Tamils, Indians, The LLRC Report And Rajapaksa Politics
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report presented in parliament on December 16, after it was handed over to President Rajapaksa on December 20, has left a divided international community and a divided local political response, which is nothing unusual, but the larger part is formed by the silent lot, that was expected to take a stand on the “report”. This included the UNP, the “Left” and the major civil society actors here plus the TN lobby and the Delhi administration.
International HR organisations have said its not enough and their accusations on war crimes and violation of international law, have not been addressed. They are ONLY concerned about those and not of the Tamil people who survived here. The US and the EU made a very careful “ok, but…” sort of response. Deputy Spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, Ms. Victoria Nuland was quoted to have said, “…we urge the Sri Lankan Government not only to fulfill all of the recommendations of the report as it stands, but also to address those issues that the report did not cover.”
The EU was first reported as having said it would need time to study the LLRC Report in detail, which implied the EU would not stand anywhere, before it knew where exactly the US stood. On Tuesday last, Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative and Vice President of the EU Commission, Ms. Catherine Ashton said in a statement, “A detailed and careful study of the measures proposed to implement the recommendations in the report is needed, including on the issue of accountability.” So they came to stand together. Fulfill recommendations in the report and address accountability.
This is not a difficult position for the Rajapaksa regime to tide over once again and buy time, beyond the next UN Human Rights Council meeting, scheduled for March, 2012. That in fact is what the Rajapaksas wanted. A way out of the difficult March sessions. It is Christmas now and then January 2012 would leave just two months and more for diplomatic chivalry, proposed preparations on mechanisms, creating opposition for the “report”, changing positions on recommendations and all the gimmickry that would entail the “crossing” in March, 2012.
The man on the street often says, the police will not come, till the fight is over and when they do come, they would find fault with the passers-by, for being there. That stands right for these international big powers too. These big powers will continue the way they did over the massacres in Rwanda, in Darfur, the massacres in Gaza-2009 and then in Mullivaikkal. They come after the fight.
In Sri Lanka, the fight turned war of almost 30 years which concluded in May 2009, leaves two concerns for two different interests in the political arena. The concerns of the international late-comers, the HR lobbyists and of course the stakeholder Tamil voice in the Diaspora. This certainly leaves the Delhi government, a third player. This also leaves the other main concerns of the Sri Lankan citizen – Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala.
The LLRC true to its expectations, had paid much time on the Sri Lankan concerns in relation to the citizens living here and used that to clean up the stink in the backyards of this regime. That for sure has annoyed the international community. For them accountability is defined by war crimes, violations of international law and crimes against humanity. If they were serious, that could have been avoided, if they only thought of avoiding the tragedy they allowed in Rwanda or in the Gaza in January 2009 by sitting over decisions and not acting early enough. Now the priorities for those who survived the last phase of the war, are different. They have to go on living and they need to create space for their future, here in their own homeland.
That space for new post war life, recommended by the LLRC is good for social dialogue and also challenges the Sinhala politics of the Rajapaksa regime, which is more than important for democratic life. To that extent the LLRC Report should be commended. They have done a job that most did not expect and was considered, incapable of.
