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LLRC: 100 days after –forward or backward?

On 15th May 2010, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was established by the President of Sri Lanka. On 13th September 2010, the LLRC issued interim recommendations. On 15th November 2011, the LLRC submitted its’ final report to the President.

So now, it is more than 100 days after the final report of the LLRC and more than 500 days since the interim recommendations

Full implementation of all recommendations of the LLRC will of course take time, certainly more than 100 days.

But surely some recommendations, including the interim recommendations, could have been implemented by now?

The LLRC itself promotes use of both Sinhalese and Tamil languages, but to date, we have not been able to find Sinhalese and Tamil translations of the LLRC report.

To date, no one knows which ministry, department, officials in the government will be responsible for implementing the recommendations. No one knows what recommendations the government plans to implement and what the government doesn’t want to implement. No one knows the time line for implanting any of the recommendations.  No one knows whether opposition parties, professional bodies, academics, religious leaders, civil society etc. will be able to participate in decision making and implementing the LLRC’s recommendations and if yes, how.  To the best of our knowledge, there is also no plan of action presented to parliament or the public regarding the implementation of LLRC recommendations.

Below are some significant incidents / events in the 100 days after the LLRC final report, which relate directly to the conclusions and recommendations of the LLRC:

1.    LLRC states that immediate action on interim recommendations “would provide relief and engender a sense of confidence among the people affected by the conflict and also provide an impetus to the reconciliation process”
a.    Interim recommendations have not been implemented after 500 days
b.    Amongst these recommendations not implemented is a particularly significant recommendation to publish a list of detainees

2.    LLRC recommends a political solution to address root causes of the conflict
a.    But our President and Ministers have announced that we will have to live with “13 minus” – no land and police powers to provincial councils under the 13th Amendment to the constitution, although this has been part of our constitution for almost 25 years!
b.    No progress in talks with Tamil National Alliance (TNA)
c.    No follow up to the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) process
3.    LLRC recognized that the process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledgement of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities
a.    There is no formal process initiated by the Government to acknowledge tragedies of the conflict
b.    No such act of contrition has happened
c.    Attempts by communities in the north and civil society to document and acknowledge the tragedy of the conflict is actively discouraged and has been met with threats and intimidation

4.    LLRC recommended freedom for people in the North to grieve and mourn
a.    But there has been no initiative to restore in anyway the memorials and cemeteries of LTTE cadres that were destroyed during and after the end of the in 2009
b.    After the obstructions and threats to organizer of religious events to grieve for those killed in May 2010, no public announcement has been made that events to grieve and mourn are permitted in conflict affected areas

5.    LLRC recommended a separate event to express solidarity with all victims of the conflict on National Day (4th February.)
a.    This was ignored although other elaborate arrangements were made to celebrate the national day on 4th February. 2012

6.    LLRC recommended a household survey to calculate casualties
a.    A group of volunteers engaged in documenting casualties in some villagers in the Vanni were questioned by military and told by government officials that they needed permission from the military to carry out this work.

7.    LLRC recommended National Anthem to be sung in both languages
a.    On national day (4th February.) , it was sung only in Sinhalese
b.    No official directions issued to sing the National Anthem in both languages

8.    LLRC recommended religious freedom, especially in the conflict affected areas
a.    On 26th (Velupillai Prabhakaran’s Birthday) and 27th (LTTE Heroes Day) November 2011, the military interrupted Christian and Hindu religious services and rituals in the North. The military ordered lights not to be lit, bells not to be rung even though these are routine activities and religious traditions.  In one village, military personnel had even asked a Catholic Church to celebrate the customary Sunday Mass on Monday! In December 2011, military instructed some former detainees in the North not to join a religious pilgrimage. The military gave permission after a Priest intervened on their behalf,  but promptly organized a compulsory meeting for all ex-detainees on the  day of the pilgrimage, ensuring they could not  attend  the pilgrimage

9.    LLRC recommended reducing military presence in the North
a.    There are indications about new military camps in the North even in 2012
b.    Military presence continues to be very strong in the North

10.    LLRC recommendedphasing out the role of military in civilian activities
a.    Military continues to run and even build new shops, restaurants, hair saloons, farms, boat services etc. 
b.    The Governors for the Northern & Eastern Provinces continue to be retired Sinhalese Military personnel and the Government Agent (District Secretary) for the Trincomalee district continues also to be a retired Sinhalese Military Officer.

