              Governing Council

 

Part 1:  General Background and International Experience 

The note gives a general background to reconciliation from the experience of other Truth and Reconciliation Commissions established elsewhere following the initial South African TRC. The material is drawn from the standard text “unspeakable Truths” by Priscilla Hayner (Routledge, 2001) who also researched the whole area of operation of TRCs in 21 countries up to about 2000.   Subsequent experience is drawn from Institute for Development of Electoral Assistance (IDEA) which established the Reconciliation Expert Network and had two very informative meetings in Ottawa, October 2004 and Stockholm, March 2006.  These background papers discuss issues and experience of more recent, completed and ongoing TRCs which would be helpful for stakeholders and their representations through the present Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.  

“When a period of authoritarianism or civil war ends a state and its people are at cross-roads. What should be done with a recent history and a faith of victims, perpetrators, secretly buried bodies, pervasive fear .and unofficial denials? Should the past be exhumed, preserved, acknowledged and apologized for?  How can a nation of enemies be re-united and armed opponents reconciled in the context of such a violent history and often bitter festering wounds? What should be done with thousands of perpetrators still walking around free?  How can a new government prevent such atrocities from being repeated in the future while individuals and survivors struggle to rebuild shattered lives, to each the burning memory of torture or massacres witnessed, society must find a wav to move on to recreate livable space of national peace, build some form of reconciliation between former enemies and secure these events in the past”.  Priscilla Hayner, p. 4.

 Some argue that the best way to move forward is to burry the past, that digging up such horrible details and pointing out the guilty will only bring more pain and further divide the country Yet, can a society build a democratic future on a foundation of blind denial of forgotten history?

In recent years virtually every country emerging from a dark history has directly confronted the question.  The new government has confronted the issue with accountability for past crimes often on the most pressing issues before attention to other matters especially where there are thousands of victims demanding action.  Change may come at the end of civil war though the downfall of a military regime or through a popular movement against a repressive regime combined with shifting winds of international support. But in each of these very different types of political transitions, very similar questions and difficulties arise.  (Hayner, Pp.4-5) 

The South Africa Truth & Reconciliation Commission succeeded in bringing this subject to the centre of international attention especially through public hearings of both victims and perpetrators on their horrific details of past crimes.  Though reconciliation depends on a clear end of threats of further violence, reparations for those injured, structural changes in equality and meeting the material needs of victims are also necessary.  Often natural linkages in society that are living informally bring opposing parties together or more simply, the passage of time.  

Most under appreciated is the sheer difficulty of undertaking a fair documentation and representation of the truth – however that is defined in different cultures – in a course of a short intensive period of investigation where the issues explode often remain the most sensitive issues of the day and when the Commissions task is to reach and fairly represent the interests of the thousands upon thousands of victims.  With a closer look it becomes clear that TRCs are fundamentally different from court room trials and functioned with different goals in mind. (Hayner, p. 6) 

A state may have a number of objectives in responding to past issues.  I.e. to punish perpetrators, establish the truth or address damages or pay respect to victims and prevent future abuses. There may be other aims as well such as promoting national reconciliation and reducing conflict over the past or highlighting the new government’s concern for human Rights and therefore gaining the favour of international communities.  

There are a variety of mechanisms or policies to try and reach those objectives—holding trials in domestic courts, purging wrongdoers from public or security posts, creating a Commission of Inquiry, providing access to security files, awarding reparations to victims, building memorials or putting in place military, police or judicial or other reforms.  Justice in courts is usually the most prominent of demands but often the most difficult. (Hayner, p. 12)  

1. The Trend towards the Truth     

 It is partly due to limited reach of the courts and even successful prosecutions do not resolve the conflict and pain associated with past abuses that transitional authorities have increasingly turned towards truth seeking as a central component in their strategy to respond to past atrocities.  

These are under the generic name of Truth Commissions which have these characteristics.

 1.  TRCs focused on the past;

2.  They investigate patterns of abuses over a period of time rather than specific events;

3. The TRC is a temporary body typically in operation for six months to two years and completing its work with a report.

4.  These Commissions are officially sanctioned, authorized or empowered by the state.  The special status given to a TRC provides better access to official sources of information, increase security to undertake sensitive investigations with a greater likelihood that its report and recommendations will receive attention from the authorities.

 There have been official TRCs established around the world since 1974 though they have gone by different names. The work of these 21 Commissions has been well researched by Priscilla Hayner in her standard text.