Reading through almost 380 pages of content from the total 407 pages in the Commission’s Report, leaving aside all their efforts, good and bad, right and wrong, in justifying the Rajapaksa regime waging war as the only means in settling the conflict, in pointing fingers at the Norwegian facilitation and breakdown of the 2002 February CFA, in casting doubts on Channel 4, in accepting that the security forces were disciplined, professional and heroic, one is still left with very straight forward talk on the main issues concerning the (i) Tamil and Muslim people in the North and the East, (ii) on major democratic issues valid for the whole country and (iii) serious recommendations on Constitutional reforms. To sum up the Commission’s recommendations as most relevant and politically valid for the future of this country’s citizenry, the LLRC Report wants the Rajapaksa regime to:
Demilitarise society – remove security forces from all civil administration in the North-East as rapidly as possible, re-evaluate HSZ’s in an effort to reduce them, de link the Police from all security work and also leave the people to participate in decision making with a strong and independent civil administration. [check at least No. 6.104(2.4), 6.98 and 8.211]
Rightly legalise detention – have serious accountability and adhere to the law of the land in handling detainees and in making arrests, inform family and not hold anyone in undeclared locations [check Chapter 5 and No. 5.61]
Disband all para military groups named as “illegal armed groups” – the report says they are accused of abductions, extortions, killings and robberies and names even Devananda and Karuna, wants independent investigations into incidents reported and the victims adequately compensated, saying any reluctance in doing so would definitely affect reconciliation [check sub title “Illegal armed groups” and No. 5.66]
Establish independent Commissions – contradicting the Rajapaksa regime’s position in repealing the 17th Amendment and politicising all State agencies through the Executive with the 18th Amendment, the Commission wants independent Police and independent Public Service Commissions, clearly recording the ruling party politicians are interfering into all appointments, transfers and promotions, an anti-thesis of good governance. [check No 8.209, 8.210]
Adopt a land policy that would essentially stop Sinhalisation of the war affected North-East areas [check 6.104 (1), 8.106]
Devolve power to the peripheries, by taking lessons from the shortcomings in the present Provincial Council (PC) system, on the assumption that it allows more democracy in local and provincial development [check pages 307 and 308]
These taken together as a very strong democratic package, wholly contradicts the present Rajapaksa regime. It contradicts the military approach of the regime that cannot do without the security forces for even the recently opened “Mahinda Rajapaksa National Art Theatre”. It contradicts Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s stand that the PCs as they stand deformed now, would be more than enough for Sri Lanka. It contradicts the politics of the 18th Amendment of this regime that controls all State agencies and corruptly so. It contradicts the armed banditry of the Rajapaksas with Devananda and Karuna and the underworld accommodated within their politics.
Unfortunately, the “Left” both within the Rajapaksa government and outside (though a trifle lot) is yet to speak on these democratic proposals. The three ministers still “left” in the folds of the Rajapaksas, of course would have to save their ministry desks. Others outside would have to skin themselves of their dogma of opposing everything that comes with Rajapaksa patronage, good or bad.
Unfortunately also, the TNA has opted to ask for international investigations, without demanding that Mahinda Rajapaksa implements his own Presidential Commission’s recommendations. Of course they are dependent on the Tamil Diaspora than on the voiceless and dissembled Tamil society here. Yet they have a responsibility having collected the votes at the last local government elections, to allow the war affected, surviving Tamil people to live on their resettled land, without any military intrusions into their lives, allow them the comfort of living without marauding illegal armed groups, allow them the right to participate in voicing their concerns in all development work around them, IF NOT all others. The TNA needs to know, sticking ONLY with international investigations would not solve the problems of the people here.
In fact now they lay embattled with a Tamil Nadu (TN) lobby that has no Seimen, no Vaiko and no Nedumaran. The TN Chief Minister, commonly called JJ there, who walked into office last April, 2011 with the promise of doing justice to the war affected “Tamil brethren across the Palk Straits”, wanted Delhi to consider Rajapaksa a “war criminal”, is not interested anymore as she is involved in throwing out her closest friend and ally Sasikala with her kith and kin from her party AIDMK and her residence. Well the TN politicians have their own issues in Koodankulam and Mulleperiar. Their home voters matter most.
Tamil politics in TN had anyway been out of focus in looking at the SL Tamil issue. They have been transplanting it in their own racist politics within TN for vote catching instigations and always going overboard, “Vaiko style”. They had never brought out a positive campaign despite a few civil society activists trying to relocate the whole Sri Lankan Tamil issue in a broader perspective. Thus Delhi gained much out of this Tamil debacle and is now said to be wholly engaged with its own mega corruption issues and the Lokpal protests demanding deadlines.
Yet a regime like in Delhi cannot afford to go blind to what is happening around them. They cannot afford to allow the US and the EU to decide what Rajapaksa should do, without their interests met. Thus it is implied, that Delhi’s silence on the LLRC report thus far, endorses what the EU and the US says. They are in the loop!