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With the advent of the New Year in 2012 I began meetings at Divisional Secretariats, though I also in January covered the Districts I had not had individual meetings in previously. But in this post I have included pictures of the countryside, because I have no doubt that it was also because of the sheer beauty of the scenery I passed through that I fulfilled in this period a programme of travel that might have exhausted a younger man. And of course I have pictures of schools which I generally made it a point to visit.

Intensive travel to Divisions

I had excellent participation at the meetings for Reconciliation that I started in Divisional Secretariats. Though Gota had told me the military should not participate officially, in most places they attended and were very helpful. I had the religious leaders of the area, who were assiduous in attendance though it was generally only the Catholic priests and a few Buddhist monks who contributed, the Hindu priests being very amiable but quiet as were the very few Muslim mullahs who attended.

I was also deeply impressed by the leaders of the Pradeshiya Sabhas who attended. The TNA had won most of these though government had run it close in a couple of places in Kilinochchi. But the TNA leaders were usually respected social figures, including former government officials, who were very positive in their approach. It was a great pity therefore that government had not developed a consultative mechanism to benefit from their views. Instead it gave carte blanche to the few government politicians it had appointed to chair what were termed District and Divisional Consultative Committees, and these did not bother about the meetings, cancelling them at the last minute and, when they did hold them, simply pontificating and not listening.

Rishard Bathiudeen, to whom Basil Rajapaksa had virtually entrusted the Wanni, was the worst offender, but a couple in the East were nearly as bad, including the TNA MP who had crossed over to government in the Digamadulla District.

It was in January 2012 that I began this intensive programme of visits to all the Divisions of the North and East. There are 34 of these in the North, 15 in the Jaffna District and 19 in the rest of the Province. I visited 18 of these three times each, but Weli Oya, the 19th, I went to I think just the once. It was a predominantly Sinhala area and had only been allocated to Mullaitivu in October 2011, having been administered from Anuradhapura during the war.

Significantly the news report about this declared that ‘this was done as part of a plan to re-demarcate the boundaries of all the Grama Seva Divisions and the Divisional Secretariats in the country…The Public Administration Ministry has appointed a committee comprising several former District Secretaries to make recommendations for the re-demarcation of boundaries of all the Divisional Secretaries and the Grama Seva Divisions in the country and the creation of new ones if and where necessary… the committee would submit its report with all necessary recommendations before the end of this year.’

 But nothing came of this.

This post looks at more District level meetings and the decision then to move on to work with Divisions, work which took much of my time over the next three years. But I note also continuing efforts in Colombo, including the dinners I had persuaded the Norwegian ambassador to host for the Secretary of Defence to discuss issues with opposition figures in a convivial atmosphere. And he too was very helpful though ultimately there was no progress.

The pictures are from Mullivaikkal, where life was coming back to normal, before two guests at Hilde’s dinners and the spoiler, Mohan Peiris.

From Colombo to the Divisions

I had then to rush back to Colombo for yet another dinner by the Norwegian ambassador for the Secretary of Defence to meet opposition figures. I had persuaded Hilde Haraldstadt, who had been deputy during the war and then succeeded Tore Hattrem as ambassador, to undertake this exercise and it had seemed very successful, with Gota staying well beyond midnight on the two occasions he attended. But I suspect it roused the hackles of Mohan Peiris who, soon after the first dinner, warned me against Jeevan who had been involved in the discussions with Hilde which led to this initiative. I suspect he was peeved at not having been asked himself, and this year he began the blocking tactics for all positive initiatives I proposed.

On December 22nd I flew to Jaffna for a Reconciliation meeting which the District Secretary had arranged in the Public Library, staying as usual with the Jaffna Commander General Hathurusinghe. The next day, having decided that Mullaitivu deserved its own meeting, I went there and after the meeting went again to Mullaiwaikkal to look at one of the hospitals we were alleged to have attacked. I had been there before with Chamila but I needed to check on some details, which confirmed my view that there had been hardly any direct attack on these makeshift hospitals. That night I stayed with the Mullaitivu Commander, General Mark, who had been in Jaffna briefly before General Hathurusinghe. And that night I went with him and his wife to the 14th Sinha Battalion anniversary camp some distance away, a lavish event with extravagant dance performances.

