Submissions before the Presidential Commission on Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation (LLRC) – Chandra Jayaratne
1. Appreciation of Opportunity
The eminent members of the Commission and its Secretary are thanked for extending, on their own accord, this opportunity to make submissions before the LLRC. These submissions draw on a wide canvass, strictly within the scope of the warrant of the LLRC and stress issues of concern and detail specific action recommendations for due consideration by the Commission. The LLRC is kindly requested to note that all submissions made herein are based on personal beliefs and commitments and does not represent views of any of the present or past affiliations and positions of leadership held in any private sector or civil society organizations.
2. The Immediate Correction of the Lost Opportunity
The opportune moment to reflect on the conflict of over thirty years and the consequential sufferings the country and its people have gone through as a whole, and then to have recognized and regretted past mistakes as a part of a process of atonement should have been led by the leaders of the nation last year, concurrently with the post war celebrations. Thereafter the leaders should have collectively taken immediate strategic steps to redress grievances of the impacted communities and laid down the foundations for effective reconciliation, having regard to the common aspirations of all citizens made partners in an initiative of sustainable and equitable socio –economic development of the nation. This process should have embedded Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Reawakening of the North and East as well as economically backward regions. This was yet another missed opportunity that our leaders ignored, similar to the previously missed opportunity post the Tsunami. It is recommended that a formal process leading to a public expression of regret and apology to war victims be arranged as a part of the processes led by this Commission’s recommendations.
3. “Pay It Forward” for National Reconciliation and Integration led Collective Consciousness/Value System
Towards effective national reconciliation and longer term integration of all segments/communities of citizens of Sri Lanka under an agreed vision, which embeds itself as the collective Consciousness/Value System of all, the President, the government, the opposition, the international community and the civil society should jointly launch a well planned initiative which encourages, motivates and supports groups of school children, youth groups, service clubs, professionals, business and elders to sustainably take forward the concept of “Pay it Forward” as a social movement of doing acts of good towards national reconciliation and social integration of society at large, irrespective of identities and build a collective value ethos- “We are all Sri Lankans bound together by one national ethos and commitment”.
“Reuben St. Clair, the teacher and protagonist in the book “Pay It Forward,” starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit assignment: THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION. Trevor, the 12-year-old hero of “Pay It Forward,” thinks of quite an idea. He describes it to his mother and teacher this way: “You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people each so that nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.” He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. “Then it sort of spreads out-see-To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?”
4. Collective Commitment towards Re-building Conflict Affected Areas and Economically Disadvantaged Regions
As a measure of all citizens of Sri Lanka accepting collective accountability and the responsibility towards re-reconstruction and Re-awakening of conflict affected areas as well as economically disadvantaged regions, it is recommend that the November 2010 budget impose a consumption tax of one percent to be added to the current level of VAT, with the entirety of the additional tax collected being channelled to a common fund and used in satisfying the community determined priority needs, with half of the funds collected being allocated for conflict affected area relief, resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction, reawakening and the balance allocated in pursuit of similar purposes in the economically backward regions of the country. The fund should be administered with transparency and due accountability by an independent Board of Trustees.
5. Equitable and Sustainable Allocation of National Resources
It is believed that years of inequitable allocation of national resources and consequential disparities in regional economic development, infrastructure development and public service delivery have sown the seeds of discontent and disillusionment leading to conflict, insurrections of the South and the North and even the armed struggle towards a separate administration. Learning from this lesson it is recommended that a Parliamentary Standing Committee be empowered to validate that all future public spends (both of a revenue and capital nature) in excess of Rs 500 million per each item of spend, including all single line item spends proposed in the budget and in any supplementary estimates to be disbursed by the central government directly or through provincial and / or other local government authority or public corporation or state owned enterprise, are equitably allocated and are devoid of any regional, ethnic, religious, caste, status linked bias and are supportive of poverty alleviation, achievement of millennium development goals, social infrastructure and public services/utilities linked investments, livelihood/ life style oriented economic enhancements and environmental sustainability.
6. Priority Resource Allocation for Women, Children and Disadvantaged Groups
Women, children and other disadvantaged groups like war widows, single parent families, disabled and aged, require priority resource allocations within the overall package of Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Reawakening, These packages should be need based, developed with professional care (especially where soft services like counseling/mentoring and psycho-social support for trauma victims etc are concerned) and delivered on a specifically targeted basis by competent persons.
