Crossroads of history

Monday, 12 December 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Tabling in Parliament the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has gained even more attention after reports that it will ask the Government to investigate incidents that may have occurred during the final stages of the war.

This is on the grounds that there appears to be a prima facie case based on the information the commissioners have received. However, the commission has neither named the specific incidents nor identified the persons responsible for them. It has also declared that Britain’s Channel 4 video on alleged massacres by the military “was a total fabrication”.

The fact is that a clear list of incidents leaves the report open for criticism of not being specific and isolating what needs investigation as well as playing into the hands of those who believe the LLRC is not credible enough.

It is disappointing that the LLRC, after hearing from over 6,100 people, most of whom were from the north and east, does not make a stand on the need for investigations. Given that its mandate was to foster reconciliation, the accountability of all the stakeholders of the war needs to be addressed.

Appointed on 15 May last year, the LLRC was mandated to inquire into and report on a number of matters relating to the north-east conflict. They included the facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement operationalised on 21 February 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to 10 May 2009. To prevent recurrence of such a conflict, it was also asked to recommend institutional and legislative measures which need to be taken. It was also told to report on how to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities.

The commission has noted that the general view of the public was that the “ethnic problem” was exacerbated by politicians to enhance their vote banks. It has called for an end to race hate politics and emphasised the need to establish a Sri Lankan identity instead of one where a person’s ethnicity is used as the guide.

These are all positives, but it is hoped that the report also gives specific actions and a timeline to achieve them by for real change would be elusive otherwise.

It has also dealt extensively with the events that followed the ethnic violence of July 1983. The commission has said any Sri Lankan should hold the right to acquire land in any part of the country.

Whilst taking note of attempts that have been made to degrade the image of Sri Lanka, the commission has said it has taken note of the ‘Darusman Report’ or the report of the UN Panel on Accountability Issues on Sri Lanka appointed by the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. It has also dealt extensively with International Human Rights Law (IHL) and issues related to them.

The content of the report needs to be openly discussed among the people and it is hoped that the LLRC’s report will get the proper attention of parliament. This is an instance when transparency, accountability and good governance must follow in the best practices of democracy if Sri Lanka is to achieve sustainable peace. Moreover the report is essential to establishing a better image of Sri Lanka in the international arena. This is the thread by which is all hangs – the possibility of a sustainable peace or an uneasy truce.