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Sri Lanka: North – East Coordinating Committee urges Govt to scrap proposed Reconciliation Commission

SRI-LANKA’S PROPOSED NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION AMIDST THE CONTINUING STATE SPONSORED OPRESSIONS IN NORTHERN AND EASTERN PROVINCES

We North-East Coordinating Committee, a coordinating body of sixteen civil society organizations that function in Northern and Eastern Provinces of the country, along with community-based organizations, women’s groups and war affected social groups express our deep concerns about the Sri-Lankan government’s proposed National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC).

Soon after the colonial independence, the political representatives of the majority Sinhala- Buddhist community who came to the power systematically exercised racism against the minority communities.  Sinhala colonialization in North and East areas, language rights violation, ethnic violences against Tamils, administrative and political discriminations and systematic exclusion of Tamils from political power and government administrative bodies made Tamil people to demand a federal model power sharing for Tamil and Muslim people in North and East areas. As the Sri-Lankan state continuously oppressed the democratic political initiatives of the Tamils, in a particular stage (early 1970s) secessionist movements arose among Tamils in North and East and lead to armed conflict which was ended up in a 30 year long brutal war. Thousands of Tamils were subjected to enforced disappearances. Thousands and thousands were killed and injured. In the final stages of the war Sri-Lankan Government used cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs in “No fire Zone” areas and committed war crimes and genocide against Tamils.

Post war demands of Tamil people:

  1. The war affected social groups and the entire Tamil community have continuously been demanding justice for war crimes and to reveal the truth of the status of the enforced disappeared persons. They constantly appeal to the UN and the international community to establish an international justice mechanism as there is no trust in the Sri-Lankan government
  2. A genuine Truth finding mechanism with the engagement of UN
  3. Continuously voicing to end militarization in North and East areas and strengthen the civil administration in order to establish rule of law and normal civil life in the area.
  4. Demanding for a federal model sustainable political solution to North-East regions (as the people very well know that the 13th Amendment based power devolution is not sustainable as the central government could any time dissolve the provincial governments).

But the Sri-Lankan government has failed to protect the rights of the Tamil people in any means. The “Good Governance Government” that came to power in 2015, mostly made promises to the UN and the international community that they would promote transitional justice and peace, but they also safeguarded the same old racist system and failed to promote transitional justice efficiently and to resolve the national question. In order to satisfy the international community, the “Good governance government” established the Office of the Missing Persons. Basically, it is another governmental body with very few powers and unable to assist the families of the disappeared persons. The government also introduced the Office for Reparation and appointed commissioners. But its services were not reached the war affected communities.

During this period militarization, militarized land grabbing, Buddhisization and cultural rights violations and human rights violations increased in North and East region and continuing. Physical detention and torture take place. People who voice against these violations were arrested, intimidated and threatened by the state elements. Especially women family members of enforced disappeared persons and female ex-carders continuously face intimidations by men attached to state intelligence. Memorialization is prevented and people who engage in memorialization are called to face police inquiries, or inquiries by intelligence. There were incidents of arrests and detention of persons including women who engaged in memorialization.

The threats, intimidations and inquiries against human rights defenders and civil society activists in North and East have increased including against women human rights defenders and social activists.  (See Appendix I).

Basically, the government has not shown any positive signs of reconciliation at all. Under such circumstances it is obvious that any proposals of the Sri-Lankan government on Transitional justice is not going to be effective without the direct involvement of the UN and international community.

Therefore, we call upon the United Nations, European Union, Sri-Lanka Core Group Countries, The Heads of State of Japan, South Africa and Switzerland to reassess the proposed NURC of Sri-Lanka in the best interests of the war affected North and East people and to advice and guide the Sri-Lankan government to,

  1. Stop implementing and fueling money to the proposed NURC
  2. Immediately end land grabbing and Buddhisization in North and East and to give the lands back to the people of those areas
  3. End militarization
  4. Stop state sponsored intimidation against war affected people
  5. Stop state sponsored intimidation against human rights defenders and social activists
  6. Officially invite the Sri-Lanka Accountability Project representatives of OHCHR
  7. Work with the UN and international community to establish international justice mechanism
  8. Implement a federal model sustainable power sharing to North and East of Sri-Lanka

North – East Coordinating Committee (NECC),

20 July 2023,

Sri-Lanka

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