POLITICS is a confusing subject. As an issue unfolds different angles become present and grow, usually fanned by media reports that can at times be confusing to the reader.
A case in point is the current stance of the government on the visit of the UN panel that has shifted slightly from the earlier standpoint that it will not allow its members on Sri Lankan soil. The government has modified its stance somewhat by allowing the UN panel to testify before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) but steadfastly insists that it has not and will not allow for an investigation.
This is not mere play of words. The credibility of the LLRC has been a point of contention between various stakeholders since it was appointed. As the change of heart by the government to give visas to the UN panel was publicised after the tense London tour by President Rajapaksa and the slew of negative publicity that greeted him and eventually resulted in the cancellation of the oxford address one might be pardoned for thinking that it was a contributing reason; but the government is adamant that there was no coercion by any external party.
It is unclear if an official request has been made to the government by the UN to issue visas to the panel members. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella claimed to be unaware of such a development at the Cabinet press briefing on Thursday and was vocal in his position that the government stance has not changed. He insisted that the government had always been clear in allowing any party to testify before the LLRC and this applied to the UN as well as the Diaspora.
Volatile as this topic has become the real core revolves around the success of the LLRC and its acceptance by the international community and Diaspora. The latter in particular has been concerned with the outcome of the LLRC and the involvement of the UN in a constructive manner would go a long way in convincing them of the commission’s and by extension the government’s genuineness to forge reconciliation.
The aim is clear — it is the means to this end that is under contention. If recent reports of school children in Jaffna being colluded into singing the national anthem in Sinhala merely because the prime minister was present is anything to go by, Sri Lanka or more to the point her politicians have a long way to go before understanding what true reconciliation is.
Accepting differences is better than changing them but the greatest value is in understanding them and not aggravating an already sensitive situation by behaving like a bull in a china shop. Miscommunication and misunderstanding is common and offsetting their results are hard enough without having them compounded with insensitive actions supported by faceless “higher ups” who randomly issue orders without considering the full extent of the damage they are incurring.
The LLRC is not merely a commission to churn out yet another report that will be relegated to gathering dust. It is perhaps the most important body to be appointed during the last 30 years and will be tasked with outlining the steps of a long journey that we must all make together as a nation.