Page 1

NATIONAL POLICY ON RECONCILIATION: FINAL DRAFT

This draft, following consultation with stakeholder groups including politicians of different parties, media personnel, civil society representatives and religious leaders, was submitted to His Excellency the President for consideration on August 29th 2012.

Background and History of the Conflict   

The Sinhala Community The Tamil Community The Muslim Community

Problem Analysis    

The Challenge The Vision The Mission and Values The Opportunity

The Strategy    

A Recovery and equitable development Political Participation and Administrative Accountability Justice and Truth and Understanding Implementation: Action Plan


Background and History of the Conflict The root causes of the three-decade conflict in Sri Lanka can be traced back to unequal treatment of the Tamil population and real and perceived discrimination by the State. Many Tamils believed the State and its structures favoured the interests of the majority community, and several changes in State practices were seen as discriminatory and unjust. The Tamil community’s campaign was against State structures and policies considered discriminatory of the Tamils rather than against the Sinhalese. The failure of the dominant sections of the Sinhala polity to address these grievances, the failure to rigorously examine changes in policy and practice by successive governments, so as to take into account possible adverse impacts on minorities and avoid such impacts, the subsequent creation of a Tamil political leadership which permitted the growth of unrealistic expectations amongst the Tamil youth, all contributed to the birth of Tamil militancy. Finally, the democratic Tamil political leadership lost control and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) monopolised the Tamil struggle, with disastrous consequences for Tamils as well as the country as a whole. In its assessment of relations between the different ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, the Soulbury Commission referred to a permanent Sinhalese majority of more than two thirds of the total population, with the next largest segment (Tamils exclusive of upcountry Tamils) being around ten percent. The Commission argued that the character of majority-minority relations was shaped by these demographic realities and governed by deep-seated predispositions entrenched in the consciousness of both majority and minority which led to apprehension and distrust. Though some Tamil grievances were expressed early on, it was only after 1956, following the Official Languages Act, that the political agenda of the Tamil parties underwent a fundamental change. For the first time after independence, the statement of Tamil grievances is clearly presented in the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayakam Pact and explicitly linked to the need for political power at the regional level. The Bandaranaike–Chelvanayakam Pact was unilaterally abrogated by Prime Minister Bandaranaike. Thereafter, broken pledges on the part of successive governments became a recurrent feature of the Sinhala–Tamil relationship and an overriding Tamil grievance. But the decisive rift in the inter-ethnic relationship came with the anti-Tamil riots of 1977 and 1981, the latter accompanied by a government motion of no-confidence in the leader of the democratic Tamil opposition. When this was followed by the Black July attacks of 1983, and the failure of the then Government to provide adequate protection to Tamil citizens, while effectively driving the main Tamil political party out of parliament, militancy took over as the preferred option for many Tamil youngsters. With the emergence of armed groups in support of Tamil demands, the conflict took a different complexion with attacks and counterattacks resulting in the deaths of large numbers of civilians. This allowed the Government to refer only to a terrorist


problem and ignore root causes, thus contributing to the continuing political problem receiving less attention. Attitudes began to harden amongst many on both sides of the communal divide, making it difficult for moderates to push for a just solution through negotiations. Successive governments attempted negotiations with representatives of the Tamil people, but these broke down for multiple reasons. The LTTE took advantage of such negotiations at times in its campaign to establish dominance and decimate all other Tamil groups and persons advancing a Tamil voice in national politics. These developments led to what is inevitable in armed conflict, the loss of civilian life on both sides. With the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the armed conflict came to an end. However, the root causes of the conflict remain and have to be addressed in order to prevent the recurrence of the past in whatever form. Further, the war caused additional negative fallouts such as physical destruction of infrastructure, an amplification of socioeconomic deprivation in the war-torn areas of the country, and loss of life of Tamil civilians caught up in the final phase of the war. It also led to increased suspicion and resentment amongst the three main ethnic communities in the country and widened the gap in trust and understanding.

