( Vanni, the war zone April 2009)
The resolution co-sponsored by our government at the United Nations Human Rights Council is a mutual agreement entered into by Sri Lanka, as a sovereign member state of the UN, which recognises our responsibility to embark on a process of reconciliation among communities that will foster peace and prosperity.
This resolution is an opportunity to do what is right, by ourselves and for ourselves, and for our future generations.
Over many decades, including the post-war period, there have been assassinations, abductions, torture, and conscription of children and sexual violence perpetrated on women. These realities have often been denied by most politicians who have tried to promote racist and divisive ideologies to achieve short term gains. In this environment we citizens must support efforts to establish an impartial investigation, probing the events that are perceived differently, so as to arrive at a consensus on what happened, and what needs to be done. It is only in this way that we may achieve a common understanding of a troubled era in our history.
The joint resolution is a reminder that truth-seeking and justice, however complex, ensure social integration, and that their absence is detrimental to civic order and the rule of law. Prudent investment of resources in critical areas of national life such as education, health, protection of environment, strengthening our institutions and the media, and wise and responsible political leadership, will be our best chance to detect and resist recurrence of injustice, discrimination and impunity for violence and abuse of power.
If we are serious about a non-recurrence of the human rights abuses of the past, we should acknowledge that those guilty of criminal behaviour under our law must be brought before the courts, and held responsible.
This is an issue of individual accountability for unlawful conduct, and must not be thought of as punishment for heroism or as political vengeance. We cannot condone impunity or amnesty for brutal acts of violence and abuse. The prosecution process must also respond to individual suffering, and support victims and people who come before the courts as witnesses. Psycho-social support is required for these people both during and after the process.
If we want to ensure that we never sink again into the decades long conflict we have emerged from, we must put in place a political framework that upholds the rights of individuals to their personal dignity and security on the one hand, and the rights of groups and communities to equality and non-discrimination on the other. This will necessarily include devolution of power to the regions and power sharing between the central government and the regional bodies responsible for governance.
Extremism, adversarial and divisive politics, and the cynical exploitation of sectarian fears and insecurities, obstruct our common search for truth, justice and reconciliation. If we can rise to this challenge and ensure that the victims of violence of all communities receive justice and are accorded dignity, a reciprocation of trust, forgiveness and amnesty is likely to be stimulated. Our common history records periods of cordial coexistence among our ethnic communities during times of normalcy as well as tension. This is the goal for which we as a nation must strive.
Professor Savitri Goonesekere Bishop Duleep de Chickera
For and on behalf of:
Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Mr. Ananda Galappatti, Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Mr. J.C.Weliamuna, Mrs. Shanthi Dias, Mr. Faiz-ur Rahman, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Prof. Gameela Samararasinghe, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Mr. Pulasthi Hewamanna, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere, Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Mr. S.C.C.Elankovan, Ms. Manouri Muttettuwegama, Ms. Selvy Thiruchandran, Mr. D. Wijayanandana, Mr. Ahilan Kadirgamar, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Mr. Chandra Jayaratne
The Friday Forum is an informal and self-financed group dedicated to democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law. It has for over five years sought to alert the public on issues concerning the rights of the citizen. We work on a non-partisan basis and have been critical of both the Government and Opposition.