7. Risk Management in Resource Allocation Decision Making
As certain identified groups could be left out of or given less priority in the delivery of packages of Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Reawakening, or in connection with access to infrastructure, public services delivery, banking and financial support and livelihoods development options, due to administrative reasons, political bias, ethnic/religious or caste driven biases, it is essential that decision making be seen and accepted by the local communities to be fair, just, and equitable. It is therefore recommended that the decision making in relation targeted areas of allocation support and in determining acceptable priorities be devolved down to the respective village level and directly involve village community leaders. The structures and systems of the proven successful World Bank sponsored “Gemidiriya” style Programmes may be an acceptable model of community participation led development at village level.
8. Language Sensitive Public Service Delivery
It is recognized that language proficiency in Sinhalese, Tamil and English in the provision of public services has been a major reason for disillusionment and discontent amongst the communities. A policy change, curriculum development, teacher training and the use of modern day teaching aides will be required to enrich this capability in the present day young. Whist this long term goal is pursued with effective leadership commitment, a short term solution will need to be developed to meet the interim needs. Information Communications Technology (ICT) tools can in the interim serve the needs of the communities. With over 10 million cell phones in use, with newer generation data transmission devises/facilities and internet connectivity now freely available even in villages via Nenasala’s, communications centers and internet cafes, the public have within easy reach access points. All that is needed now is for State administrative reforms to leap frog in to ICT based service provision platforms and link all key government departments, police stations, district secretariats, and public authorities etc within an upgraded service capability embedded ICT platform. With the use of appropriate Information Communications Technology, the government should establish platforms of connectivity for citizens to lodge, in their language choice, using public internet service providers, police complaints, complaints with the appropriate authorities against state official and state agencies and / or complaints against inadequacies/ineffectiveness of state services and also in seeking information and services from the state and state agencies and to receive an automatic acknowledgement subject to announced service standard commitments.
9. Capability (Knowledge/Skills/ Values and Attitudes) Enhancement
It is widely acknowledged that one of the most effective strategies towards reconciliation, integration, peace, harmony and prosperity is through the capability enrichment of all persons (young, youth, employed/unemployed and elders of both sexes including the disadvantage persons), encompassing knowledge enhancement, skills development, embedding acceptable attitudes and work ethics and building a commitment to accepted values of society. It is recommended that all potential network partner institutions, including relevant government departments, schools, skills providers, higher education and professional education providers, technical training providers, livelihood developers, private entrepreneurs, publishers and media, international development partners, local and foreign non profit organizations, and the Diaspora be networked and encouraged to provide value adding options to all targeted segments in accordance with a master plan drawn up by a team of competent and independent professionals following effective community consultations and implemented with effectiveness and transparent information, progress tracking and with due accountability to the local level communities served.
10. Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness of Public Spends led National Integration
Assuring Efficiency, Effectiveness and Economy of Public Spends is a strategic tool in moving the nation towards sustainable peace, harmony and prosperity ensuring effective reconciliation and integration of communities. On the contrary the failure to optimize the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of public spends and in managing key public sector capital and revenue projects on a timely basis, within budgeted costs, realizing the set objectives and delivering to the targeted segments of society the desired outcomes meeting their aspirations will lead to disparities, discontent and disillusionment. Towards this objective, it is essential that state reforms be initiated early, aimed at improving the capability, productivity and quality/timeliness of public services to consistently deliver publicly committed to minimum service standards. Transparent project tracking, use of ICT leveraged project management tools, post audits, and a management information system that delivers timely information in a transparent and easy to understand way will deliver to the stakeholder public information and lead to satisfied communities. If such information systems are supplemented by a “Right to Information Act” that empower stakeholders to receive credible information within a defined framework of accountability, the public discontent and disillusionment can be reduced substantially. In addition the Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Public Enterprises should be presented with and conduct outcomes based reviews of post audit reports compiled after completion of all spends referred to in 3 above, recording therein the due discharge of accountability by responsible persons in achieving the set objectives and goals, implementation efficiency/effectiveness and outlining lessons learnt and recommendations for action.
11. Livelihoods Development Supportive Banking & Finance Sector
Regions disproportionately contribute to growth, national income and national savings. These regions also receive disproportionate shares of national resource allocations, available finance, and infrastructure investments. These disparities are a key factor leading to discontent and disillusionment of communities of citizens. Whilst national resource allocation spends are overviewed by a parliamentary standing committee as recommended in 3 above, it is further recommended with the objective of delivering sustainable and equitable economic growth and prosperity post war, that the banking and finance sector of Sri Lanka be restructured and committed to stand capable, stable and solvent with its resources endowed to support the action strategies to be implemented by the government in partnership with the formal and informal private sector, including small, medium and micro enterprises. In the current context of the global economic and financial crisis, and signs of financial instability with a few significant corporate collapses in Sri Lanka, the Government has already taken some steps towards arresting possible instability in the local financial markets. While these strategies would stimulate sustainable economic activity, there is yet an unfulfilled need to have in place additional measures of supporting the internally displaced persons and others impacted by the conflict as well as small and medium entrepreneurs, micro entrepreneurs and self employed persons across the country (specifically those in the conflict affected areas and economically backward areas) with short and long term capital, venture capital and financial and insurance services. The filling of this void within an effectively supervised and controlled financial services sector will go a long way towards enhancing life and livelihood needs of the communities.