The Sinhala Community The State must not lose sight of the need to allay the fears and anxieties of the Sinhalese who, though a majority, have their own share of concerns, both real and imagined. Many actions that discriminated against minorities sprang initially from a widespread perception amongst the Sinhalese that they had been discriminated against by the British. Assertion of the need for government to function in the language of the majority, positive discrimination to compensate for real and perceived educational inequalities, land redistribution to make up for the expropriation of peasant lands for plantations with the concomitant importation of labour from India, all sprang from the need to make up for deprivations imposed by the colonial government. In the process, however, they led to deprivation of the minorities because of failure to explore comprehensively the implications of any actions. Similarly, any solution meant to resolve the problems of Tamils and Muslims now must not be at the expense of the Sinhalese. That is not only unfair and unjust, but it would make such a solution unsustainable in the long run. With regard to specific grievances of Sinhalese in villages adjacent to former conflict areas, the LLRC Commission notes that the Government has tended to overlook those who lived in villages such as Weli Oya, Moneragala and Kebethigollawa, who survived the terror perpetrated by the LTTE. The people in these villages continued to live under tremendous threats to their lives without migrating to safe areas in the South. They faced security risks, hardships in education, disrupted and fractured livelihoods, and


paucity of healthcare and transport facilities. Moreover, the Sinhalese who resided in the Eastern Province faced inadequacies of the administrative system. For instance, Weli Oya is categorised under a number of districts, a section under the Mullaitivu district, a section under the Vavuniya district and another under the Trincomalee district. As a result, numerous difficulties were faced by people in the areas, where administration is carried out in Tamil, whereas people living in Weli Oya are predominantly Sinhalese. Communities across Sri Lanka have also suffered immensely as a result of the loss of family members who served in the armed forces. The severe psychological impact of the war on these communities often goes unacknowledged.

The Tamil Community The perception of discrimination and unequal treatment within the Tamil population arose from a series of administrative changes, such as discrimination against the use of the Tamil language in a context where education was segregated by language. This contributed to deprivation in terms of jobs, which was exacerbated by the State being the predominant employer in the context of Statist economic policies. Discriminatory policies in education and in recruitment to the public services struck hardest at the welleducated Tamils in the North. The discrimination was seen as arising from the fact that central government and its decision making processes were far removed from the needs and aspirations of the Tamil people. The many youth rebellions all over the country testify to the sense of alienation felt generally by the rural population, but in the North and East this sense was increased by the absence of representation at decision-making levels in government. In addition, State control of lands and colonisation schemes were disproportionately beneficial to the majority community and were perceived by the Tamil communities as intended to effect demographic changes. Although the death and destruction caused by the war and the atrocities of the LTTE affected all communities, the suffering of the Tamil population in the warzones of the North and the East, particularly the people in the Vanni, were of an intensity and magnitude that far exceeded that of the population in the rest of the country. The recognition of the special problems that have consequently arisen in the North and East must therefore guide and direct the National Policy on Reconciliation, at all times. The deprivations which this section of the population have undergone and the conditions that have been thereby created – the repeated displacements, the destruction of homes, livelihood and infrastructure, the death and disappearance of loved ones – require affirmative processes for restoration and reparation, together with mechanisms for accountability and the protection of human rights that take full account of the special nature of their grievances.


The Muslim Community The Muslims, though not direct protagonists in the armed conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan State, have undergone considerable suffering during the years of fighting in the North and East. The forcible eviction of the entire Muslim community from the Northern Province by the LTTE, the massacre of around two hundred Muslims while worshipping in mosques in Kattankudy and Eravur , the takeover of lands belonging to the Muslims in the Eastern Province, the deprivation of the livelihoods of Muslims in the conflict areas and the lack of adequate security to the Muslims were a few of the phenomena that contributed greatly to the sense of insecurity and unease that Muslims faced because of the conflict. Unlike the Tamil community which challenged State structures as a means of addressing grievances, the Muslims took a separate political path and preferred to engage with the State and work within the mainstream of Sri Lankan politics. This created a great deal of misunderstanding between the Tamil and Muslim communities and caused a strain in their relationship. There are also perceptions that lands are being taken over for occupation by the security forces without due consultation or process.

Problem Analysis Discrimination against the Tamil population which is seen to lie at the root of the threedecade conflict has been attributed to the struggle between a majority community and a minority community, where the latter seeks space to operate within a larger polity. The notion of democracy dictates that a balance must be achieved for this in a manner that is not at the expense of any community. The balance to be found must be premised upon the common need for national integration and peaceful coexistence. In negotiating such a balance, trust is a prerequisite. There currently exists a trust deficit which has contributed to the view that, as the minority moves towards advocating geographical separation, any concession by the State will be detrimental to the majority community. Conversely, the Tamil minority lacks confidence and trust as a result of failed aspirations and expectations.

The Challenge As a result of the long-standing strife and struggle, two key challenges remain to be addressed so as to propel the country towards enduring and sustainable peace and prosperity. First, the root causes of the conflict need solutions that are satisfactory to all the communities and peoples of Sri Lanka. Second, there is a need to dispel suspicions and weld all communities into and within the fabric of one nation. The LLRC report of November 2011 states: ‘...despite the lapse of two years since the ending of the conflict, the violence, suspicion and sense of discrimination are still prevalent in


social and political life. Delay in the implementation of a clearly focused post conflict peace building agenda may have contributed to this situation.’