It was the army officers I met who told me that they were worried about the request of the airforce for a great slice of land for a new base. Similarly later on I found in Mannar the army were not in favour of a request by the navy to expand their base by taking over land belonging to civilians. I began then to realize that the army, which had to live in the midst of the local people, was generally more sensitive to their needs, whereas the navy and air force regarded their concerns from a detached distance. As it happened, in both cases the original amount requested was whittled down, and compensation provided when land was acquired.

During these meetings at the end of 2011 I realized that the District was far too large a unit for meaningful discussion, and from 2012 I started meetings at Divisional Secretariats. These allowed for better discussion and clearer understanding of details, and I was also able to make a better assessment of essential facilities, such as health and transport, at this level.

This post describes the establishment of the Reconciliation office, but also the beginning of intensive work outside Colombo. This happened because, when I started arranging meetings in Colombo, to which he sent representatives (unlike the Foreign Ministry) the Secretary of Defence told me that I should not stick to Colombo but should get out into the affected areas. That was the motivation for a series of visits to District and Divisional Secretariats which taught me a lot. And though I could not solve many problems, some Ministries responded helpfully. Besides which I think it helped that people had an outlet, and they seemed to trust me and welcome the fact that I bothered to see them at a time when the politicians in authority in those areas cared for nothing except themselves, first, and then their own supporters, exclusively. There is some overlap with my description of travel in Parliament days, but the focus now is on the new initiatives I started when Parliament proved a dead end.

The pictures are of those who were helpful with efforts at reconciliation in the North. I begin with Dr Sathiyamoorthy who was a thoughtful and committed public servant, and I am immensely proud that I characterized him as such when I was told to call him a traitor. This was because when he was under pressure from the LTTE, doing his best for the civilians they held hostage, the BBC called me about something he had said, and I remarked that he was under their control but had to be respected. I am glad government later recognized this and has used his tremendous expertise.

The other pictures are of Dr Safras who despite his youth did so much at Manik Farm, and of, Government Agent Vedanayagam, and successive Jaffna Commanders Generals Mark and Hathurusinghe.

The first consultations

In October 2011 I set up the Reconciliation Office, in a house near Parliament belonging to Jeevan Thiagarajah who let government rent it out for a very small sum. I had a few full time staff and started a couple of websites including for the Reconciliation Youth Forum I established. Amongst its members was Dr Safras who had been a pillar of strength when I was looking at health facilities at Manik Farm.

Other committees included a Civil Society group which looked also at Rights in general, and a group of foreign envoys sympathetic to Sri Lanka representing each continent. And I also started a discussion group with army officers as to which the Secretary of Defence was most helpful, instructing the different services to send representatives whom I found extremely able and committed to taking reconciliation initiatives. Significantly, the Foreign Ministry would not representatives to this group, which I had thought vital so that they would know what was going on and be able to represent our interests abroad whereas now the forces were being traduced there. But it was not surprising that they had no interest in this at all.

But it was when I was requesting Gotabhaya to assist in this regard that he set me off in an entirely new direction, which led to the most interesting work I undertook in my Advisory role. He told me that it made much more sense to engage in consultations in the affected areas rather than Colombo, and though I wondered about summoning such meetings he told me to go ahead through the District Secretariats.

So having kept the Ministry of Public Administration informed, I started what I termed District Reconciliation meetings in December. The first was held in Vavuniya in the afternoon of the 4th of of December, after I had gone up early with Safras and Pushpi for some meetings including with the very conscientious Dr Sathiyamoorthy at the District Hospital. He affirmed the need for more psychosocial counselling, which was something I had been urging for years. Government finally took up the idea, but it was a case of too little too late.

