Sri Lanka’s stance at the 17th United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva needs to be backed with action. The insistence that the international community must give the domestic accountability process the room to realise its mandate without arriving at hasty conclusions is a pivotal point. However there must be a more holistic role played by the government to ensure that reconciliation flourishes.
One point is that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) must have a broader mandate with the capacity to implement the recommendations as speedily as possible so that real change is seen on the ground. Extending its reporting mandate is laudable but the recommendations need to be brought to reality much faster. It is perhaps in this implementation factor that the government needs to be more accountable.
The second point that was highlighted at the Council was the rehabilitation of former cadres and internally displaced people. Much has been done that should rightly be commended but the long term livelihood support for the people is a costly process. This is where the government can use its power to create a positive feedback to the world and invite investment from parties including the Diaspora to support rehabilitation. This would also serve the purpose of reducing the negative reports of Sri Lanka.
Responding to the controversial UN report is another aspect that would be benefited by a more vibrant communication process. As was earlier pointed out by Head of International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore Prof. Rohan Gunaratne, the need for building a Sri Lankan identity would reduce the polarisation caused by divisive politics. It would also form the foundation for a sustainable peace where all ethnicities care about each other rather than limiting themselves to one community. Standing together and helping everyone affected by the war, irrespective of their ethnic origins, would promote understanding.
The government must also actively construct a moderate Tamil political mainstream that would give voice to a wider range of ideas and embody pluralism. In this way, the Tamil people would have a channel to get their views across without limiting themselves to being represented by a few elements that may be seen as extremist. This would also help in cleaning up Sri Lanka’s battered reputation.
The Channel 4 video continues to haunt Sri Lanka. Denials have been repeated at this Council and the stance of not allowing external investigations has been maintained. A host of countries including India, China and Pakistan have resisted moves to appoint a UN panel to conduct investigations. Using these ties wisely and getting the world to understand the government’s side of events is important. However this can happen effectively when the government’s genuine desire to be accountable is presented through action.
A battle has ended but the war continues. Sri Lanka has a long road ahead to achieve reconciliation goals for its people and forge a path ahead for them.