The Vision A shared future for the people of Sri Lanka based upon equality, justice and dignity.

The Mission and Values 

To ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities without alienation and discrimination of any kind.

To wholeheartedly accept individual identity and respect religious and cultural diversity within a united Sri Lanka to acknowledge and address the needs and aspirations of all communities residing in the country and to foster a sense of belonging amongst all peoples and communities irrespective of language, ethnicity, race or religion.

To enhance sovereignty of the people at all levels of governance.

To encourage a sense of caring to be shown by the State to all citizens and communities and readiness to acknowledge and address fears and insecurities of all communities.

The Opportunity The LLRC observes that ‘people from all corners of the country who came before the Commission gave an almost palpable impression that this is Sri Lanka's moment of opportunity for Sri Lankans to chart a vision for a harmonious future for our nation and a wholesome Sri Lankan identity.’ Sri Lanka is faced with a unique opportunity to foster sustainable peace, unity and national reconciliation. The present Government wields the broad support of the majority of the country and possesses the capacity to present a political solution that is acceptable to all peoples and communities. The present popularity of the President, in particular must be treated as an asset, which can be used to convince the majority community of the urgent need for national reconciliation whereby all communities could live in peace, dignity and equality. A further opportunity has arisen in respect of the political representation of Tamil interests. With the demise of the LTTE, a moderate Tamil voice has been permitted to emerge and flourish. The present representatives of the Tamil people have expressed strong commitment to a political solution within a united Sri Lanka. This opportunity


must be swiftly seized, as extremism within the Island and among the Diaspora can only be dealt with by empowering moderate and reasonable voices. Finally, the end of the armed conflict has opened up space to address the task of nation building unhindered by preoccupation with a debilitating armed struggle, which was a drain on the nation's resources. With the Sri Lankan Government’s efforts to ensure large infrastructure development in the past two years, healthy growth rates have been achieved. There remains a need to take further steps so that economic achievements may be translated into meaningful and equitable benefits that will impact on the life of every Sri Lankan. In this context, there remains a need for political reforms that entrench empowerment and a willingness to bring closure for the suffering of individuals and communities as a whole.

The Strategy The addressing and resolution of political issues affecting the minorities is an important part of a strategy to achieve national reconciliation leading to nation building. In this task, the Sri Lankan Government must play a critical lead role. It must be realised that although the majority of the Tamils did not support or approve the LTTE’s armed struggle, as a result of the defeat of the LTTE and the fallout of the military campaign to achieve that end result, the Tamils are a demoralised and wounded community. The LLRC correctly observes: ‘Many who appeared before the Commission emphasized that what had been achieved by the Security Forces should be invested in a political process...The Commission again found significant common ground among a broad spectrum of persons who made representations that this task can and should be achieved whilst upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation and safeguarding the long cherished Sri Lankan values of democracy, tolerance and power sharing.’ Accordingly, three broad strategies may be considered in view of the vision to build a shared future for the people of Sri Lanka based upon equality, justice and dignity: (1) Recovery and Equitable Development; (2) Political Participation and Administrative Accountability; and (3) Justice, Truth and Reconciliation.


1. Recovery and equitable development It is acknowledged that a sense of grievance that led later to separatism arose through perceptions of discrimination and inequitable treatment. Government schemes to promote infrastructure and employment opportunities seemed confined to Sinhala majority areas. While this may have been due to populist policies based on electoral considerations, it created a strong sense of deprivation amongst the minority communities. Most upsetting perhaps was the introduction of a language policy that, whilst maintaining segregation in education on the basis of language, privileged those who knew Sinhala with regard to state employment as well as dealings with officials. This policy extended later to restrictions on educational opportunities based on language distinctions. Though some measures have been taken to promote equity in infrastructure development, and language policies have been revised, there is still need of greater committed concern to ensure equity. Hence it is imperative that even-handed resource allocation and development takes place in consultation with local communities so that all communities participate in the development process and enjoy their fair share of economic prosperity. Within the large group of the conflict-affected population, some smaller vulnerable groups in the North and East as well as other parts of the country who suffered specific disabilities as a consequence of the long conflict will require special interventions different from the generic programmes. Outside the North and East, programmes are in place, and are managed and executed by both the State and by civil society organisations and INGOs with the aim of ameliorating some of their trauma and deprivation. Similar programmes are needed in the North and East. In present conditions, widows and wives of missing combatants and civilians lack the supportive community network and extended family available to families in communities outside the conflict area. In addition to the loss of a male breadwinner and protector, these women become even more vulnerable owing to the loss of personal documents, including marriage or divorce and birth certificates of children, and their identity cards. The absence of such proof affect their legal rights to land ownership, access to loans and credit that require a male guarantor, and claims to state land and monetary relief usually granted to a male head of household. Furthermore, children and orphans who are with their grandparents or in children’s homes require special interventions to ensure continuation of their education that had been disrupted during the conflict. Special attention must also be paid to the elderly who have been singled out as a group that has been left without the traditional support of their male and female offspring in their ageing state. Finally, combatants and civilians disabled as a consequence of the conflict several of


