Proactive pursuance

Thursday, 4 August 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

THE release of the Factual Analysis Report by the government is the latest in a string of responses made since accusations of war crimes committed during the last phase of the conflict cropped up. The report was made with the ambitious intention of laying to rest these accusations but one wishes that the government was more proactive in dealing with the allegations from the onset.

At the moment Sri Lanka wants to win real peace, which means that actions and consistent actions at that need to be the focal point. Even though the report was presented to the world with much fanfare along with the hour-long government documentary titled, “Lies Agree Upon — An Investigative Documentary into the final days of the Sri Lankan conflict,” expected to drive away the claims made by Channel 4’s “Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” there are already questions whether the report will achieve all these goals.

Sincerity often mutes doubt. The Sri Lankan government must continue to responsibly engage with the people; especially the humanitarian organisations, the international community and the more moderate but recognised stakeholders in this conflict to ensure that allegations are dealt with in a practical manner.  The comment made in the report that it would be impossible for a war to be conducted without civilian casualties is a step towards accountability and should not be discounted. Nonetheless there were no supporting statistics and the Defence Secretary’s speech steadfastly held to the point that 40, 000 civilians killed was a blatant lie but did not refute the fact that a number much smaller than this could have perished.

The report needs to be seen as a credible response to the concerns of the international community rather than another attempt to whitewash. This is the only way that the government’s point of view will get across convincingly. Perhaps this report would have better served the country if it had been released before two years had lapsed since the official end of the terrorism in Sri Lanka. Would it have had more credibility if the government managed to get it out to the world before Channel 4 aired their documentary? Would it have made a difference if the government was more proactive in a constructive way rather than making the same statements? Sri Lanka may never know. Perhaps post war the authorities need to display the same proactiveness, smart intelligence among other traits it had in defeating a ruthless force such as the LTTE, and in countering the so called anti-state Tamil Diaspora or their agents as well.

The US government has requested its counterpart to table the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Report before the UNHCR. Subsequent reports have suggested that the report may not be ready by then. Even if that is the case there can still be an interim report presented. The aim should be to get recognised and moderate organisations and countries to acknowledge the steps taken by the government but for this the actions themselves must prove to be constructive. The LLRC report must be a genuine attempt at reconciliation with a sensible dose of honesty. Otherwise it would lack credibility and have little effect.

Channel 4 has doubtful credibility but they have gained the attention of millions of people around the world. The government has a tough task ahead to battle this as negative sentiments of the country can harm the bright future that Rajapaksa alluded to in his speech. Speculated sanctions, travel and aid bans would constrict the long awaited development. More than anything else it would rob this nation of the hard won chance for real peace.