Sri Lanka Brief


Whatever the wordings in the title of the Commission may be, the real motive of the government behind the appointment of it is somewhat confusing when considering its terms and the title together. Also when the UPFA government’s stand with respect to the 2002 ceasefire agreement and the terms of the commission are taken together, the purpose of the government is far too perplexing.
The title of the Commission suggests finding out the lessons that the nation has to learn from the history of the more than half a century old ethnic problem and ways to bring about reconciliation while the terms of the commission specify delving into the relevant matters that took place only between February 21, 2002 and May 19, 2009.

The Commission itself had referred to this contradiction in its report. It says “The Commission was conscious of the fact that the remit of the Commission required it to report on matters that may have taken place during the period between 21st February 2002 and 19th May 2009. At the same time it also recognised that the causes underlying the grievances of different communities had its genesis in the period prior to the time frame referred to in the Warrant. The Commission accordingly provided a degree of flexibility to the representers in this regard.” It is apprehensible if some institution or some government which is supportive of the 2002 ceasefire agreement between the UNF government and the LTTE is to take pains to find out the reasons for the failure of that agreement. However, here, what might be the motive of a government led by parties that were dead against the ceasefire agreement and therefore prayed for the failure of it, when it seeks to examine the factors that had contributed to the fizzling of the agreement?

One year before the appointment of the LLRC and hard on the heels of the conclusion of the war on May 26, 2009 President Rajapaksa and the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon issued a joint statement which said at its tail end “The Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government will take measures to address those grievances.” One may infer that the LLRC was an upshot of that agreement about the accountability issue in respect of the war. However, the Government never attributed the appointment of the Commission to the joint communiqué issued with the UN Secretary General, presumably due to the nationalistic pride of many leaders of the Government. They showed it as one of their own concepts. Whatever it might be, the UN seems to have taken the LLRC as President keeping his word to the UN Secretary General. Now that the final report of the Commission has been out 17 months after the institution of the Commission in spite of its original term being six months, many seem to have instantly expressed their readymade responses, without going deep into the report which runs into 388 pages.

Many apparently have anticipated a “verdict” on some particular incidents such as the famous white flag incident where three prominent LTTE leaders were said to have been shot dead after they surrendered with white flags to the troops during the last days of the war. Since there are no such verdicts in the report they seem to have opted to reject outright the report despite its many serious recommendations to the Government such as the one to probe the incidents where some LTTE leaders allegedly went missing after being taken away by the troops.

Despite its “State Colour” in many places the Commission report is no doubt an in-depth research paper on the ethnic issue and it strongly recommends the implementation of meaningful devolution of power with a view to resolve the ethnic problem. Here are some of the relevant excerpts; “To this end, there should be no room for triumphalism.”

“The Commission takes the view that the root causes of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.” “A political solution is imperative to address the causes of the conflict.” “To this end a political settlement based on devolution must address the ethnic problem as well as other serious problems that threaten the democratic institutions.” “It is also imperative that the lessons learnt from the shortcomings in the functioning of the Provincial Councils system be taken into account, in devising an appropriate system of devolution that addresses the needs of the people.” “An additional mechanism that may be considered is the possibility of establishing a Second Chamber comprising representatives from the provinces.”

The challenge now before the government is to implement the recommendations of its own Commission, especially those on the investigations into the incidents of disappearances of persons and the devolution of power. It is a challenge when considering the report of a similar committee, the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) that recommended greater devolution before the last Presidential Election had gone missing. AMID THE FESTIVITY, LET US NOT MISS THE REALITY

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