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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


b) The failure of efforts at a negotiated peace

This area is of importance not only for the Sri Lankan state, so that it can prevent the recurrence of past mistakes, but also for the world since it is vital that international terrorism must be dealt with firmly even while attention is paid to the grievances of those who might be tempted into terror.

The cardinal mistake in the process in Sri Lanka was the confusion of those who had grievances which needed to be addressed with those who had turned to terrorism to redress those grievances and refused to move away from terrorist practices and absolute aims.

Though it is essential to combat terrorism, any state must be sensitive to what might have made people turn to terrorism. Therefore it must be ready and willing to engage in discussions. Remedial action with regard to grievances should however be on the basis of general principles and should benefit all those affected, not just the proponents of terror.

Sri Lanka removed the institutional reasons for grievances in 1987 with the Indo-Lankan Accord. Much practical work however remained to be done to restore a sense of equity. This is not the place to discuss whether inadequacies were due to lethargy on the part of the state or distractions arising from the continuation of terrorism on the part of the LTTE. What is important is that, following the destruction of the LTTE in Sri Lanka, practical work should proceed apace. It should also be noted that this government actually began some practical work that should have occurred long ago, through for instance measures instituted by the Ministry of Constitutional Reform and National Integration to ensure bilingualism amongst new recruits to the public service. The targeted recruiting of Tamil policemen is also an example of the positive approach of this government.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2010
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