Acting on the Action Plan

Saturday, 28 July 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

THE Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was the most important post-war step taken by the Government to foster reconciliation and sustainable peace. Since it was released in November of last year, the public as well as the international community have awaited the Government’s steps to implement its recommendations.

It would not be exaggeration to say that Sri Lanka’s future lies on its effective and quick implementation, which puts more onus on the Action Plan that was released on Thursday.

It is commendable that the Government has released the Action Plan and has remarked that the Commission to oversee its implementation headed by Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga will consider representations made by the public and civil society to better implement the 285 points mentioned in the LLRC report.

Translating the LLRC report into Sinhala and Tamil will also go a long way to creating a broader discussion platform on the positives and negatives of the Action Plan that has been presented by the Government. The coordination between different line ministries and organisations undertaken by the Commission as well as its attempts to oversee the implementation process would result in a organised and clear framework that could be used for transparent evaluation of the activities that have been proposed as well as the novel Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that have been adapted.

However, at first glance there are a few points of concern, namely with the accountability, which has always been one of the main points of the LLRC. Weeratunga at a press conference on Thursday had noted that the investigations into alleged war crimes and deaths of civilians during the last phase of the war could take as much as five years. He had noted that the Commission had agreed with a time period of 12 months for the investigations already launched by the army to conclude, another 24 months for persecution and an additional 24 months to present the cases in court.

Not only is this a long time, but the fact that the results of alleged civilian deaths are wholly dependent on the investigations carried out by the Army may give an opening for criticisms on impartiality and transparency. Since there are no independent parties conducting the investigations, the conclusions of the inquiry may not be universally accepted. Moreover, the fact that subsequent to a court martial the Commission has suggested that a civil court case must also be filed could result in confusion.

Thus far there seems to be little confidence in the implementation process and this is key for it to be a success. It is extremely positive that the Commission is open to suggestions and actions from non-Governmental sources as this would broad-base the implementation process and increase credibility of the implementation and evaluation process. In the coming weeks it can only be hoped that this engagement expands so that all stakeholders are involved in this crucial attempt at genuine reconciliation.

Larger political issues cannot be expected to have solutions through the current Action Plan and would need deeper change from the Executive and Parliament. Nonetheless, the importance of implementing as many of the recommendations as quickly as possible cannot be overstressed.