whom may have been breadwinners, require programmes for financial, physical and mental recovery as well as to venture into new areas of work in their disabled state. The following key responses must be undertaken in implementing this strategy: A) Formulate a national policy on development which guarantees equitable development and resource allocation to all communities, and ensures that local communities are consulted in the development process; B) Adopt urgent measures to ensure that the current national language policy is satisfactorily implemented; C) Take additional measures to recruit Tamil-speaking police officers at all levels, and work towards ensuring parity between the national population ratio and the number of Tamil-speaking officers in the Police Service; D) Establish an independent National Police Commission and empower such a Commission to monitor the performance of the Police Service and ensure that all police officers act independently and maintain a high degree of professional conduct; E) Pursue actively a programme of equitable distribution of educational facilities and make every effort to ensure that the inequality in the availability of educational facilities in different areas of the country is reduced and eventually eliminated; F) Adopt a national policy on resettlement which ensures that all displaced persons return to their places of origin or to equivalent lands in nearby areas, and which promotes living conditions, including access to educational, health and transport facilities; G) Adopt clear national land policies, whereby all resettled persons obtain title to their lands; H) Take immediate steps to assist in rebuilding the temples, mosques, churches, houses and schools destroyed or damaged during the war; and I) Formulate a clear policy on compensation for victims of the conflict whereby benefits including scholarships and loans on easy payment are provided to such persons as a minimum, particularly where State funds are insufficient to provide monetary compensation for all victims.


2. Political Participation and Administrative Accountability It is acknowledged that grievances have been exacerbated by a sense of frustration amongst the minority communities that a political solution has not been reached despite numerous attempts to achieve this. Moreover, frustration over the controlling of the political process by those in power has contributed to two youth insurrections in the South. It is generally accepted that decision-making on many matters cannot be left to the Central Government, which is often unaware of the ground situation, and has little political incentive to provide swift solutions to problems. This predicament makes devolution with regard to policy decisions in certain matters, and decentralisation to ensure swift responses in most areas, a matter of urgency. The ideal therefore is a three-tier system of government, with clear-cut responsibilities, and systems of accountability, to ensure the best possible service to the people. As a matter of urgency, political negotiations should lead to a readjustment of the Constitution to promote empowerment of the people. Some matters, in particular those pertaining to national security, interpreted in the broadest sense to ensure financial, food and environmental security, in addition to physical security, must be the preserve of the Centre. With regard to other matters, it is important to ensure maximum flexibility and safeguards for the citizens of any particular area, whilst preventing hijacking of decision making by parochial considerations. It is therefore vital to formulate, with full consultation, national policy on vital issues such as land and land alienation, education, environmental protection, etc, but to promote decision making at the smallest appropriate levels, in accordance with the doctrine Yet it is important that the regions too should have a voice in decision-making in this regard. For this purpose all communities must work hard to create governance, administrative and social structures that create and foster interdependence among them. This will help create the feeling in each of the communities that their progress or downfall is inextricably linked with the progress or downfall of the other communities and thus help to inculcate a strong sense of nationhood among Sri Lankans. In pursuance of such this strategy, it is critical that the following key responses are undertaken: A) Ensure implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution with clarification of ambiguities to ensure full responsibility for policies and for functions at appropriate levels on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity; B) Introduce appropriate constitutional amendments to guarantee judicial review of proposed legislation with an adequate timeframe to challenge the same;


C) Introduce appropriate constitutional amendments to also guarantee postenactment judicial review for a prescribed period of time after the passing of legislation; D) Hold discussions within a prescribed timeframe to remove current ambiguities with regard to the Concurrent List as provided for in the current Constitution, and ensure that, where concurrence seems essential, clear mechanisms for resolving disputes based on consultation are provided; E) Ensure that Provincial authorities are adequately financed by the Centre, and that local authorities are adequately financed by the Province, along with autonomy as to usage, subject to established guidelines; F) Ensure maximum devolution to and empowerment of and local authorities as provided for in the law in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity; G) Establish an independent Public Service, and ensure at least bilingualism in the Public Service and other professions serving the public; and H) Enact without delay a law that guarantees the right to information, while paying due regard to the existing draft law of the freedom of information prepared by the Sri Lanka Law Commission. The Constitution shall be amended to provide for a Second Chamber of Parliament based on the principle of equal representation for all Provinces.

