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I was first asked by the Foreign Ministry to go to Geneva, after a lapse of a couple of years, the night the US tabled its resolution. The reason, I believe, was the work I had done in Reconciliation, since the impression the United States and its friends were trying to create was that Sri Lanka would do nothing unless it was under pressure.

This is nonsense, given the massive amounts we have done in resettlement,rehabilitation and reconstruction, but sadly we have not been giving out the message, or detailed information, in any coherent fashion. We have also failed to emphasize the improving situation with regard to Human Rights, and in particular the actions taken with regard to some of the interim recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, actions that had commenced long before that Commission was appointed.

With regard to Reconciliation, I believe my office has done a lot, even though it receives no resources and has only one executive level member of staff, who has still not been paid. Despite all this, I was encouraged, I should gratefully note, by the Secretary of Defence, to go ahead with my plans, and indeed he arranged accommodation for me on early visits, though now I have to meet such expenses myself. I did tell him I could not act quite as swiftly as he did, since I had no executive authority, but I am glad I went ahead, and I have had nothing but sympathetic cooperation from all officials from the Governor to the District and Divisional Secretaries in the North, and also from Civil Society. In Colombo too Civil Society has been most helpful, including the small group of Partners for Reconciliation I set up, and the religious educationists in Religion, Education And Pluralism who in any case have been doing much excellent work themselves, even before the conflict ended.

The draft National Policy on Reconciliation we had produced was I believe useful in Geneva in making it clear not only that we had done much ourselves within the country, but also that we were able to conceptualize and work within a comprehensive framework, that encompassed restoration and empowerment as well as restitution. Indicating the much wider range of activities required than the formulae those with political agendas repeat (accountability meaning retribution, and devolution meaning more power to provincial councils regardless of the aim of such power, which is empowerment) was illuminating, and we were able to invite and answer questions in a relatively positive atmosphere.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

March 2012
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