Officials from Mannar also attended the meeting, and I then went on by myself to Kilinochchi where I was put up by the army as had now become the practice on my visits to the North. The guesthouse they put me up in had a lovely deck over the camp which allowed for fabulous pictures, and I was also given a tour of what was supposed to have been the LTTE parliament before going to the District Secretariat for the Reconciliation meeting. Mullaitivu too attended, and I was delighted to see my old friend Mr Vedanayagam who had been GA in Kilinochchi during the war, and done a great job in fulfilling governmental responsibilities even when the LTTE controlled the area.

I fear that, though this post about Reconciliation deals with some positive developments, it too is not about journeys so there are no pictures of activity or the beautiful countryside I was privileged to travel through in the three years I was active in reconciliation work.

But there was much done in Colombo too, and the pictures are of the people who were willing to contribute wholeheartedly to the process. Unfortunately there were too many in influential positions who did not care about reconciliation but only wanted to preserve their own authority.

And sadly public servants too were unwilling to take initiatives. Education is the key to both development and reconciliation, but with a dull and self-obsessed Minister, there was no incentive to think outside the box, to bring children together productively.

So sad because there is so much that can be done so easily, and with people like Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, or Sivanandani Duraiswamy of the Hindu Women’s Society, reforms that promote development and peace could be taken forward swiftly.

The pictures are of both of them, Rev Bellanwila, Tilak Karunaratne and Salma Yusuf

Religion, Education and Peace

But I had by now started work in my advisory position, and in fact a week after that last meeting with the TNA I had an initial meeting of a group I had set up for Religion, Education and Peace. I had spoken to Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith who was very positive about the idea, and we met at Archbishop’s House where we were also joined by the most enlightened and broadminded of Buddhist clerics, Rev Bellanwila Wimalaratne. Later the Papal Nuncio hosted a meeting of a larger gathering of clerics of different faiths where there was great keenness to find points of agreement, and this group were amongst those who endorsed the National Reconciliation Policy a committee set up in my office drafted over the next few months.

It included Mr Sumanthiran and Eran Wickremanayake and Vasantha Senanayake and Jeevan Thiagarajah and Javid Yusuf, with support provided by a number of youngsters including Salma Yusuf and Selyna Peiris and Pushpi Weerakoon, who had coordinated a project I set up as I took over at the Peace Secretariat, to bring people from deprived areas to Colombo schools. We had a multi-ethnic group at four leading schools, and they all did well, though sadly I could not find funding except for that first group.

In addition to work with religious leaders, REAP also had a number of educationists, including former MP Tilak Karunaratne, Mrs Duraiswamy who was involved in the management of Hindu Colleges in Colombo, and the former Principal of Holy Family Convent, as well as Fr Ivan Peiris who was in charge of education for the Catholic Church. Our main aim was to set up inter-school visits, children from the North coming to Colombo for a week and those from privileged backgrounds going North – with the added dimension of them then working with counterparts in urban schools in the North to help a smaller rural school.

There was much enthusiasm about this idea but Ministry of Education permission was needed, and the Secretary there was unwilling to grant permission. He thought there were risks involved and though I pointed out that these were minimal, he was unwilling to take any chances. Sadly this was the general perspective of most public servants, not to innovate in case things went wrong.

This post explains how the President allowed negotiations with the TNA to fall flat. This seems to have been because he was under the thumb of Sajin Vas Goonewardena at this stage, but G L Peiris must also share some of the blame for he did nothing positive. I suspect the President was in awe of what he thought was his intellect, so did not really understand his total passivity in the face of Sajin’s relentless exercise of authority, and he may have thought that G L subscribed too to the view that negotiations were simply a farce designed to keep criticism at bay.

Since there was some progress through my efforts, Sajin even took to not telling me when meetings were scheduled.

The pictures are of Sajin and his principal victims, beginning with Mahinda Rajapaksa, and going on to Chris Nonis and G L Peiris, whose terror of Sajin meant he allowed him virtually to run foreign policy, with disastrous results.

Destroying negotiations with the TNA

Though the President did put me on the Committee to negotiate with the TNA, he did not bother too much about its deliberations. When we reached consensus on some important points, I had to argue with him to let us move ahead on what had been decided; but when he finally agreed, G L Peiris did not do anything, telling Nimal Siripala de Silva and me that it would be his neck in danger if things went wrong. I do not know whether he thought the President would change his mind or was nervous that Gota would be annoyed, but this was a great pity for what we had decided on was not at all threatening.

