LLRC REPORT: Reflections and Resposes

By: Jeewan Thiagarajah

Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group focus primarily on accountability issues and what they perceive as the failure to gather sufficient evidence on the war crimes that they allege have been committed by the Sri Lanka government and the military during the last stages of the war.

Except for the ICG, the other responses give scant attention to the LLRC’s recommendations on a wide range of initiatives to be taken to promote reconciliation, nation building and have no faith in the domestic processes of accountability and call for an international mechanism to deal with problems of accountability .

Western developed countries US, UK, European Union welcome the report and commend it for the substantive recommendations it has made on a wide range of issues that would promote the process of reconciliation, press for expeditious implementation, are not satisfied with the LLRC treatment of the allegations of war crimes , and urge the government to address the issues of accountability which have not been adequately addressed, they want a strong credible domestic process and emphasis on speedy implementation.

Statements that welcome the report for its substantive recommendations that can accelerate the process of reconciliation and the resolution of outstanding issues.- India, South Africa, Russia, Members of the European Parliament who are members of the Friends of the Sri Lanka group. Both India and South Africa underscore the need to have reliable mechanisms to “further investigate allegations of human rights violations in a time bound manner”, welcome the LLRC’s recommendation to further pursue them through a domestic process of accountability, call for speedy implementation of the LLRC recommendations, whilst India emphasizes the need for a political settlement among other issues.

Questions that arise from the critique of the LLRC report as presented in the responses in the first category.

Unlike the exercise conducted by the UNSG’s panel of experts the proceedings of the LLRC were held in public, evidence led before it is available for scrutiny, the AI, HRW and ICG were invited to make representations in support of the allegations, and those responsible for producing the Channel 4 video were asked to provide information regarding the original sources which they had used.

The recommendations of the LLRC include mechanisms to further investigate alleged crimes committed during the war including those telecast in the Channel 4 video. It has recommended processes for ascertaining the number of civilians killed through a census and investigating disappearances. Does the LLRC report provide a clear opportunity for gaining more knowledge of the truth concerning what happened and thereby furthering the process of accountability and reconciliation? The Recommendations are a closely integrated whole.

There are at least three distinct components - judicial and investigative processes for the accountability issues; administrative for the resettlement restitution and reparation; and political and social for the reconciliation process. The most conflict –ridden issue is the political settlement which has been hived off into a Parliamentary Select Committee. There is need for a well designed institutional framework within which the responsibilities of various agencies for implementing different parts of the report are identified to oversee the integrated implementation of the entire package of recommendations – accountability, resettlement and rehabilitation and reconciliation .

The report’s strength lies not only in the specific recommendations it makes on all aspects of the conflict but also more importantly in the value system that guides these recommendations and which is articulated in Chapter 8.

- collective acknowledgement of guilt and contrition for the sufferings that we have caused each other,  an inclusive process of governance and a democratic polity which empowers all citizens and addresses the grievances of minorities and vulnerable groups,

- A fundamental readjustment of attitudes on the part of all parties that would promote mutual trust and understanding The Report clearly offers enough for several simultaneous multidimensional interventions not just by Government but also by responsible sections of our society. It is possible for the President to invite leaders of key political parties in opposition and segments drawn from outside the political spectrum to join him in planning the implementation of the recommendations, subject to reservations and criticisms.

On many of the interventions which are based on law and domestic mechanisms, lawyers can move Court. E.g. 1018 depositions before the LLRC on alleged disappearances. Those within civil society who have the respect and confidence of leaders of political parties can convene dialogues which promote multi partisan consensus on the way forward for post war Sri Lanka.

The way forward needs to consider a North-South dialogue which looks at affirmative action as restitution for those who were affected by the conflict, means to generate the extra capital needed for such investments and a vision which not only brings areas and people back up to the threshold which provides opportunity as fellow citizens but also creates the necessary synergy for North, East and South to enter into a win win relationship away from privilege, exploitation, marginalization or deprivation and which prevents the nurturing of an underclass among those previously affected.

The Diaspora as the LLRC has noted should be given space to contribute to the local reconciliation and development efforts. It has called for proactive diplomatic initiative with the international community, especially those countries that host these diaspora groups; constructively engage its development partners in Sri Lanka and abroad in order to develop a self-reliant, future oriented community in the Wanni, with open minds to build on and sustain reconciliatory community relationships working in cooperation with the development partners in areas such as housing, schooling, healthcare and livelihood activities.

Finally we need the assistance of our faiths to host inter faith congregations of the affected, families host the ‘other’ when engaged in traditional rituals associated with death and a recognition if possible by military ritual for the unknown among the dead. Its seems apt in closing to quote Rev. Lowery who in his Inauguration benediction for President Obama said, ”God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path,we pray, lest our feet stray from the places….. in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance……. when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid;when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream’’.

Please Click here to login / register to post your comments.