Testimony before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

of Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

Author of Declining Sri Lanka

 Former Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process

Former Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights

Given on 23 August 2010

 

I was not certain as to which aspects of the work of the Commission I should address, so I thought it best to prepare some points in writing, to be expanded on further as the Commission sees fit. It seems that the work of the Commission can be divided into three components as follows –

a) Consideration of what should be done now to promote reconciliation

 

b) Examination of the Peace Process and what led to negotiations proving  unsuccessful so that  other options had to be followed to achieve Peace

 

c) Inquiry into incidents during the process which might prove barriers to reconciliation

 

a) Reconciliation

 

I believe the first of these is the most important. It is also the easiest to achieve. In fact we have done much in this respect already, inasmuch as inequitable development in the country was one of the principal reasons for resentment and the gradual move to separatism. Rapid infrastructural development, accompanied by strategies for targeted investment, has made clear the commitment of government to ensuring better opportunities for all.

At the same time we need to ensure that human resource development parallels the tremendous achievements with regard to physical development. We need also to ensure greater integration of people in the context of equity. Finally we need to develop confidence in government through ensuring constant consultation and respect for different perspectives. I have already proposed some simple initiatives that will help in this respect, viz

  1. Establishment of 6th form colleges functioning in the English medium for talented students of all races and religions (Ministry of Education)
  2. Encouragement of a culture of synergy and entrepreneurship, through fine tuning curricula at Vocational Training and other educational Institutes (Ministries of Youth Affairs, Education and Higher Education)
  3. Institutionalization of mechanisms to ensure that talented young people not only meet regularly, but also learn and create together in the fields of culture and sports (Ministries of Cultural Affairs and Sports)
  4. Expansion of recruitment of minorities to government positions, in particular to the police and the armed forces (Ministries of Public Administration and of Defence)
  5. Enhancing training for officials, including language training, to ensure sensitivity to the needs of particular groups (Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration)
  6. Improvement of non-formal mechanisms for redress of grievances, in particular for the vulnerable, through Consultation Committees, Women and Children’s Desks at police stations, School-based local welfare associations etc (Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs)

Coordination of such initiatives and others should be done through the Presidential Secretariat. The Peace Secretariat had begun some work in this regard, but this had been overshadowed by its other work in the last couple of years of its existence, which led to the view that it had fulfilled its role and could be closed down in 2009. No single Ministry however can provide the overall conceptualization that a long-term programme of reconciliation needs.

It should be noted that the importance of this aspect of reconciliation, which is forward looking, has been comparatively ignored, given the pressures to dwell on the past. These pressures are understandable on the part of the remaining supporters of the LTTE, so as to revive tensions, but all those truly concerned with peace and reconciliation should remember that the future must take precedence over the past.

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