The final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has drawn a mixed reaction. The 388 page report has been criticized by the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, and by international human rights organizations.
They have referred to the report as being in the nature of a white wash and failing to deal with the issue of accountability of the government for alleged war crimes. In addition, there is extreme disappointment expressed by victims of the war that the Commission did not provide them with immediate redress or solutions to their pressing problems, but referred these for further inquiries.
The Commission has accepted the government’s position that military operations were conducted with the highest priority being given to issues of civilian safety. At the same time it has also found evidence of violations of international law in the conduct of military operations in several instances and has asked that these incidents be inquired into.
In this context, the National Peace Council reiterates our call for the appointment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to go more deeply into the entire tragedy of the war to ensure that victims are heard, their grievances addressed, compensation given and perpetrators identified and provided with an opportunity for repentance and amnesty.
NPC also reiterates our conviction that the government is obliged to uphold human rights and humanitarian laws and hold individual members of its armed forces and government members accountable for their violation even if provisions for amnesty are also made available and justifications are provided in the future.
A full accounting of what happened in the whole course of our thirty year war would be Sri Lanka’s testament to the international community and to the Sri Lankan people that never again would such a situation be permitted to arise. It is in the case of clear failure on the part of the national authorities that international mechanisms become necessary.
We also note that the Commission’s mandate was of a much broader scope than ascertaining issues of human rights violations and alleged war crimes and that the Commission has paid attention to the issue of a political solution to Tamil grievances that led to war. We welcome the fact that the Commission has pointed out that the root causes of the ethnic conflict need to be addressed by urgent political reform that the government has so far failed to admit.
The Commission has also addressed those issues of governance that have become serious problems in the country today, such as loss of confidence in the independence of the police and other state institutions.
As a follow up to the Commission report NPC urges the government to appoint a Presidential Task Force of independent persons selected with the concurrence of the opposition and given cabinet status to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. Such an action can dispel concerns that the LLRC report will suffer the same fate of countless other commission reports and fail to be implemented.
In addition we reiterate our call for the setting up of a representative National Council for Reconciliation tasked with formulating a national policy on reconciliation and an action plan with implementation through the already existing network of civic, religious and peace building organizations. This parallel process could help to defuse tensions and create local and national trust among all communities which is an essential beginning for true National Reconciliation