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Reconciliation and Rehabilitation Issues must be Addressed with Sincerity and Speed Befitting Nation Wedded to Buddhism

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BY M. Thiyagarajah

In the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, it is often said, particularity in the context of war of words between Prince Dhuryodhana and Prince Dharmaraja, that it is good to listen to whoever has a comment to offer or advice to make.

Going by this maxim, the comment by UN agency, IRIN that there is lot of talking and not much improvement in the North Sri Lanka deserves to be heard.

The comment should propel the powers that be in Colombo and Jaffna to worry about the course of events since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were crushed and annihilated and report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) presented a road map of sorts for action.

We need no experts to tell us that Colombo wasted much time by allowing itself to be pre-occupied with the United Nations Human Rights Council and Geneva over human rights issues, when even a semblance of a positive gesture on LLRC recommendations could have given much mileage to the country in the international fora and blunted the edge of the ivory league critics.

It is heartening, therefore, to hear Presidential adviser and parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinha say that “We have to realize that other countries play games in terms of their own interests, and we have to be sensible enough to ignore these and move forward in the interests of pluralism and peace.” In an interview to IRIN, he also conceded that the Sri Lankan Government had ‘wasted far too much time in defending ourselves against gratuitous attacks.’

Rajiva and LLRC recommendations

Appreciation of the reality is one thing; follow up action along a desirable course is another thing. There are no signals as yet from the government that it appreciates the good work done by the LLRC and that it intends to move forward quickly. This is not to say that the LLRC road map has universal acceptance. There are too many grey areas and quite too often it gives the impression of white washing the sins of officialdom. Nevertheless, its six-month old blue print, with all its infirmities, has the potential to serve as a starting bloc.

Rajiva Wijesinha notes that many of the LLRC recommendations fell within the ambit of the Disaster Management and Human Rights Ministry. If this is indeed so, there should be no problem to mount the follow-up drive as he has told the IRIN that the more positive forces in government ‘seem they to go ahead with implementing the recommendations.’ But the million dollar question is: Will the government act? This question demands a quick answer since the government in Colombo still appears to be content with work play.

There is no denying that some of the recommendations of the LLRC demand political will, which Sri Lankan leadership displays in the interviews with the ‘Pravda’ of Chennai. But there are dozens of ‘smaller’ recommendations which don’t call for political intervention. Simple administrative diktats will suffice.

Independent committee

One such recommendation provides for an independent advisory committee to examine the detention and arrest of persons in custody. The advisory panel will serve to address concerns about indefinite detention without due process under an anti-terrorist law. Given their nature, the independent committee will be the forum where the minority community can take their grievance against local police and Army formations for appropriate redress.

To paraphrase what Neil Armstorng had said on landing on the Moon, the constitution of advisory committees would be a small step for the government but it would be a giant leap for the country in its quest for justice and fair play to the great relief of Tamils, Muslims and Christians. It will also give the country a few badly needed brownie points to silence the Geneva campers.

For this very reason, the government must consider creating the post of a special commissioner to investigate alleged disappearances, and amending the Registration of Deaths Act to allow the next of kin to apply for a death certificate if a person is missing due to ‘subversive’ activity. The LLRC has called for these two steps in the outcome of its 18-month long labour.

Yes, there are issues that are related to reconciliation and rehabilitation in the post-war period. These must be addressed with sincerity and speed that befits a nation that is wedded to Buddhism. Delay on this front for whatever reason should not end up pushing the ‘doable’ to the back burner. More over, since the ‘doables’ constitute the core of good governance, which any country will be legitimately proud of.

Till the time Sri Lanka embarks on course correction, it will continue to face flak as a nation which does a lot of talking but makes no improvement in its Tamil dominated North and East. Yes, notwithstanding President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s oft stated desire to ‘be the leader who brings permanent peace and development to this country and reconciliation with Tamil communities.’ courtesy: Ceylon Today

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