12. Restore Effectiveness of International Relations
Development of benchmark international relations, sans hostility, rhetoric and sarcasm and extending a genuine hand of friendship, co-operation and understanding of individual national interests moderated to a mutually acceptable international norms will be key to development and prosperity of the nation in the longer term. These relationships should be built on forward looking visionary foundations, recognizing those who stood by this nation in the immediate past, those who contributed heavily to current development assistance needs, as well as to those nations and international development partners who will be able to provide much needed for future development linked to market access, foreign investments, knowledge/technology and best practice transfers. Such an international relationship platform will provide risk mitigation options and fall back support if and when needed at a future date. Strategic regional and international interests must be recognized and managed with effectiveness to maintain our non aligned status and protect our national interests. Special emphasis is needed in managing the Regional relations with India, duly recognizing that the influences exerted by Central Government, Tamil Nadu State Government as well as the South Block of New Delhi can have a significant positive and negative impact on the stability, peace, harmony, development, growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka. The LLRC is urged to issue best practice guidelines in the above regard and also to hold a hearing of IDP’s resident in camps in South India and address their needs and aspirations in returning to their former places of residence.
13. Perceptions Management for Reconciliation and Integration
As much consumer perceptions impact heavily on brand management and corporate brand values of business, the perceptions of the conflict affected area residents and their friends and relations, as well as the perceptions of ethnic/religious/disadvantaged minority and even the majority community living in various parts of the country, the Sri Lankan Diaspora, International business, media and the powerful international opinion makers, institutions and nations, are a key guiding factor in their decisions to travel, transact trade/services business, make investments/technology transfers, lend money, promote, network and speak for or against Sri Lanka and its internal and external relations and recognition as a democratic and independent nation upholding internationally accepted values norms and conventions. These perceptions created by purported disclosures, pictures and recordings, as related by impacted persons, third parties and relations of impacted persons or as seen or heard by media persons, independent institutional representatives and / or by investigative journalists and thereafter spread by rumour, media or conveyed by modern ICT medium have long standing negative impact on reconciliation, integration, peace, harmony and prosperity. Some of these perceptions commonly referred to in discussions include;
IDP’s being denied access to their former places of residence
- Challenging the right to title of the properties traditionally owned and /or occupied persons living in conflict affected areas
- Large tracts of previously occupied lands being demarcated as high security zones
- Unjustified land acquisitions on security considerations but allocated for non security related purposes
- The publicly announced resettlement benefits to internally displaced persons not being distributed equitably and in line with the announced scheme
- Lack of basic amenities like water, sanitation, power and proper housing for the newly resettled families
- Resource allocation not determined on community priorities and allocated without consultation and outside the need base and at times missing the most vulnerable and in need, possibly due to identity based biases
- Some areas like Jaffna receiving more than necessary resource allocations and peripheral areas lacking in even basic allocations
- Preventing willing and capable NGO’s/INGO’s, international community and Diaspora from helping people in need at their most vulnerable moment of need
- Building of new permanent military cantonments with residential facilities for military personnel and their families
- Plans to settle majority community families in order to change the traditional area demography otherwise than by natural development oriented migration
- Arbitrary arrests and detention in the post war period as well
- Continuing active engagement of unauthorized armed groups
- Continuing disappearances of civilians
- List of persons in custody, camps and detention centres not being made public
- Failure to assist families in tracing missing persons
- Negative impact on civilians during the conflict due military excesses
- Unease of single women headed families fearing for their safety in the presence of large number of armed personnel of the forces
- Removal of burial sites of persons affected by the conflict
- Some important cultural, religious and remembrance sites being damaged and destroyed
- Disrespect shown by visitors to holy sites and sites held in high esteem by resident communities
- Free availability of liquor, cigarettes and narcotics
- Emerging consumerism promoted by business houses who fail to participate in adding value to the civilian communities
- Savings of the region being channelled to other areas whilst unmet needs of area community remain
- Decision making in the hands of the military or officials from the Central Government
It is recommended that the Commission validate the accuracy of the above perceptions, seek specific submissions in camera during visits to conflict affected areas to ferret out factual evidence and dispel invalid perceptions, accept correct factual evidence and make recommendations that facilitate reconciliation and integration.