2. Why a TRC?

a. To discover, clarify and formally acknowledge past abuses through fact finding and interviews with victims.

b. To respond to the needs and interests of victims. Most TRCs are formed to focus primarily on victims.

c. To contribute to justice and accountability.  TRCs contribute to accountability often passing; files to prosecuting authorities, removing abuse from families.

d. TRCs outline institutional responsibility for the abuses and recommend reforms.

e. To promote reconciliation and reduce tension. “Common wisdom holds that the future depends on the past. One must respond to the legacy of past horrors on which to build a new society.

“Some observers argue that finding and making public the truth about abuses is an obligation of a State as required in international law and that there is an inherent right to truth needed by all victims or survivors or by society as a whole. Thus, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – there is a right to know the truth which is contained in the right to seek, receive and impart information as required by the Article.  

3. What Does Reconciliation Look Like?   

Reconciliation implies building and rebuilding relationships that are not haunted by conflicts and hatred of yesterday.   How can reconciliation be gauged?  

There are three questions:              

1. How is the past dealt with in the public perception? Is there lack of bitterness over the past in political and other public relationships? Have past abuses being processed and absorbed in such a manner that people can talk about these events in a more civil manner even among former opponents?  

ii. What are relationships between former opponents especially relationships based on present than the past? A constant referral to the past may be a sign of outward antagonism.  Newly formed relationships-based on interests between former opponents may depend on interests or challenges that result in benefits to all.  These benefits may include economic development or involvement in projects between former opponents. 

111. Is there one version of the truth of the past or many?  To reconcile means that not only friendly relations that reconcile contradictory facts, but to make discordant facts compatible with each other.  As one set of African writers wrote, “Reconciliation is the facing of unwelcome facts in order to harmonize immeasurable world views so that continuing conflicts and differences are brought within a single universe of comprehensibility.  Reconciliation in its rich and meaningful sense is just a real closing of a ledger book of the past as it is normally done by an accountant closing a ledger book at the end of the day.” 

4.  History of Previous Commissions on Ethnic Violence and Inquiries

 Some previous Commissions were as follows.

 1.  The Sansoni Commission on the 1977 Disturbances which included in its TOR the lessons learnt and recommendations. 

 11. In more recent times, there were three major attempts on introducing and make an awareness building on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the South African experience.

a.  Marga Institute.  “The State and Truth & Reconciliation” of March 2, 2002 coordinated by Dr. Devanesan Ncsiah.

b.  Building an Integrated Framework of Reconciliation, arranged by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, March 2003, which had an important concept paper by Dilrukshi Fonseka on Building a Multi Dimensional and Multi Track Approach to Reconciliation.  

c. The Presidential Task Force on Ethnic Violence chaired by Justice Sharvananda,  September 2003.  The report outlined a background and listed victims for compensation.  

5. Defining Reconciliation

 According to Priscilla Hayner, reconciliation is often a goal in a national peace process but rarely is clear at to what is meant.  The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Reconciliation’ as to bring a person again to a friendly relation after an estrangement.  There has to be clear terminology using current language that is formulated to satisfy linguistic, cultural and religious beliefs. There has also to be a clear understanding of the definition of reconciliation and its meaning acceptable to all cultural groups.  

The problem was critically raised at the first workshop on reconciliation held at MARGA in March 2002. The conference was addressed by Prof. Christian Tomuschat, Professor of International Law, Humbolt University and Coordinator for Commission on Historical Clarification, Guatemala, and 1997 – 1999 and also Ms. Polly Dewhurst, Researcher in the Preparatory Work for the South African TRC. In reply to a question as to the cultural relevance of reconciliation, Prof. Asanga Tillekaratne. Professor of Buddhism, Pali and Sanskrit at the University of Kelaniya explained: “concepts of Truth and Reconciliation are not alien to Buddhism …. The TRC is a viable option for a majority Buddhist country like Sri Lanka.  However, care must be taken when introducing the concept to the people so it is not presented as a foreign import. Emphasis must be placed on the indigenous attitudes with spiritual and cultural models.”   

6.  Reparation for Past Crimes

 a.  Following a period of wide spread abuses, victims and survivors are often granted a range of physical and psychological assistance and sometimes cash as a result of the loss of bread-winner, destruction of property and inability to seek livelihood.  

b. Many victims are in need of basic medical assistance for their disability arising from torture or imprisonment. Many would have received substantive awards, if they had the means to make claims from the Courts but many do not have the capacity to make such claims. While no amount of money will make up for the loss of a loved one even a token payment may provide relief for those living in poverty and serve as a psychological role of acknowledging responsibility for abuses.