Sajin Vass Goonewardene however, who was virtually running the President at this stage as far as policy making was concerned in vital areas, convinced himself and perhaps the President too that he did not want anything to move in these areas. And he started calling me the TNA representative on our side, which poison would well have affected the President, who began over the year to distrust me. I suspect Sajin did not want anyone around with any direct link with the President, which is how he explained his physical assault on Chris Nonis a couple of years later.

I was luckier in that I was not beaten up, but Sajin did knock me out of the negotiating process by not telling me about meetings. When I was in the North with Chamila Munasinghe the most positive member of the TNA delegation, Mr Sumanthiran, called me up about the meeting supposed to take place that afternoon which I knew nothing of. This was on 16th September, the fifth day of my trip North, and I had in fact finished my work so I rushed down. Just when I was reaching the bridge into Colombo Sajin called to say a meeting was scheduled and to apologize since he had forgotten to tell me.

I did make the meeting but meanwhile the President was persuaded to stop the negotiations and instead set up a Parliamentary Select Committee, which the TNA refused to join. This was understandable for the President kept changing its terms of reference, and in the end government itself treated the Committee as a joke.

This post reiterates the failure of the President to follow through with a few positive measures he took immediately the Darusman report appeared.

But the pictures include some of more positive aspects, of early visits to the North after the war, including a meeting with female former combatants plus a classroom, since my touchstone for seeing whether things were going well for those who were returned to their homes were education and water supply. The others are of Chamila Munasinghe, now a general, and Nivard Cabraal.

The President’s stirring and prompt retreat into lethargy

I should note that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa did understand the need for clear rebuttal and, when I told him I wanted to visit some of the sites mentioned by Darusman and get more evidence to rebut his charges, he instructed the military to give me every assistance. To my relief there was still one officer in Vavuniya who had been there during the war, Colonel Chamila Munasinghe, and he nearly fell on my neck in relief. He was a bright young man who understood the importance of records, but no one else had bothered about them, and he said he had no doubt they would be lost after he was transferred. But I photocopied the most important documents, and had a couple of journeys to the different sites with him, so that I was able to produced more detailed refutations of the Darusman claims.

These appeared in another book called ‘The Road to Reconciliation and its Enemies:  Documented Evidence and Logical Argument against Emotional Exaggeration and Soundbites’ but again it was only Nivard Cabraal who was interested in distributing it. I paid for the publications myself, and the few copies Nivard bought through the bank covered only a slight amount of the cost.

And that July that I had another round of interviews in London which the indefatigable Mr Amza had arranged, understanding the difficulties the country faced as the Darusman allegations were taken as truth. That included the ‘Hard Talk’ interview, but sadly no one else in government was capable of such clear rebuttals based on both principles and evidence of the case being built up against us.

But Mahinda Rajapaksa did not seem to understand what had hit the country. Though just after the Darusman Report came out he was energized into action, he soon fell back into his old ways and very little came of the changes he made. Most destructively, having replaced Kshenuka Seneviratne in Geneva, he allowd her to be put in charge of multilateral relations including the UN back at the Ministry so that she was able to destroy whatever her successor Tamara Kunanayagam tried to do.

Then, having asked Lalith Weeratunge to appoint me to the Committee to oversee implementation of the Interim Recommendations of our own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee, he swallowed Mohan Peiris’ argument that I should not be on it since I was a Member of Parliament. However he and Lalith did include in my terms of reference as Adviser in Reconciliation that I should monitor the work of that Committee. But I found that it had never met and, after I kept pushing, Mohan confessed that it would never meet because the Secretary of Defence did not want it to.

I would be sorry to think that Gotabhaya was so silly, and I suspect Mohan was the one at fault in catering so foolishly to what Gota might well have said, that he did not want a Committee interfering with his work. But what Mohan should have done then was convene the Committee to look at the other recommendations while reserving those to do with the Ministry of Defence to private discussion with the Secretary. As it was, in that area things did move, but Mohan’s obsession with Gota meant he ignored everything else so much that could have been achieved fell by the wayside.

