National Peace Council is urging the Government to deal with both symptoms and causes for reconciliation as it kicks off a major initiative in the north with the launch of its ‘Adhikaranabhimani’ program.
NPC said according to the Ministry of Justice, which is coordinating this work, it is meant to provide “ameliorated access to justice for people of the Northern Province”. Several government institutions, including those set up under the reconciliation process of the previous Government, will be conducting two-day mobile clinics. The participating institutions include the Legal Aid Commission, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, Office for Reparations, Office on Missing Persons, Department of Debt Conciliation Board and the Vocational Training Authority, to mention some of them.
While welcoming the launch of the Adhikaranabhimani, the National Peace Council considers it essential to recognise that transitional justice-related issues of this nature need to be victim-centred. They need to bring participants into justice processes as active members rather than treating them as passive recipients. Looking at what victims need in order to fulfil their demands for justice means that the needs of victims and their expectations are heard and acknowledged. It will also be important for the Government to ensure that these activities continue in the longer term and on a more macro scale. They need to take place not only before the Geneva sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in March but also continue after them.
The fanning out of government institutions into the north and east will familiarise them regarding the people’s problems on the ground that need resolution. In particular, the provincial administrations of the Northern and Eastern provinces, where the ethnic and religious minorities form provincial majorities, need to be reflective of those populations. At the present time, the elected provincial councils are not operational and so the provincial administration is headed by central appointees who are less likely to be representative of the sentiments and priorities of the people of those provinces. Along with positive initiatives such as the Adhikaranabhimani program, NPC calls on the Government to hold the provincial council elections without further delay to ensure that democracy prevails both at the provincial and national levels.