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Efforts Towards Reconciliation Process Not Met With Urgency

By Dinouk Colombage

Canadian High Commissioner, Bruce Levy

With his three-year term in Sri Lanka coming to an end Canada’s High Commissioner, Bruce Levy, spoke about the country’s process of reconciliation and whether he felt enough was being done.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is your opinion of Sri Lanka’s post war progress during your time here?

Bruce Levy: When we got here a lot of the discussion was the challenge of the resettlement of some 300,000 IDPs and that was the main focus.
I think at the end of the day the resettlement took place in a major way, certainly not a perfect way but by and large the main humanitarian concerns were met in the short-term. As that seemed to be proceeding, there seemed a natural evolution in our focus towards how the government would respond to a lot of the background problems that contributed to the 27 year period of violence. Much of the discussions that took place were focused on addressing the issues faced by the minority communities, giving them confidence that Sri Lanka would be a stable and prosperous country for all.

Q: Do you think that is being done now?

Bruce Levy: Obviously that is not a yes or no answer, so I will say that there have been efforts underway. As I leave after three years, my concern is that these efforts have not been met with the urgency we all thought they would be. There have been discussions and an awful lot of talk about the process, but at the end of the day I am struck by the fact that as I leave I will not be able to tell somebody what is the clearly articulated perspective of the leadership of Sri Lanka as to what the future of Sri Lanka should look like. To me this is an odd thing. As a non-Sri Lankan I am not going to argue against the process, but at some point the process must become substance. This is a time when the opposition and the government must be in a situation of give and take, I do not see this happening.

Q: Coming from Canada do you feel that our opposition is vocal enough for a Democratic country?

Bruce Levy: I think the opposition is vocal, but I feel it is not my place to comment any further.

Q: You mentioned reconciliation earlier. How do you feel the discussions are going between the Canadian diaspora, who are very critical, and the government?

Bruce Levy: At this stage there is a regrettable degree of mistrust on both sides towards the other. One of my main objectives on coming here was to see if we could encourage confidence building measures between the two parties. There is no question that the end of the war came, at least to those in Canada, as a bit of a shock. I think the Tamil community in Canada were terribly worried and at sea as to what they should do next. That situation has not evolved as much as I would have hoped to have seen. We can all agree that the communities in Canada have resources they could use to help rebuild Sri Lanka. But there has not been much in the way of large scale investment on their part.

Q: Do you feel having the largest contingent of Tamil diaspora strains relations with Sri Lanka or contributes to improving those relations?

Bruce Levy: I quickly discovered that there are so many groups in Canada all claiming to speak for the diaspora, and I am pretty skeptical about that. There are certain groups that hold strongly to the ideas supported by the LTTE, and this makes it more difficult in improving relations.

Q: Why do you feel these relations have not improved?

Bruce Levy: I think that goes back to the mistrust stemming from the war and the fact that there were some people in Toronto that supported illegal activities.
There is also a larger issue that goes beyond the conflict, which produces a larger issue to the government, and this is why international business is seeming to hesitate to come in to Sri Lanka?

Q: Do you feel that 27 years of war has left us ill-prepared to handle these sorts of issues?

Bruce Levy: I think that there is no question that the war held the country back. In the North and the East of the country development came to a standstill during the war, so the country has to wait till those areas now catch up.

Q: The argument has been put forth that foreign governments have been overly critical of Sri Lanka, and that they need more time. Do you agree?

Bruce Levy: I will be very frank with you. I think that issue of foreign governments being critical, and it should be mentioned that they have also been supportive, has almost been used as a further excuse for the delays. To that I say there is a very simple answer, act and foreign governments will then get behind the Sri Lankan government.

Q: The argument has been put forth that three years is not long enough and the international community must be patient. Is this a fair point?

Bruce Levy: Yes, to an extent it has only been three years. But as I said earlier it is time that some sort of application of their plans is seen. The LLRC report is a good place to start, while some recommendations will take time, there are some that could be done in a shorter period of time.

