The principal recommendations I sent to the President were based on 70 meetings over the year of District and Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation Committees. Two meetings were held in every Divisional Secretariat in the North, excluding the Jaffna District, where four meetings were held altogether. There were 20 meetings in Divisional Secretariats in the East, in addition to meetings at District Secretariats and with the Governors of the North and East, who were extremely helpful.
I also sent some other recommendations related to issues raised at the various meetings of stakeholders that took place in my Colombo office. The most significant of these was the working group to prepare a National Policy on Reconciliation, set up following a discussion on Reconciliation initiated by the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies. The group was multi-ethnic and multi-religious and included representatives of other political parties as well as Civil Society.
The initial draft was discussed at length with representatives of several political parties. They recommended consulting religious leaders and media and Civil Society personnel, after which a final draft was sent to the President.
The draft was welcomed by the various groups that participated in consultations related to Reconciliation. These included
- Civil Society Partners for Reconciliation – Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations which have worked towards reconciliation, along with diplomatic missions that have contributed actively to government approaches to reconciliation. Needs that emerged at Divisional Secretariat meetings and elsewhere were sometimes met by participants.
- Religion, Education And Pluralism – Representatives of all major religions practiced in Sri Lanka, who described interventions they had engaged in to promote fellow feeling and suggested ways of developing linkages. They sent the President a proposal about helping with teacher training in areas where shortages cause problems that inhibit communication across communities.
- Reconciliation Youth Forum – A group of young people anxious to promote reconciliation who set up a blog which covers a number of initiatives in the field – http://reconciliationyouthforum.org/
- I also ran a discussion group intended to bring younger officials from the forces and the Ministry of External Affairs together with parliamentarians and Civil Society, to focus on issues that might hinder the reconciliation process. The Ministry could not send participants, but the military personnel participated actively and intelligently. They introduced some new ideas which I was able to use in speaking on Reconciliation both in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Based on such discussions, I sent in the following Recommendations
- Cabinet should adopt the draft National Policy on Reconciliation and use it as a framework for initiatives in pursuit of the LLRC Action Plan, as well as other national goals, in terms of Sri Lankan needs and aspirations.
- A Ministry for Reconciliation should be created under a senior Minister who commands confidence. If Reconciliation is to remain under the President, it should be through a Ministry, with an experienced Deputy and a competent Secretary.
- A better media strategy is needed to convey information about positive initiatives, and also correct misconceptions and misinformation.
- Mechanisms should be developed for using the expertise of Religious and other Civil Society Organizations to bring youngsters together and develop sustainable and productive links.
- Such organizations can also contribute significantly to language teaching and language learning, and regulations should be formulated to encourage this.
The armed forces have a significant role to play with regard to Reconciliation, but mechanisms must be developed to ensure that this is done through civilian structures, without losing the efficiency that has characterized their interventions to support Resettlement and Rehabilitation.