7.  Assessment of Reparations

a. It must be urged that victims must be assessed as to whether they suffered due to State activity, activity .of LTTE, involvement with the IPKF or unknown persons.  

b. Duration – Although the Terms of Reference relates to a period from 21st February, 2002 to 19th May, 2009 many of the victims have suffered from an earlier period possibly from 1980 or 198~ and their cases should receive attention.  

c.  Defining Victims – Also the TOR defines victims there are victims, their families, their heirs, the victims should cover a wider range than those who have been killed or injured. The other categories would be the following. 

i. The disappeared;

ii. “Forced disappearances” ie.  Those who voluntarily disappeared to avoid being victimized in the course of the conflict;

iii. Political prisoners killed in detention.

 d. Avenues for Recording Evidence- Arrangements need to be made for recording evidence for victims not only in Sri Lanka but also abroad as refugees in South India, Commonwealth or foreign countries through evidence recorded at the High Commission or Embassies.

e.  The Scheme of Measures for Protection of Witnesses should be put into place.

 f. The TOR also includes heirs of victims which is a category not included in other TRCs.  Therefore, in the context of the extended family system, the country proclivity for litigation and the heavily burdened judicial system, a separate procedure should be established for expediting any inquiries under heirs of victims who desire reparation. 

g. A time schedule of 02 years should beset for determining reparations under any scheme that is suggested. As man of the victims has suffered several times over the past 30 years, there should be no further delay in determining the preparations.  

h. It would be considered appropriate to apportion settlement of claims from those found responsible for LTTE activities  sequestered from LTTE funds and those from IPKF from funds negotiated with the Government of India and those by SL Forces or unknown to be met from Government funds.   

8. Definition of Reparation

 a. Reparation is a term that covers a variety of concepts including restitution. compensation, rehabilitation. satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition. 

b. Restitution aims to establish to the extent possible, the relation that existed before the violator. took place. Compensation relates to any economically assessed damage resulting from the violation and rehabilitation includes medical, Psychological and also cash where satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition relate to measures that acknowledge that violations to prevent recurrence in the future. Usually, a mixture of these is considered appropriate.  

There have been a variety of patterns in the schemes of reparations from country to country. Viz  Chile, South Africa and Argentina.   

Chile:   4800 families of victims received USD 345 per person increased to UD 482 for dependents and families for the rest of their lives.  Also facilities in education, with a total cost of USD 16 million per year.  The scheme excluded torture victims from obtaining cash payments if they had survived.   

Argentina.  A total of 8900 persons. Payment to family of a lump sum of USD 220,000 paid in government bonds and distributed amongst family members.  The list of victims was drawn from an earlier National Commission of the Disappeared and updated.  The reparation law was past in 1994, ten years after the TRC report was submitted.  Reparation also included payment for political prisoners in jail at the rate of USD 74 per person per day, equivalent to the highest paid Argentinean civil servant. 

South Africa.  The TRC sought and received USD 600 million in direct payment to 25,000 victims. Each family would receive USD 3500 per year up to six consecutive years.  In some cases funding for reparations was given by some Scandinavian countries.     

9. Administration of Reparations

 Due to complexities involved in corroboration, investigation, calculation of assessment and disbursement, the administration of reparation was assigned to a separate subsequent administration and distribution organisation through a President’s Fund under the Ministry of Justice created in 1998.  In Chile, the implementation and administration was by a specially set up Corporation called National Corporation for Reparation and Reconciliation.  The UN has set out guidelines for po9st conflict reparations. Vide Para 3 of the REN meeting in Stockholm, March 2006.

 NPC recommends establishing a National Authority on Post Conflict Reparations on the recommendation of the Commission and their guidelines.  To be well resourced, staff with full time or seconded personnel from social and community services, screened and trained with commitment and integrity.  Work to be completed in two years.  Add COL to payments if limits are exceeded.  The staff to work directly with victims, and to report other needs such as health education and livelihood.  NPC also recommends institutions of local committees or councils of victims to monitor process of reparations and feedback.

