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Thursday, May 30, 2024

UNPs observations on LLRC .

The UNP says that the devolution of power is a principal factor in reaching a settlement between the ethnic groups and the government must take the initiative by placing a set of proposals for discussion based on the existing constitutional arrangements.

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said this in Parliament today.

The UNP Leader earlier attempted to table his Party’s observations on the LLRC report and recommendations in Parliament but was prevented by the Chair as Wickremesighe had not submitted a written copy of his document to the Secretary General of Parliament.

Later it was released to media by the Opposition Leader’s office.

Here is the full text of UNP’s standpoint over LLRC recommendations:

1. The Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation which had been requested to “look back at the conflict Sri Lanka suffered as well as to look ahead for an era of healing and peace building in the country” submitted an interim report which was then followed by their final report. At the very outset we wish to put on record the lack of specific and factual findings in crucial areas which was very much a part of the mandate of the Commission.

2. The findings of the Commission that the Ceasefire Agreement is conceptually flawed are untenable. The reliance on Mr. Javeed Yusuf who had little or no knowledge of the background or the working of the CFA and on the University Teachers Human Rights of the Jaffna University who were totally opposed to talks and a negotiated settlement with the LTTE leaves much to be desired. The conclusion reached by the Commission as to the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement does not take into account the impact of the understanding reached between President Rajapaksa and the LTTE prior to the Presidential Election of 2005 and the failure of the direct talks which were to take place after this election. The Commission has omitted to mention that the LTTE rejected the peace formula offered by the UNP in 2005 which included the Tokyo Declaration. Further, the Commission failed to consider the commitment of the international community to find a settlement as well as to combat terrorism after the Peace Process started. The Commission has also not taken into consideration the positive effects the CFA had on Sri Lanka’s economy. Within a year a negative GDP growth of -1% in 2001 became a positive growth of 4% in 2002. The Commission is also silent regarding the social and economic benefits of the Ceasefire Agreement.

3. The arena of conflict encompassed both the Northern and Eastern provinces which saw continuous military activity by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE affecting a large number of civilians. The collateral damage included the displacement of a large number persons estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands affecting their livelihood and living conditions in the North and East. No part of the country was spared in this conflict which also left deep scars in many parts of the South. The number of deaths and those injured and requiring assistance remains yet to be properly counted. The Commission has also failed to adequately inquire into the reasons as to why the government failed to properly estimate the number of persons who would be confined to camps and trapped in no-fire zones. It is also observed that there has been inadequate preparation to accommodate the civilians fleeing the no-fire zone in the last week of the wars but the Commission failed to examine the Government’s preparedness for such a consequence.

4. The Commission has very rightly recognized that the conflict affected all three major communities resident in these areas. One of the more pressing problems relates to the resettlement of the displaced persons together with the attendant problems relating land ownership. The Commission has not specifically addressed its mind to this problem and seems to place reliance on better trained administrative officers to resolve this problem. Comprehensive legislation is required if a lasting solution is to be put in place. The Centre for Policy Alternatives in their report titled “Land and Property Rights of Internally Displaced Persons” and a report titled “Legal Analysis of Property Issues affecting Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees in Sri Lanka” commissioned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka have addressed these issues. In addition, the Court of Appeal in CA Application 620/2011 had also issued a Stay Order restraining action on the basis of the programme “Bim Saviya, National Programme on Land Title Registration” issued by the Ministry of Land and Land Development.

5. The displacement of hundreds of thousands from their homes, the deaths of a large number of civilians, the destruction of private property and the wholesale disappearance of village communities, is a national trauma which will haunt us for a very long time and will be in our memories specially the Tamils, for many generations to come.

6. We also note the failure to consider the Report of the UN Panel of Experts. The publication of the UN Report resulted in the Government taking the stance that the Commission Report will deal with the issues relating to accountability and human rights. The Commission Report’s failure leaves large areas of the UN Report unanswered.

7. The statement of Hon. Navin Dissanayake that 10,000 civilian casualties was a‘necessary sacrifice’ requires further investigation. Therefore, the Commission should have gone deeper into the evidence that was available before coming to a conclusion on the last phase of the war and on the issue of accountability. The Minister concerned was not even called before the Commission. Unfortunately, the findings of the Commission do not answer the question whether a reasonable effort was made to limit the destruction and damage that would have resulted on such an outcome.

8. The Channel 4 video has caused much concern among international Human Rights agencies. The Commission has addressed its mind to the video broadcast over Channel 4 and has rightly recommended that“the government initiate an independent investigation into the matters to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations arising from the video footage.” The mechanism for this independent investigation must be acceptable both domestically and internationally as being able to conduct an impartial inquiry including the examination of the video footage. There is a great urgency for this matter to be concluded in order that the government can move forward on the human rights record.

9. The conclusion of inquiries into the matters in respect of the detainees is strongly recommended by us.

10. No meaningful steps were taken to investigate the deaths and disappearances of the civilians which were reported to the relevant authorities together with credible information. Therefore, the Government must further appoint the several Independent Committees recommended by LLRC to conduct further investigations into such cases such as those referred to at paragraphs 9.37(a), 9.41 and 9.50 of Chapter 9 of the Report.

