The country’s main opposition was responding to the final report of the LLRC. Its leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, tabled the copy of a ten page report in Parliament. He said a copy had been sent to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday. A covering letter has been sent with it. He charged that the LLRC had not made any reference to the report of the UN panel of experts who advised Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. Noting that there is “common ground” between the LLRC report and the UNP’s response, Wickremesinghe said, “if the government is sincere on finding a lasting solution to the issues, this is the time to start the process of implementing the recommendations of the report.”
The UNP’s response to the LLRC report notes that there is a “lack of specific and factual findings in crucial areas which were very much a part of the Commission. It said that the Commission’s observation that the Ceasefire Agreement was conceptually flawed is untenable. It said that the UNP would be “failing in its duty,” if it does not commend the LLRC for recognizing the problems threatening democratic institutions and the need to enhance the principles of democracy, good governance and human rights.
In a move that seemed to suggest that the UNP is in favour of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, its response on the subject of ‘devolution of power’ illustrated the point. It said, “The government must in the first instance take the initiative by placing a set of proposals for discussion based on the existing constitutional arrangements, negotiations which are already taking place and the recommendations in the LLRC report.”
The UNP made clear that the onus was now on the government “to announce a detailed road map for implementing the recommendations (of the LLRC) together with a clearly stated time frame.”Acknowledging that the Commission “has very rightly recognized that the conflict affected all three major communities,” the UNP has said one of the more “pressing problems” relates to the resettlement of the displaced persons together with the attendant problems relating to land ownership.
It adds: “The displacement of thousands from their homes, the deaths of a large number of civilians, the destruction of private property and the wholesale disappearance of village communities, is a national trauma which will haunt us for a very long time and will be in our memories specially the Tamils, for many generations to come.”
Noting the failure to consider the UN panel of experts report, the UNP has said that the publication of that report resulted in the government taking the stance that the Commission Report will deal with the issues relating to accountability and human rights. “The Commission report’s failure leaves large areas of the UN report unanswered,” the UNP adds.
On the controversial Channel 4 video, the UNP has agreed with the LLRC that “the government initiate an independent investigation into the matters to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations arising from the video footage.” The UNP has added that “there is a great urgency for this matter to be concluded in order that the government can move forward on the human rights record.”
Among the other recommendations in the UNP responses are:
- New legislative provisions on abductions, involuntary disappearances including the procedure for arresting/taking people into Police custody under Emergency Regulations and so on.
- The need for an effective witness protection programme.
- A Select Committee of Parliament to investigate into the attacks on journalists in the recent past and even today.
- The speedy enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill accepted by Cabinet in 2003.
- The appointment of an oversight committee whose members will be nominated by both the government and the opposition to report on the enforcement of law and order in the country as well as disarming all armed groups in the North and East.
- The immediate establishment of a separate Ministry for the Police, as done by the UNP in 2001. The government should announce a specific and detailed programme for inducting Tamil speaking personnel into the Police and make the existing personnel trilingual.
- The demilitarisation of the North and limiting the role in civil administration in the North to the public service.
- A new role for the Army be spelt out keeping in mind their need to protect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country. The Army’s role in securing territorial integrity of the nation is recognized but merely rewarding the high ranking personnel does not suffice. A programme to meet the requirements of all ranks who are serving should be put in place.
- The implementation of a reconciliation programme without resorting to the use of one-time combatants and armed political groups whose involvement in the government’s political process is seen as a definite hindrance to achieving effective reconciliation.
From ST political column