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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 

c) Investigation of incidents that might seem barriers to reconciliation

This is the area about which most concerns are expressed, though it seems to me less important than proactive measures to promote reconciliation, through ensuring the future well-being, prosperity and integration of those who suffered in the past. At the same time remedial measures are desirable in cases in which there is clear evidence of violation by the state of laws. Whilst it is not incumbent on the state to look for such evidence, it should certainly investigate instances in which a prima facie case seems to have been established. 

  

My own view is that in hardly any instance has such a case been established. However I believe there is at least one instance in which the state should have taken legal action, and our failure to do this has prompted blanket criticism which is not warranted, and distrust which, if not warranted, is understandable. I refer to the case of the killing of five youngsters in Trincomalee in 2006. I have long urged that indictments should be issued in that case. I respect the response of the Attorney General at the time, that a prosecution would not be successful because the evidence was incomplete, but my point was that there was need of a clear message that such conduct was not acceptable. Given the standards of proof required by our courts, there would have been no reflection on the Attorney General’s Department had the case failed, just as there has been no reflection on say British justice even though there was only one conviction in the Abu Ghraib case. The point is, the state has made its position clear, and indicated that individual aberrations will not be condoned. If the state does not do this, there is danger that such aberrations might appear systemic, and indeed become so. Fortunately there is no evidence of this occurring in Sri Lanka.  

I say this with some confidence, because I made it my business, as Head of the Peace Secretariat, to monitor events during the war, and to ask for explanations when there were reports, on TamilNet and elsewhere, of what might have seemed aberrations. I received prompt responses from the airforce on all occasions, and from the army on most, though obviously, with the field of action more widespread, these answers were less thorough. 

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Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2010
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