10.  References

1.  UN General Assembly, Resolution 60/147, 16 December 2005 Adoption of the “Basic Principles and Guidelines of the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victlms of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law  

This resolution is significant for the guidelines it presents, but It Is dlsappolntIng from a legal point of view. It only identifies mechanisms Involved in existing guidelines. On the positive side, however, for the first time there Is over-view of what a state can and should do to promote reparations. It is thus an Important reference document. Concerning remedy and reparation, the resolution proposes equal access to relevant Information for Individual victims and groups of victims, which Is clearly necessary for reparations to be effective.

 2.  International Criminal Court, Assembly of States Parties, ResolutIon ICC ASP/4/RES.3, 3 December 2005, Adoption of the “Regulation of the ICC Trust Fund for Victims”

 The resolution states that reparations orders can be issued by the court, either directly or via Trust Funds. The Trust Fund can Intervene on Its own initiative but it has to notify the court. Trust funds can engage In reparation for victims in situations under Investigation. There are large mandates for the trust funds and they can start as soon as possible; It Is necessary to act fast because people, as well as evidentiary proofs, disappear.

3.  International Criminal Court, Pre-Trial Chamber Decision, Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 17 January 2006 

This is a decision on the application for participation in the proceedings of victims during the stage of investigation. This means that information should be available for victims and that victims are allowed to attend pre-trial hearings. Their participation is not prejudicial to the court proceedings. There Is broad consensus that legally speaking this is a very important decision, eg. the Nuremberg Tribunal.

4.  International Court of JustIce, Judgment of 19 December 2005. A case concerning armed activities on the territory of the Congo (DRC vs. Uganda)

 The judgment treats the right to reparation in conflict between states. Injuries caused by a state on the territory of another states have to be adequately compensated for by the offending state.

 5.  International Commission on Inquiry on Darfur – Report on the UN Secretary- General, January 2005

  

 Part 2:   Relevance to Sri Lanka

 1.  Lessons Learnt

 1. There have been numerous attempts to resolve the ethnic conflict by successive governments to meet the demands of the elected representatives of the Tamil people.  The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957 was the first such attempt.  This and all succeeding attempts failed in part due to an inability of the government and opposition parties to reach a bipartisan agreement on the envisaged political reforms.  The Ceasefire Agreement and the political negotiations between the government and LTTE proved to be no exception.  The government that signed the agreement and attempted to negotiate with the LTTE did so without the support of the opposition.  To make matters worse, the government itself was structurally divided on the issue, with the Prime Minister and his government not receiving the support of the President of the Republic who was deliberately kept out of the process by the government.  As the ethnic conflict is a very emotive issue with primordial and modern fears contained in it, there is a necessity for a broad government-opposition consensus for a solution to be developed.

2.  Given the fears, suspicions, expectations and established positions of the government and LTTE it was important that the parameters of the final settlement be agreed to at the outset, or if not at the outset, at some time at the beginning of the peace process.  These parameters ought to have included the unity and indivisibility of the country which the international community as a whole stood by in principle. The international community and all those who supported the Ceasefire Agreement and peace process ought to have made this clear to the LTTE, that there was no possibility of them getting a separate state through the peace process.  It appears that the LTTE was not sufficiently apprised of this reality.  This was to be seen in the Interim Proposals they made for an Interim Self Governing Authority, which appeared to be a half way house to a separate state.  Due to the LTTE’s belief that a separate state was obtainable, and that there would be international support for them, they were prepared to go back to war to obtain it.

3.  Respect for human rights is inseparable from the quest for justice, peace and reconciliation at all times, whether in war or conditions of normalcy.  Human rights violations took place during the period of the Ceasefire Agreement.  In particular, the LTTE assassinated its political rivals, government intelligence operatives and embarked on large scale recruitment including child recruitment during the period of the Ceasefire.  Many national and international organizations concerned with peace were cautious in highlighting these violations on the grounds that they were the lesser evil and saw the greater evil as being a resumption of the war that had ended and which had already led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.  It is important that human rights be protected in full, and not in part, at every stage of the peace process from beginning to end. This also applies to government at all times.

4. After the war began and escalated, the government fought the war with determination to win it even at very high cost.  The government won the war with the elimination of virtually all the LTTE’s top leadership.  However, the human costs of the fighting and the fact that hardly any independent information was available has had an international backlash. While the necessity to fight the war appears to be widely accepted, not only in Sri Lanka but also internationally, the manner in which the war was fought, and restraints placed on independent monitoring and relief efforts have been controversial. This accounts for international human rights groups and now the UN Secretary General taking a focused interest in the last days of the war.  This shows that how a war is fought determines the international fall out. 

