The report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation’ when taken as a whole is rather weak because of its inherent limitations, but some of the recommendations made in the report by the commission are quite positive and therefore can be used as a constructive tool to move in the right direction.
There is no denying of the fact that the members of the commission, being loyalists of the President, felt obliged to save the face of the President. Yet, if implemented, the recommendations should bring about many desired results.
Some of the positive recommendations such as demilitarization of civil administration in the North, devolution of power, disarming the paramilitary groups and so on cannot be ignored or set aside as useless or undervalued as irrelevant to the political life of the country.
Needless to say that some of these are not altogether new recommendations. They have been proposed earlier at different stages of our country’s political life, but unfortunately our leaders and politicians driven by their political exigencies considered their self interest more desirable than the good of the country. For instance it was decades ago that the devolution of power was proposed by SWRD and also later by Dudley.
In a similar way, the appointment of an Independent Police Commission and Public Service Commission which were proposed in the 17th amendment was abrogated by President Rajapaksha introducing the 18th amendment to the constitution to secure his own position for another term.
Now those very same proposals have been recommended by this commission. Does the government have the political will to implement them at least this time? Since the recommendations are proposed by a commission appointed by the President himself, there is no reason why they be thrown under the carpet.
Had the political authorities been more genuine they would have implemented some of them long ago, and then the bloody war itself would have been avoided and the so many lives would not have been lost in vain, and prematurely, too.
Is history going to be repeated? Sadly we see already that some government politicians have made very adverse remarks, expressing their opposition to the recommendations.
In this context, therefore, all our politicians ought to give serious thought to a very significant suggestion that has been made by the commission, namely, that all politicians of the past should ‘extend an apology to the innocent citizens who fell victim to this conflict as a result of the their collective failure of preventing this conflict’.
Most people in this country agree that the political leaders in both communities have contributed a great lot to the creation of the ethnic war. The commission is quite right when it invites the political leaders to extend an apology to the victims. They should do an honest examination of their conscience and recognize the political errors that they have committed when dealing with the conflict.
The Sinhalese political leadership too has a major responsibility to make a thorough examination of their contribution to the present crisis, the roots of which can be traced back to 60 years ago.
Again the government has been offered an opportunity to take steps towards winning the hearts of the Tamil population by implementing the recommendations. If the recommendations such as demilitarization of the civil administration of the North, devolution of power, removal of paramilitary groups are implemented, Tamil community would be much relieved of their day to day sufferings.
The appointment of the Independent Police Commission and Public Service Commission, are two proposals in the 17th amendment which has full approval of the parliament, and which will definitely guarantee the democratic aspirations of the whole Sri Lankan community.
Today all communities suffer various forms of injustices due to political interferences by the ruling party in matters related to the police and public services. Therefore, the general public will whole heartedly welcome the move to create a more democratic setup by implementing those changes recommended by the commission. That I say would be an honest beginning of a reconciliation process.
Of course the present political leadership may be deprived of many unjust privileges it enjoys now if some of these recommendations are implemented. Therefore the government may not be easily motivated to implement them.
Nevertheless for the good of the country and more particularly for the sake of the future generation, their implementation is a must. No sensible person would wish to leave an ethnically divided country to his or her posterity or witness to another blood bath in the times of their sons and daughters. The next generation will have its own problems to deal with.
All the same we have to expect a strong opposition from the chauvinists. They will do their best to raise false fears in people crying slogans about the evil forces and traitors trying to betray the country to the imperialist west. Apart from those extremist nationalists, all the others, being moderate in their outlook, will agree that these changes are urgently needed to sustain a democratic rule in the country.
As the commission has now come out with a ‘home grown solution’, we now expect the President along with the members of the cabinet, to show good statesmanship and come out in public to educate the masses about the urgency of implementing the proposal for the good of the country.
It is now up to the public trade unions, farmers and fishermen’s organizations and women’s organizations to voice their views and manifest their support for the implementation of the commission‘s recommendations. The religious leaders too have the responsibility of advising the government to do the same without delay.