11.    LLRC recognizes Freedom of Expression as pivotal to reconciliation and recommended  action to prevent harassment and attacks on media personal and institutions
a.    Police sought a court order to prevent the “Black January” protest on 25th January 2012 organized by the Alliance of Media organizations against media suppression.  However the police allowed a large pro-government protest to take place, blocking the road near the Fort Railway station, where the black January protest was supposed to be held. The police also permitted the pro-government protests to take place on 27th February 2012 which blocked the road at the same location. State media continue to make false accusations against press freedom activists and organizations about making submissions regarding GSP+ and participation at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, implying that they and still are supporting terrorism
b.    Websites critical of the government continue to be blocked without any basis and despite three hearings  of the Supreme Court leave to proceed has not yet been granted on the fundamental rights case
c.    Student activists and academics in Jaffna university faced series of threats in end 2011

12.    LLRC recognizes Freedom of Association as important for reconciliation and should not be arbitrarily restricted and also states that civil society should be encouraged to carry out community development work
a.    A NGO office in a highly protected area in Colombo was broken into in January 2012
b.    NGOs and other community based organizations are compelled by the military to invite and seek the permission of the military for any type of community development initiatives in the North.
c.    Civilians who met a visiting USA Government delegation in the North and a Christian Priest who hosted the meeting were questioned and intimidated by military
d.    An elderly man celebrating birthday in Vanni in the North, was questioned and not allowed to celebrate birthday. Often, people in the Vanni are not even allowed to have social functions without getting permission or informing the military
e.    People in the North were compelled and coerced by the military to attend protests against the resolution on UN Human Rights Council on 27th February 2012

13.    LLRC recommended the freedom to organize peaceful events and meetings
a.    A fisherman protesting against the fuel price hike shot dead by police and several others injured in February 2012 
b.    Two major opposition political party protests against the fuel price hike were attacked by Police 
c.    A Human Rights day event was obstructed in Jaffna on 10th Dec. 2012
d.    A campaign against disappearances scheduled to be held in Jaffna had to be cancelled due to sustained military interference on 17th Jan. 2012

14.    LLRC recommended independent investigations and prosecutions in relation to instances which point towards security forces responsibility for civilian deaths and injuries, disappearances and specifically the Channel 4 video
a.    No action has been taken or plan of action announced except the appointment of a Military Inquiry in lieu of the recommended “Independent Inquiry”

15.    LLRC recommended authorities to keep families informed of progress being made in locating missing persons
a.    Despite the pronouncement by Cabinet’s legal advisor in early November 2011 to the UN Committee Against Torture that disappeared journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda is living abroad, the family has not been informed to date– despite repeated requests by his wife through the Courts and National Human Rights Commission for details of his whereabouts
b.    A Minister has been quoted claiming that Lalith and Kugan, two political activists abducted in Jaffna in Dec. 2011 have not been abducted and “are there” and “will appear in courts soon” – but the families have not been informed about this matter
c.    Even the LLRC had not informed families from whom they claimed to have received more than 3,000 complaints and promised to “look into them” regarding steps taken and progress made in locating whereabouts of the disappeared/missing persons.

16.    LLRC said it is alarmed by the large number of abductions and recommended measures to address disappearances
a.    A torture victim who challenged the state and police officers was abducted two days before the case was to be taken up in Supreme Courts, after threats to withdraw the case
b.    A man in prison custody was abducted next to the main court complex in Colombo
c.    Two political activists were abducted in Jaffna on 9th Dec. 
d.    More than 23 abductions reported since the LLRC report and at least 11 dead bodies found in February alone

17.    LLRC recommended to inform family about changes of place of detention
a.    Families were not informed about the transfer of 180 detainees from New Magazine Prison in Colombo, in January 2012

18.    LLRC recommended appointment of a Police Commission
a.    President appointed members of the Police Commission, but members include a Buddhist Monk against whom there are serious allegations of criminal activities including involvement in the riots against Tamil civilians in July 1983

19.    LLRC recognizes the freedom of movement of IDPs to resettle in place of origin and that the government must be clear in their policy about areas where people can resettle and options available
a.    72 families have been relocated to Thimbili, Kombavil,  far from their places of origin, where access is difficult for their traditional livelihood of fishing, when they have expressed their preference to be resettled in their own village
b.    Displaced persons in areas such as Mullikulam (Mannar district), Sampoor (Trincomalee district) and Palaly (Jaffna district) are not allowed to resettle in the villagers of their origin due to military occupation
c.    No options and clear information has been provided to these people, as well as several thousand languishing in Menik Farm who are not allowed to go back to their villagers

By Ruki, 1st March 2012


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