3. Justice and Truth and Reconciliation It is acknowledged that on all sides there are particular grievances arising from personal loss. Though the attribution of particular responsibility for such losses will not be easy, it is important to look into matters where there is already basic knowledge on which investigation can proceed. However, it must be noted that this should not be done in any spirit of retribution. It is vital that the Government recognises that many of those who engaged in acts of terrorism did so under compulsion, and whilst particular deeds may warrant investigation and judicial action, perpetrators should be treated with dignity and provided with an opportunity to reintegrate into society. Conversely, the Government must fulfil its responsibility to investigate security forces for alleged excesses that occurred during the war. Equally importantly, the government should set in place mechanisms to provide for ready redress, with regard both to the sufferings of the years of conflict, as well as for other problems that might arise. Additionally, certain symbolic gestures that recognise


the suffering of all communities as a result of the war must be undertaken in order to build mutual understanding and empathy, both of which are critical to the national reconciliation process. The following key responses must be undertaken in implementing this strategy: A) Investigate, prosecute and punish wrongdoers including security forces implicated in deliberately targeted death or injury of civilians; B) Ensure proper investigation into disappearance, including those that took place after surrender to the armed forces, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice; C) Take immediate steps to disarm illegal armed groups and conduct proper investigations into the alleged human rights abused committed by such groups; D) Work comprehensively and cohesively to implement the National Action Plan on Human Rights that has been adopted by Cabinet, with particular attention to improving the capacities of and faith in the Police, to ensuring better protection mechanisms for women and children, and to streamlining the judicial system to promote confidence in its operations and a reduction of rote remanding; E) Put in place mechanisms that facilitate the acknowledgement of losses and suffering on all sides, accompanied by expressions of empathy and solidarity, such as the issuance of a joint declaration acknowledging the tragedy of the conflict and apologising to the victims of the conflict as a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities; F) Set apart a separate event on Independence Day to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and to pledge a collective commitment to ensure that there is no return or relapse to such atrocities ever again; and G) Clearly authorize the singing of the National Anthem in both the Sinhala and Tamil languages in accordance with the Constitution, and ensure both versions are sung at formal national events.

IMPLEMENTATION : ACTION PLAN Steering the journey out of conflict is inherently a complex process where specific aspects of the National Policy on Reconciliation may gain greater attention and importance undermining the whole of the outcome that is sought. It is therefore necessary that the implementation of this Policy be envisioned within an institutional


framework designed and functioning according to the principles of democratic governance which underpins the approach to reconciliation. The implementation arrangements should then ensure the widest possible publicity to the Policy and its actions promoting public awareness of the implementation actions in a manner that brings about the widest possible engagement of the people in the implementation of the Policy. The key elements of the implementation strategy would be the following: A) Mainstreaming the policy and implementation actions into the Mahinda Chintana Vision for the Future Development Policy Framework of the Government. B) Envisaging reconciliation as a process without rigid timeframes. However, implementation actions would be guided initially by a three-year implementation plan organised on the basis of timeframes that would be required for implementation (i.e., short-term, medium-term and long-term). C) Envisioning implementation as a shared responsibility between the Government and civil society where respective roles and responsibilities would be worked out on an evolving basis. D) Establishing a multi-stakeholder institutional mechanism with responsibility to promote and monitor the reconciliation process. A Parliamentary Select Committee should review the work of this mechanism. The mechanism should thereafter cease to exist at the end of three years unless Parliament decides otherwise. E) Mainstreaming implementation through assigning responsibility for implementation of policy responses and actions to the relevant government agencies. F) Organising implementation at provincial, district and division levels allowing institutional space for maximum ownership and engagement of the people in the implementation process.

Office of the Adviser on Reconciliation to H.E. the President of Sri Lanka 29 August 2012 http://www.peaceinsrilanka.lk/human-rights/national-policy-on-reconciliation-final-draft-august-2012

Sri Lanka : NATIONAL POLICY ON RECONCILIATION: FINAL DRAFT - 2012  

This draft, following consultation with stakeholder groups including politicians of different parties, media personnel, civil society repres...

Advertisement