Multi-partisan approach to address UN panel report is desirable

(April 28, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has released to the public the report of the Expert Panel he appointed to advise him on human rights issues in relation to the last phase of Sri Lanka's war. The panel of experts has called on the UN Secretary General to immediately set up an independent international mechanism to investigate credible allegations that both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE committed serious human rights violations, including some that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the months before the decades old civil war ended in 2009.

The National Peace Council is of the view that there are a number of constructive options available to the Sri Lankan government that could address international and domestic concerns. The Government could set up its own investigating mechanism that meets international standards as an alternative to the UN report's recommendation of an international investigative mechanism. The creation of such a national mechanism would need to be inclusive of opposition and ethnic minority participation in its design and implementation.

In addition, the Government can quickly carry out the measures suggested by the Expert Panel which could bring immediate relief to victims and advance normalisation in the country, including repealing the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act; resolving outstanding disappearance cases; ensuring due process for remaining LTTE detainees; and providing relief measures for victims and survivors of the conflict, including by publicly accounting for civilian deaths and facilitating the recovery and return of human remains to their families.

The Government can also make several policy changes addressing the root causes of the war by cooperating with minority and opposition parties to devise a just and mutually acceptable political solution. The Government should express its willingness to compensate financially those who have suffered owing to excesses in the war. .Perhaps the body should function like the former South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. All these should be discussed with the Tamil political parties and the Opposition and consensus reached.

Sri Lankan society needs its own space to negotiate and foster its own approach to peace. We are concerned that changes sought to be imposed from the outside will make ethnic relations even worse and hamper seriously the reconciliation process. We welcome the government response that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission it has appointed can look into issues raised in the Expert Panel report and make its own assessment. NPC believes that the most sustainable path forward in the country will have to be constructed within the country and in a manner that will ensure that all of the Sri Lankan people make their own investment in the processes of democratization and peace with justice.

A statement issued by the NPC:

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

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