11. All displaced persons are naturally anxious to get back home and restart their lives. The government should grant all facilities necessary to enable themselves in a vocation in which they are experienced and skilled. The government should also ensure that development activities should take place in a significant manner in the North and East. The Government must also make available the necessary financial resources for this purpose.

12. The erosion of democratic principles, the political interference with law enforcement, politicization of the public sector, the lack of good governance and the absence of independent Commissions have all been acknowledged in the Report. This was also responsible for marginalized groups losing faith in the Government’s ability and willingness to address their grievances. The UNP will be failing in its duty if it does not commend the Commission for recognizing the problems threatening democratic institutions and the need to enhance the principles of democracy, good governance and human rights.

13. While welcoming the observations and the recommendations relating to Reconciliation (paragraphs 9.167 – 9.285) and in particular regarding Human Rights (paragraphs 9.42 – 9.120) the UNP wishes to emphasize that the need of the hour is a fully functioning democracy wherein no sector be it ethnic, religious or political will be discriminated. The UNP proposes:-

(i) New legislative provisions on abductions, involuntary disappearances including the procedure for arresting/taking people into Police custody under the Emergency regulations and so on.
 (ii) The need for an effective witness protection programme.

(iii) A Select Committee of Parliament to investigate into the attacks on journalists in the recent past and even today.
(iv) The speedy enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill accepted by Cabinet in 2003.
(v) The appointment of an oversight committee whose members will be nominated by both the Government and the Opposition to report on the enforcement of law and order in the country as well as disarming all armed groups in the North and East.

(vi) The immediate establishment of a separate Ministry for the Police, as done by the UNP in 2001. The Government should announce a specific and detailed programme for inducting Tamil speaking personnel into the Police and make the existing personnel trilingual.

(vii) The de-militarization of the North and limiting the role in civil administration in the North to the public service.

(viii) A new role for the Army be spelt out keeping in mind their need to protect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country. The Army’s role in securing territorial integrity of the nation is recognized but merely rewarding the high ranking personnel does not suffice. A programme to meet the requirements all ranks who are serving should be put in place.

 (ix) The establishment of a Special Institution to deal with citizens grievances (9.218) must be based on a bi-partisan agreement in Parliament. It should be an independent institution and having the same status as the Independent Police Commission and Independent Public Service Commission.

(x) The implementation of the reconciliation programmes without resorting to the use of one-time combatants and armed political groups whose involvement in the government’s political process is seen as a definite hindrance to achieving effective reconciliation.

(xi) The fundamental rights chapter to be strengthened by repealing Article 16 of the Constitution and incorporating the ICCPR as a part of our law. The Public Security Chapter xviii should be revised restricting the extraordinary powers to the immediate crisis. The power of Preventive Detention should be specified in Chapter xviii. A Standing Committee of Parliament should be established to review the enactment of Emergency Regulations.

(xii) The establishment of a Constitutional Court to deal with Constitutional matters including reviewing legislation, resolving disputes between the government, the Provincial Councils and Local Authorities and uphold fundamental rights. The pre enactment review system presently in force has been found to be totally wanting. We strongly recommend a post enactment review process.

(xiii) A Constitutional Amendment establishing a new mechanism to ensure the independence of the following agencies:
(a) the Constitutional Court
(b) the Election Commission
(c) the Police Commission
(d) the Public Service Commission
(e) the Supreme Court
(f) Appeal Court
(g) High Courts
(h) The special institution referred to in paragraph 9.218
 (i) Inspector General of Police
 (j) Human Rights Commission
 (k) Monetary Board
(l) The Attorney General.
The Judicial Service Commission to consist of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal and the senior Judge of the Supreme Court. This amendment will also repeal the relevant Articles of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

(xiv) The devolution of power as conceded by the Commission, is a principal factor in reaching a settlement between the ethnic groups. The government must in the first instance take the initiative by placing a set of proposals for discussion based on the existing constitutional arrangements, negotiations which are already taking place and the recommendations in 8.224.

14. The onus is now on the government to announce a detailed road map for implementing the recommendations together with a clearly stated timeframe. The UNP also notes that the Government has so far failed to implement the interim recommendations of the Commission. Therefore the Government must establish its bona fides by taking immediate action on all recommendations which are agreed to by the Opposition Parties in Parliament that have submitted their observations. This road map must finally make a reality of our commitments to the Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles by the Heads of Government in Port of Spain in 2009. Sri Lanka as a member of the Commonwealth is a Party to this Affirmation.

15. The failure to find a concept to share power between the centre and the periphery has contributed in a large way in bringing this unfortunate position. Therefore, all “parties and all people must come together, understand the tragic traumatic period we have gone through and commit ourselves to reconciliation and peace. The government must take the first step to create an environment to build a national consensus based on unity, strengthening democracy, power sharing, equality and respect for the rights of all communities. All of us have a duty to respond and a role to play. This will also enable the government to implement in the fullest our obligations under the international agreements on Human Rights to which we have subscribed. The success of such an approach depends on the ability to transform our attitudes and thinking.



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