The Government will next month start gathering public opinion through a dedicated website on issues related to reconciliation and “mechanisms” to be set up in this regard. It will be the first phase of the new administration’s promised truth, justice, reconciliation and reparations effort. “Anybody will have the freedom to write in,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mahishini Colonne. “It will be a web-based process wherein people will be asked certain questions and they can write their answers and anything else they wish to put down.”
There will be a second phase of consultations involving specific groups including military, families of the missing, ex-combatants and so on. The format will be decided by a National Task Force for Consultation. Cabinet also decided recently to set up a Secretariat for Coordinating the Reconciliation Mechanisms. “The consultation process needs to begin and it will begin in January,” Ms. Colonne said. “It’s only at the end of the consultation process that actual mechanisms will be designed.”
In September last year, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the UN Human Rights Council that mechanisms for truth seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence would be “evolved and designed through a wide process of consultations involving all stakeholders, including victims”.
The minister also referred cautiously to “accountability” and pointed to item 93 of President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme which said such matters would be addressed through national independent judicial mechanisms.
Meanwhile, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) is carrying out its own projects aimed at promoting better relations among all communities.
“We are looking at how we can achieve reconciliation over a longer period of time throughout the nation covering all religious and ethnic groups,” Chandrasena Maliyadde, the Director General said. One aspect the ONUR is exploring is the use of education to promote national unity. There are proposals to introduce new subjects such as peace building and national unity to the school curriculum. A preliminary discussion has been held with the Education Ministry which is expected to promote and facilitate the process.