5.   Up to the end phase of the war, the government devoted considerable attention to trying to work out a consensual political solution to the ethnic conflict.  The All Party Representatives Committee met continuously during this period and submitted a final report to the President.  However, during the ending phase of the war, this report dropped from sight.  Attention was focused on the impending military victory, which when it came was made to seem as if the entire problem was over.  But a military solution does not eliminate the political roots of ethnic conflict.  The absence of a political solution has opened the door for critics of the government to assert that the ethnic conflict continues and that the government is not interested in the peace, justice and reconciliation that would accompany a political solution. 

2.   Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

 1.  The end of the three-decade old war that pitted the government against the Tamil militant movements and divided the population created a reasonable expectation that Sri Lanka would be able to reach reconciliation and healing.  Although the open conflict has ceased, the divisions that existed in the past are still very much alive. The violence, suspicion, and segregation of the conflict have become deeply embedded in social and political life.  The differences that exist between communities are mobilized by political leaders to further communal agendas. Thus peace building and reconciliation are critical needs in this post-war era. One of the challenges to national integration and reconciliation will be to give people from different ethnic communities a better understanding of those from other communities.  Unfortunately a bipartisan approach that recognizes the current problems and seeks a common solution has proved to be very difficult to achieve. The stance of politicians tends to get replicated among their grassroots communities, furthering divide and promoting ethnically polarized voting patterns.  The work of Civic groups is important to bind up the wounds that their political counterparts create in their bid for political power.  They should be encouraged not stymied by various government imposed restrictions. 

2.  An improvement in the human rights condition of a country can best come about when the majority of people and the government of a country are able to deal with those issues themselves.  Peace in a situation of conflict can only come about through negotiations when the parties to the conflict are prepared for it and want it, as in the case of the Northern Ireland peace accord.  The same holds true for human rights.  There has to be internal agreement and willingness of the people of the country, and their government, to accept the applicability of international human rights principles in governance.  To the extent that the government can provide an enabling environment for the protection and upholding of international human rights, the UN and the international community will have no need to keep on intervening in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. 

3. There are still tens of thousands of displaced persons remaining in camps for the internally displaced in various parts of the North and also some parts of the East.  They are unable to go back to their home areas because they fear to go back to nothing, or to very inadequate supplies for living, or their lands still remain under threat of landmines.  The roads and irrigation facilities, the hospitals and schools in their home areas are in a dilapidated or non-existent state.  Several tens of thousands of families live with relatives, putting an insufferable burden on their relatives who also can barely make ends meet.  Women and children are in a particularly vulnerable situation.  There are many women-headed households amongst the war victims.  The government needs to give utmost priority to getting large scale resources into the war-destroyed areas so that the lives of the people can be improved significantly and in a short time.  Although the Indian government and other donors have promised to provide resources for house building and other infrastructure that benefits the people, the progress on the ground is very slow due to governmental inaction to allocate the land and to give the name lists of the beneficiary families. 

4.  At present the North and East of the country have a very heavy military presence that is nearly totally drawn from the ethnic majority community.  The people in whose midst this security force is located are unlikely to feel that it is their own, but would more likely see it as an alien force. There is a close involvement of the military in the life of the civilian population in the North and East where the military continues to play a role in governance.  The fact that the military is engaged in civilian type of activities, may be a result of the government’s desire to utilize the excess manpower for constructive purposes now that the war is ended.  The government may also be hoping that the military will be able to win the hearts and minds of the general population by the good works they are engaging in.  However, winning hearts and minds is not the task of military leaders, but of political and civil society leaders.  The military is part of the coercive apparatus of the state.  This is why the military is kept away from the civilian population in times of peace in democratic societies.  The possibility of a conflict between the interests of a state and that of a section of the people is increased in situations of unresolved ethnic conflict.   

5.  The government is reported to be seeking to give back to the President the power to make appointments to high offices of state.  This was a power that was taken away from the President by the 17th Amendment which was approved unanimously by Parliament a decade ago.   It is unfortunate that this will further reduce the influence of ethnic minorities in governance, as the 17th Amendment gave them a say in the selection of high state officials.  The consequences of the ongoing centralization of power in an already over centralised system of government is not conducive to either democracy or to ethnic reconciliation.  The government of a country needs to reflect the social, economic, ethnic and religious composition of society or it runs the risk of being seen as an alien government by those who are not represented within the system of government. A root cause of the ethnic conflict was the frustration of ethnic minorities that they had no say or power to decide even on matters that affected them in the areas in which they are a majority.   

