By Rathindra Kuruwita
Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) released their final report last week. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a number of INGOs and social justice warriors loved it, who would have thought?, while the government tied itself into knots trying to respond to the report.
Although the report comprises a series of recommendations that would be political suicide for the government, the biggest bombshell dropped by the commission, so far, is their recommendation to establish a ‘Special Court and Office of the Special Counsel’ without delay and the need for ‘active international participation of Judges to the Office of the Special Counsel.’
Damage control, done badly
Responding to the report Co-Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne dismissed the CTFRM recommendation.
“People can say whatever they want, but the government has been clear there will be no foreign Judges. Yes, we are open to having experts to assist us in technical matters, but there is no room for foreign Judges,” he said. “Even the United Nations agreed that there is no need for foreign Judges. So, people have the right to say what they want but we are not bound to implement everything,” he said.
And of course the United Nations responded to Senaratne by Tweeting that they loved the report and found the recommendations, especially the one about including foreign Judges, excellent.
Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe joined the choir; even he sees that this is a disaster, the next day telling Daily Mirror that ‘he had no confidence in the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) appointed by the Prime Minister. ‘No one is complaining about the independence of the judiciary anymore. We have reconciliation and peace processes in place. This report, at this juncture, is totally unwarranted. Therefore, we don’t have to follow these recommendations by the CTFRM.’
Of course the person who appointed this committee Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe so far had not expressed any opinion on this matter, probably because he is too busy doing damage control for the Volkswagen debacle.
The point I was trying to make with the above collection of quotes was to show how unprepared the government was to handle this report which led to the above quoted sad attempts of damage control by several government ministers.
Selection of members
What bothers me is how the government did not see this report happening? Did they not appoint the members of the CTFRM? Did they expect anything else from Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Shantha Abimanasingham PC, Visaka Dharmadasa, Dr. Farzana Haniffa, K.W. Janaranjana, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, Mirak Raheem, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Prof. Daya Somasundaram and Gamini Viyangoda? Is anyone surprised that this report feels like a CPA publication?
Well Rajitha Senaratne was into something when he said ‘the members of the CTFRM are not the greatest intellects in the world, but a set of Sri Lankans from a certain background.’ The key words here are ‘Sri Lankans from a certain background’ because all of these members adhere to a certain world view, a worldview shared by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike, that their view is the only correct one and scoring brownie points from the West is more important than taking ground realities into consideration.
I guess one should not be surprised of such a move from one who thought he can hide the fact that Volkswagen was not building a factory in the country, in the age of social media and internet where anyone can contact VW directly.
The thing about committees
I believe that the government should have been more thoughtful when selecting members to a committee that will release a report on an important and sensitive subject. For example, despite all their policy blunders Mahinda Rajapaksa administration had the foresight to select individuals who could be counted on to produce moderate and thoughtful reports that took into consideration political realities.
For example, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report was universally acknowledged for its fairness while being feasible enough for the government to implement. The fact that the Rajapaksa administration failed to implement the LLRC Report showed what a bunch of douche bags they were and if that report was presented to the current administration, or any sane administration, I believe that it would have been implemented fully.
But the CTFRM was the polar opposite of the LLRC and I don’t think that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was consulted in the process of appointing it. The end result was the appointment of a bunch of shock troops of the establishment who went on to create a report that could never be implemented, caused embarrassment to the government and gave ammunition to the opposition.
No matter what you believe demographics are a reality. How many Sinhalese that constitute between 74-76% of Sri Lankan population, do you think like foreign Judges investigating alleged war crimes? And what kind of foreign Judges would the UNHRC, Tamil Diaspora and our social justice warriors approve? Will they be cool with Russian, Chinese or Iranian Judges or will they want some white people from the West?
A lot of people who are against foreign Judges, point at the fact that with the change in administration the Sri Lankan judiciary has acted with increased independence. While this is true, I don’t think that this is an acceptable reason for the UNHRC, Tamil Diaspora, our social justice warriors and social justice warriors to reconsider their opinions because they have invested too much time and effort to convince the world and themselves that Sinhalese are a bad people and most Judges are Sinhalese (they don’t really trust the Muslims either who have had a history of siding with the Sinhalese).
My point is that talking about foreign Judges is a waste of time because President Maithripala Sirisena is not going to let that happen, the SLFP won’t let that happen, Rajitha Senaratne or Champika Ranawaka are not going to let that happen. Not because they are racists, but they are ruthlessly practical. The CTFRM would have spent their time better if they actually thought about an alternative method to ensuring the tribunals looking into alleged war crimes are independent.