The Sunday Leader

Govt Unyielding In Reconciliation Issues

By Jehan Perera

President Mahinda Rajapaksa was among the first in the international community to respond to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. In a message to the US President he condemned the Boston bomb attack while conveying condolences over loss of lives. Other government leaders and commentators took the opportunity to remind the world of the sufferings that Sri Lanka underwent for three decades due to terrorism. They also highlighted the irony of Sri Lanka’s leaders being forced to defend themselves for having eliminated terrorism.

The government’s Information Department stated that the Sri Lankan President was “the only leader in the world to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from Sri Lanka completely, has also called on all the countries to get together to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.” The underlying message of the government was clear. It is that the world should be looking to the Sri Lankan model of eliminating terrorism, rather than finding fault with it for having done so.

The government continues to be unyielding in its approach to governance and reconciliation issues. It has hired public relations companies in the United States to get its message across. This action gives an indication of the government’s approach. PR firms are known to give a positive spin to their client’s activities. The hiring of PR firms for lobbying in the United States suggests that the Sri Lankan government is not thinking of changing its own policies. Instead it is thinking it can change the US government by projecting a positive image of developments in the country. However, one part of the picture does not represent the full picture and there will be others, including the Tamil Diaspora, which will present the other part.

The government strategy is to change the messenger and not the message necessarily. Addressing Parliament, External Affairs Minister Prof GL Peiris said that the government was not going to yield on substance. He said “there is no change of government policy towards the United States. We do not concur with their resolution and our representative in Geneva distanced Sri Lanka very clearly from its contents.” The centre piece of the Geneva resolutions has been implementation of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The main thrust of this report is the achievement of good governance and reconciliation. The non-implementation of the LLRC will be to the country’s detriment.

Lost Years

The past two years have been galling ones for the government and its leadership. It has seen Sri Lanka’s war-time conduct and post-war performance being critically scrutinized by the international community. The majority of countries in the UN Human Rights Council have voted in opposition to the Sri Lanka to pass resolutions calling on the Sri Lankan government to probe alleged human rights violations and war crimes. The United States gave leadership to both resolutions, which were passed in 2012 and again in 2013 with an increased majority. Even countries that were sympathetic to the logic of government actions during times of war, are not equally sympathetic to it in the context of post-war.

It is unfortunate that in responding to this changed international climate, that the government is choosing a strategy of insecurity as the way forward. In the case of the majority Sinhalese, the government is coming forward as the protector vis-a-vis perceived and projected threats, such as from the international community and Tamil Diaspora. The government would do well to consider that when communities feel that they have no protection from the state, they will turn elsewhere for security. Government thinking has to undergo a paradigm shift from being focused on physical unity to a workable hearts and minds operation, based on the real responses to the insecurities and issues of other communities. It is tragic that having united the country physically, the government is failing to unite it ethnically.

Partial picture

What most Sri Lankans see is only a part of the picture. They have accepted the government position that the Geneva resolutions are motivated by a desire to punish the government for having crushed the LTTE in war. It means there is no internal pressure coming from the electorate that prompts the government to change and adapt to the post-war situation. This is a weakness that needs to be addressed by the political opposition and by civil society. Sri Lanka’s war ended in May 2009. The first resolution on the Sri Lankan war that was passed in the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks later in 2009 was actually one that was proposed by Sri Lanka itself. It commended the government for having ended the war and looked forward to the post-war reconciliation process that the government was promising to take forward.

At the end of May 2009, the UN Human Rights Council dropped a draft resolution calling for an investigation into possible war crimes during Sri Lanka’s recently-concluded war on terrorism and adopted Sri Lanka’s counter resolution with some of the proposals in the Swiss-EU document incorporated into it. Of the 47-member Council, 29 voted for Sri Lanka’s resolution, 12 against and 6 abstained. The resolution condemned the LTTE and welcomed “the liberation by the government of Sri Lanka of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the LTTE against their will as hostages.”