14. Tourism and other Development Initiatives Sensitive to Socio- Religious and Ethno Cultural Values
It is important that internal and external tourism initiatives as well as other development initiatives, including those invested in to by the private sector, non profit organizations and international community are made to conform to conflict area community agreed guidelines and check lists, thus assuring sensitivity to socio-religious and ethno cultural needs of the community.
15. Focus on Youth
Recognizing that the youth of the conflict affected areas can be the turning point in effective reconciliation and integration, the LLRC must focus its attention in bringing them within the scope of all initiatives planned and implemented in the area. The National Youth Survey II of 2009 not having covered Killinochchi, Mulativu and Mannar and only covered accessible parts of Jaffna, Vauniya, Baticaloa and Trincomalee, it is important that the LLRC commissions a special youth survey covering the conflict affected areas in developing its recommendations. The national survey has brought out that unemployment as one of the gravest issues facing youth, with only one out of the three youth being employed, despite three out of four of them having GCE O/Level or above qualifications. The Youth appear not to trust political parties, political representatives and the Police and a large majority wish to seek overseas employment options. It is believed that on these factors the conflict affected youth may have much stronger views and they are also likely to be more significantly impacted by unemployment and desire to emigrate as the only option they see for their future to be bright.
16. Freedom of Operation of Civil Society Organizations
There appears to be significant challenges and barriers placed in front of credible, and committed local and foreign non profit organizations. These barriers appear to hold back even institutions with proven track records of due compliance, in supporting the need based requirements of conflict affected persons in regard to Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Reawakening. The LLRC must enable their effective and active engagement, considered vital towards reconciliation and integration, especially in the soft support areas ( including psycho social and trauma counselling needs) and dealing with affected women, children, elders, disabled, and disadvantaged.
17. Freedom of Movement, Migration Options and Social Mobility
The recent World Bank study titled “ Sri Lanka; Reshaping Economic Geography Connecting People to Prosperity “ recommends; “enabling geographic mobility of labour and improving economic connectivity between lagging and leading areas are key ingredients for countries to gain from rapid economic progress and convergence in living standards across places”. It is believed that nearly all youth of conflict affected areas desire to migrate overseas in seeking their life and livelihood goals. Identities related constraints appear to hamper effective social mobility in the conflict affected areas. The LLRC is requested to focus on issues connected with the freedom of movement and migration of citizens from conflict affected areas as well on identities related barriers to social mobility, as these are sensitive issues with high impact in the longer term on reconciliation and integration.
18. Encouraging Intellectual Discourse, Open and Independent Discussion/Debate on Critical issues
Open and independent discussions and debate as well as intellectual discourse on critical issues promoting and hampering reconciliation, integration, peace, harmony and prosperity must be encouraged at all levels and segments of society and be supported by all stakeholders of society, with specific emphasis on the state and media and therefore the LLRC is requested to make specific recommendations in this regard.
!9. Hierarchy of Needs of Conflict Affected People
The LLRC is urged in interpreting external signals, information, data bases, survey reports, submissions, complaints and evidence of the conflict affected persons and officials engaged in conflict affected areas, to recognize that only the utmost important immediate needs are likely to be surfaced by these persons who harbour doubts of the moves and credibility of processes initiated by the government and officials of government and in event are bound by cultural/social values of not freely expressing inner feelings and circumstances and also be heavily biased by experiences in history they have been subjected to. The LLRC is urged to extrapolate their evidence and submissions, bearing in mind the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and accept that towards the apex of their real needs will include desires of devolution of state power, transparent good governance, equitable national resource allocations, effective public service delivery and internal security needs of being served and governed at village level by community elected and respected teams of persons who are representative of the community and enjoy their confidence. Towards this the LLRC is urged to give serious consideration in developing an effective governance model that fits their inner desire and determine how best such systems and structures of democratic governance and justice can be assured with Constitutional guarantees.
20. Genuine Commitment of the leadership
Recognizing that a credible visionary leadership, driving with accountability within an acceptable political culture, the nation and its people towards growth, development and prosperity, encompassing a democratic, fair, just, and equitable governance structure and system embedded with adequate checks and balances that assure transparency, good governance, rule of law and rights/freedoms is fundamental to assuring long term reconciliation and integration, the LLRC is urged to include appropriate recommendation towards such a governance framework.