6.  One of the goals of the devolution of power is to give people the power to make decisions concerning their own lives.  The closer that people are to those who make decisions regarding their lives the more impact are they likely to have on those decisions.  However, in Sri Lanka the concept of the devolution of power is not promoted simply for reasons of economic efficiency or for the sake of greater people’s participation in governance.  The primary motivation of the devolution of power has been the demand of the ethnic minorities, spearheaded by the Tamil people of the North and East to have some measure of self-rule as a distinct community. The centralisation of power that is taking place today is in fundamental contradiction to the devolution of power that has been the quest of the Tamil community for the past five decades in this country.  Political power in democratic societies is meant to be shared.  

7.  There is a strong nationalist sentiment that has grown stronger with the government’s military victory over the LTTE that whatever ethnic conflict there may have been has been resolved with the elimination of the LTTE and its associated terrorism.  There is a polarization of views between the ethnic majority and ethnic minorities with regard to the post-conflict environment.  It is believed that rapid economic development of the country, including the North and East, would productively engage the energies of people and reduce the impetus towards ethnic-based politics.  However, such an analysis is not in keeping with international experience.  The values and symbols of the ethnic majority if imposed upon the ethnic minorities in an environment of populist nationalism can aggravate conflict.  Ethnic-based grievances and desire for self-determination exists in both rich and poor countries which economic development by itself cannot dispel. Tibet in China, Kashmir in India and Chechnya in Russia give ample testimony to the resolve of aggrieved ethnic minorities to seek some form of regional self-government above all other values.   

8.  The government also seeks to boost economic development in the North and East in the hope that it will, among other things, address the economic grievances of both the majority of people as well as the ethnic minorities.  But economic development by itself will not address the political grievances of the ethnic minorities. Therefore issues of inter ethnic justice and equality need to be brought back to the centre of the government’s agenda.  In the 1970s, the grievances of the Tamil people were language, education, employment and land.  The structural reasons for these grievances have not changed.  This is sustaining the conflict, though it is once again a political conflict in which the ethnic minorities seek not only a voice but also decision making power in governance at least in the areas in which they predominate. 

 

 3.  Implementing National Reconciliation.

 1.  In addition to the requirements for implementation that flow from the above observations, NPC recommends establishing a National Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity to implement and sustain policies and action programmes.  The council will be representative of all communities and placed at the highest level in the Presidential Secretariat.  The council would have a TOR as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation commission and include terminologies dissemination and awareness building.  Vide Please see IDEA Handbook on Reconciliation after violent conflict.  www.idea.int.  The council could gauge the change in attitudes and their assimilation in multi cultural belief systems from time to time by reference to a research report by Hamber and Kelly –Coherent, Contested or Confused- reconciliation in Northern Ireland.  www. Democraticdialgoue.org.   Vide also IDEA/ IPU “Making Reconciliation Work- The Role of Parliamentarians”  http://www.paricpr.undp.org

 2.  The Ottawa Report also recommended a stud of previous and existing work by government, civil society and inter religions, as a preliminary to reconciliation.  Accordingly, NPC recommends assessing the work of several ministries of languages and national integration, nation building, heritage and cultural affairs, women’s affairs, religious affairs and media with their networks and implementation in the provinces and districts.  Also the work of NGOs over fifty years in social justice, human rights national building,  conflict resolution and peace building as these are seen as basic preparation and foundation for reconciliation.  Some examples would be the work of the Society for Society and Religion, Sarvodaya Movement,  International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Marga, Caritas-SEDEC, Subodhi, OPA,  Centre for Policy Alternatives, Women and Media Collective, Centre for Communication Training,  Research and Action Forum Puttalam, Association of War Affected Women, Centre for Women and Development Jaffna, Freed Trade Union Development Centre, Habitat for Humanity, National Peace Council and their activities networks and publications.  

3.  The National Council can also be linked to inter religious organizations and councils, working on peace, multi culturalism and pluralism and bilingualism.  These would include women’s organizations.  The Ottawa and Stockholm reports also refer to the need to address outstanding legislation and constitutional amendments that are seen as barriers to reconciliation.  Such steps would give mutual trust and credibility to the long term reconciliation process.

Conclusion

Though the Commission may receive numerous conclusion and observations on lessons learnt, at the end of the day it is only the overreaching commitment and sustainability of well established reconciliation that could bring lasting peace and reconciliation that was lost over the last few decades. 

 

Advertisements
Posted in: Submissions