Q: In regard to the LLRC, some countries were very critical of it before it was released. They then turned around and voiced support for it after it was published. Were they being unfairly critical at the start?

Bruce Levy: I think that to a certain extent foreign governments were a little hasty in criticising the report so early on.
When the report was finally released and the government spoke about implementing its recommendations, the foreign governments supported the idea of action being taken. It must be mentioned that while we all support the LLRC report, we have said that more needs to be done.

8 Comments for “Efforts Towards Reconciliation Process Not Met With Urgency”

  1. Buddy, We have more urgent problems than reconciliation. Back off.

  2. suren soysa

    Uncle Bruce, don’t you have better work than answering some idiotic questions by a known scavenger? If Canada has no hanky-panky with the LTTE & its supporters,why go to provide answers or worry about how we solve our problems? Your country, like US never supported the annihilation of the Tamil terrorists & now shamelessly come to evaluate what we are doing in the war torn areas!Please leave us alone & lead a peaceful life in you vast country,without being surrounded by the LTTE diaspora.

  3. gamarala

    Very candid opinion by an outsider.
    What he does not, and will not say, will hurt sri lanka, hence he is being the consummate diplomat.
    Canada cannot be ‘brainwashed’ by the LTTE,diaspora or the SL government.
    Canada has real democracy.
    We will never attain it, with the present bunch in charge.
    He knows about the canadian tamil who returned to find his business property in Kilinochi ‘sold’ by the army to Cargills – and how after his protest to the local army commander, was axed to death by masked men, with villagers watching.

  4. P.L.J.B.Palipana

    Thanks Sir! I am a Srilankan Canadian and I hope that you studied the real situation of the country during the past three years.SriLanka has territorial area of about 250KM x150KM that is 116 times smaller than the province of Ontario.Indira Ghandhi created the LTTE to destabilize SL regionally during the 1980s.In 1987 the same India forced us the Provincial Councils System(PCs) following a visit of late Rajiv Ghandhi. Our research indicated that the benefit against the cost per person per year was 23 cents rupees based on the year 2009 for the Central Provincial Council. So we proposed a simple economic model the Central Government, The District, The villages model to save our most needed Social Wealth(Capital). We could calculate SC using the Francis Fukuyama proposals to the IMF.The PCs were a political blunder to the COMMON MAN of SriLanka.

  5. suren soysa

    For both Gamarala & PLJB,Canada is a Big,Big Country & a great ,Great Democracy, as if others like us live in a cave, in the stone age! With any bunch in power we do not want to be like Canada & have double standards. Like Canada,most western countries abhor & proscribe terrorism on one hand & discretely support them, in the name of Democracy & human rights! Is this what Gamarala say we will never attain? Only guys who keep one half in Canada, the other quarter in their motherland & who do not know where the other Quarter is, are the ones who want SL to be like Canada,US or UK! We who have lived in SL right throughout the 30 years of terrible Tamil terrorism,without running away, do not need your 2 cents worth opinion even though we accept your right for an opinion! Hence the opinion of Bruce is in no way frank to us; he is beating about the bush! What happened to the southern businessmen who went to the north to look for their business establishments? They were blindfolded & shot through the eyes by the LTTE. Your pet Bruce know it too! Any rural folk in SL know that PC’s are a white elephant,thrust on us by India & accepted by another white Elephant of Sri Lanka!

    • P.L.J.B.Palipana

      Hi! Sirs;please study the useless war among the people during this provincial council elections.Thanks!

      • P.L.J.B.Palipana

        “EVERYTHING SHOULD BE MADE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE, BUT NOT SIMPLER” – ALBERT EINSTEIN

  6. sangaralingham

    more talk less action is society satisfied re peace unity civilian army defence activity. migration movemont of population cruelty to citizens free movement of citizens

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