Jan 19, 2017

Govt. needs to campaign harder for reconciliation

The National Peace Council says there is growing skepticism both locally and internationally about the government’s commitment to deliver on the promises regarding the reconciliation process that it made during the last elections.  These concerns have surfaced with the initial governmental response to the report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms appointed by the Prime Minister.  Some government members have publicly criticized the report.   The Task Force report is one that is victim-centered and would also go a considerable part of the distance to meet the expectations of the international community and those who believe in international standards when it comes to matters of human rights.

The Task Force recommendations have met with the support and appreciation of the international human rights community and the ethnic minorities.   The report itself provides material that is invaluable in terms of concepts and cases that could be used for a public education campaign.  However, the lukewarm if not negative response from those in the government is clearly visible.  The problem that the government seems to be having is that some of the Task Force recommendations do not correspond to the general sentiment in the ethnic majority Sinhalese population, says the NPC.

While the report appears to have taken many of the issues highlighted by participants in different consultations, at least two members of our own partner organisations who were members of the district level task forces were disappointed with the recommendation on the proposed accountability mechanism that calls for international  judges, prosecutors and investigators.  They highlighted that their recommendation to seek technical assistance rather than a hybrid court for the transitional justice process from the international community had not been included.  The challenge for the government will be to take the recommendations of the Task Force and implement them as it will be a crucial step on a journey towards lasting peace and meet its local and international obligations.

The NPC says it calls on the government to undertake a national education and outreach campaign with the support of civil society organizations that are active in the reconciliation process.  It is necessary to persuade the general population that the recommendations of the Consultation Task Force on reconciliation mechanisms are in accordance with the government’s commitments and these commitments are in the best interests of the country.  Failure to do so can pave the way for the breakdown of trust between the government, the war-affected people and the international community.

The NPC says it holds that a failure to grapple seriously and sincerely with the recommendations of the Task Force would also be a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of those who were victims of the war.  It must be recognized that lasting peace in Sri Lanka can be achieved only if all communities living in the country are brought on board irrespective of political affiliations and manipulations.  We call on the government and opposition leaderships to rise above partisan petty political and electoral considerations and ensure that CTF recommendations are also not squandered.