The problem that arose thereafter is the one that Sri Lanka now faces. The promises the government made to the international community did not materialize. Instead of dealing with the issues of emotional trauma and political rights that has arisen due to the war, the government has focused on material development. Government leaders have grown in confidence about the changes they are making to the country’s infrastructure. They see the road network and reconstructed towns that have arisen like the phoenix from the ashes of war. They are now issuing invitations to the international community to come and see for themselves. Those who do come are impressed. They see a geographically united country that is being visibly transformed.

Reuniting country

But reuniting a divided country is not only a matter of what is visible. An unknown number of thousands, or is it tens of thousands, of families of those who went missing in the war, continue to be left in the dark about what happened to them. Many of them continue to hope that their loved ones are still alive, captive in some army camp or prison, and await their reappearance. Despite the large proportion of displaced persons who have been resettled, the quality of their resettlement, and human rights problems, do not yet qualify the Sri Lankan experience to be cited as a model for international emulation. Post war reconciliation also continues to be at a low ebb with no political solution in sight, and with the military still playing a dominant role in the civil administration of the North.
The government is continuing with the logic that meeting development imperatives will erase ethnic cleavages and the need for improved governance. While this may be desired, it will not yield the desired end of negating governance and reconciliation issues. In addition, the demand in time to come will be more general as the populace suffers the burden of economic problems. The public too will necessarily see a disjunction between the professed development of the government and the lack of benefits to them. If good governance requirements continue to be ignored issues of corruption and accountability will arise with greater force, and threaten the government’s continued popularity. The country’s need for good governance does not merely arise from international resolutions. The government cannot ignore governance and reconciliation imperatives. They will not recede from the landscape.

10 Comments for “Govt Unyielding In Reconciliation Issues”

  1. marcus fernando

    you must teacech these uneducated fools about good governence

    • Charitha

      we had traitors like you in the past. Honor the war heros. we are with them. our army is golden.

  2. Budha

    Nobody semms to think even a bit why Tamils staged years Long non-violent protest and why there was VIoLENt Terror,? were they for gaining any such material benifits alone?
    Is it not the Right to Rule and heep their ancesters land ,as they have kept till the end of LTTE.
    Ltte was only a violent facet of Tamils aspirations.
    Now after 2009 world look at the way in which singala chauvinism travel fast.

    Is it not the Duty of those who are boasting to be the caretakers of Democracyand Human rights to Stop any encroachments into Tamil Areas in many forms:

  3. Sri

    Whose terrorism and by whom? What about the 65 year old terrorism still rampant under the PTA? Obama is an intelligent President.

  4. Lanka liar

    Human rights and reconciliations can only be done when justice is delivered genuineness fairness and civilized behavior take hold in Sri Lanka. Any amount of PR companies lies and statement will do a thing. The world is much more intelligent than Sri Lanka thinks.

  5. Duminda N Jayatileke

    What a bloody shame. SL is still a third world corrupt genocidal criminal country run by ignorant fools, rapists and thugs.

    • kalpa

      you bloddy man u should know that you are on my motherland. remembered that we are not fools you are the real fool.Without this government u cant live in peace.wht a bloody shame you also have our sinhala name.Try to do good thing to our motherland.

  6. sangaralingham

    something fishing telling us that talks speech bulletins comments publications are not reflected in the actions taken by the government lot of corruptions greed stealing by guardians the property of the state individuals intimidations of citizens abuse of females and children. difficult to say why this is happening in country with religion cultre tolerance suppose to invigiroate the nation opposite is happening

  7. Lankawick

    This Jehan Perera worked for $$$ on behalf of an NGO….wrote pro-LTTE crap….
    now that his hero was forced to float face downwards in an lagooon….
    …. Jehan is now advising GOSL how to govern the nation…..

    Some Sri Lankan “Naysayers ” / idiots think that denigrating one’s own country is the way to attack the present SL Government….

    ” A Nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious…..but it cannot survive treason from within “…..

  8. Aruna

    Try to do good thing to our motherland….. Because we are proud nation. @799

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