( February 1, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil polity in Sri Lanka, together with sections of the international community, appear to be getting into inflexible positions vis a vis the allegations of war crimes and violations of International Humanitarian Law. The Northern Provincial Council has adopted a resolution calling for the UN to establish an International war crimes investigation. On the other hand, the government has asserted that the international community has no role in the matter of accountability. Even if this is the standpoint of the government, the issue of accountability cannot be avoided if these allegations are true. Cultural relativism cannot be used to dismiss the universal validity of human rights and humanitarian values as cultural products of the West.
The government has sent a high level delegation headed by the President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga to canvass its case with the international community in Geneva. He has warned of a descent into chaos if there is an international investigation that probes war crimes and targets the Sri Lankan military. This would be a dangerous adventure for anyone to launch on. It is unlikely to take place spontaneously. The polarisation within the country is increasing once again. Given the issues at stake a victory by either side is not likely to further the post-war reconciliation process within Sri Lanka. It will only induce bitterness and whet the appetite for revenge in the name of justice. Reconciliation will be the casualty.
The National Peace Council believes that in the interests of reconciliation and Restorative Justice, since both sides are alleged to have committed heinous crimes, forgiveness and reparation to the victims rather than punishment of the offenders particularly if they accept their responsibility would be better for the country’s future since both communities would have to live together under the same government.
Previous sessions of the UN Human Rights Council have passed resolutions calling on the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that was appointed by the government. There is a need for Sri Lankan society as a whole to be apprised of the nature and consequences of the political violence conducted with impunity by all sides in the past so that the cycle will not repeat itself. In this context, we believe that a Truth and Reconciliation mechanism with international involvement that has the consent and participation of all major stakeholders within Sri Lanka is an option worth considering. The South African government has indicated its interest in supporting a process if it has cross party support within Sri Lanka. Such a TRC would need to be nested within a larger process of reform, which the LLRC report envisaged.
In particular, LLRC recommendations specifically with regard to governance will need to be implemented, which has not been the case. Democracy will have to be restored by repealing the 18th Amendment and restoring the Independent Commissions for that alone will make the government machinery function impartially and not as an arm of the ruling political party. There is a need to ensure that the recently elected Northern Provincial Council is permitted to function effectively. The government also needs to implement the 13th Amendment undiluted and give land and police powers to the Provincial Councils. If a resolution with time frames on these lines is agreed upon by all, Sri Lanka’s prospects for justice along with healing and reconciliation would assuredly improve.
Governing Council : A statement issued by the National Peace Council