Not perhaps the most appropriate topic for Christmas day, but on the literary blog will have to suffice for Christmas spirit. And at least this one too has some colourful books, though a world away from the children’s readers from the nineties that feature on the Council for Liberal Democracy Facebook page –

This account of the pursuit of Reconciliation deals with increasing recognition of the problems we would face after these had been ignored throughout 2010. I show here the two books I produced in refutation of the allegations in the Darusman Report, and also one I had produced just after the war, entitled ‘We Support Ourselves’.

This was a pictorial record of the support the troops provided to civilians as well as the efforts made by government to provide decent living conditions in the centres for the displaced, in particular Manik Farm. The Foreign Ministry was not interested in the book though Nivard Cabraal sensible as usual took some for distribution as did our envoy to Pakistan, a military man who understood the value of making clear the humanitarian role of the forces.

Incoherent responses

At the meeting Basil called, long after the Darusman report had seen the light of day, I mentioned that we had documents from UN officials that contradicted what Darusman said but Basil’s view was that government need not bring these to the attention of the Secretary General. I was told I could send them personally, and I did, but of course there was no response.

What Basil decided was that government should produce its own narratives of what had happened. Typically this was divided into two, Basil taking charge of the care of the affected civilians while Gotabhaya produced a narrative of the war.

I was called in immediately by Mr Divaratne, the Secretary of Basil’s Northern Task Force, to help with the former, and within a few days, after meeting at the Central Bank, we had a basic narrative ready. But it was then declared that this needed to be fleshed out. I was going abroad then, with the Prime Minister to the Philippines as our ambassador there had requested, and I said that speed was of the essence. But everyone wanted to highlight what they had done, so the story was added to, with lots more details about food supplies and health support, and when I came back what was now an unreadably bulky book had still not been finalized.

After getting back I was called in by Gotabhaya to advise on the book he had prepared. It was a succinct enough narrative of the way the LTTE had been defeated, but I pointed out to him that it did not make clear that several claims by Darusman were absurd. His reply was that it was not his business to rebut those. I told him that had to be done, whereupon he said he had given that task to the Chief of Defence Staff, Roshan Goonetilleke, the former head of the Air Force. But Roshan told me he had received no such instructions, and in any case he did not have the resources for the job.

Meanwhile I put the first few articles I had written, off the top of my head virtually, into a book called ‘SEE NO GOOD, HEAR NO GOOD, SPEAK NO GOOD: A review of the evidence  in the context of past realities and future plans’.

Nivard Cabraal, the Governor of the Central Bank, who alone it seemed in government understood the importance of the country having a good name, ordered some copies for distribution during his roadshows to collect funds, but hardly anyone else did.

This post recapitulates some events that occurred earlier in 2011, but there are different emphases in terms of the urgent need for both reconciliation activities and rebuttal of allegations that were designed to develop tensions in Sri Lanka.

I note in particular the cackhanded response of government to the appointment of Ban ki Moon of the Darusman Panel – which Bandula Jayaskera claimed I had named in a manner that made clear its lack of a clear status. On the one hand Wimal Weerawansa embarrassed those in the UN who were not nasty about us by conducting a sensational fast outside the UN offices in Colombo with Mahinda Rajapaksa rushing to give him succour; on the other he sent Mohan Peiris to talk to Ban ki Moon without even informing his Foreign Minister. Absurdly G L Peiris, a mark of his absurd assumption that I was a threat to him, thought I was in the know about this and Wimal’s groupies alleged I had accompanied Mohan to New York, the last thing he or anyone else would have wanted.

The pictures are of Darusman and then those who hindered rather than helped Mahinda Rajapaksa in dealing with Ban ki Moon and the Darusman Report

Gearing for action in 2011

Over the next few months, in 2011, the need for doing better with regard to reconciliation became more and more obvious. We knew that the Darusman Panel the UN Secretary General had appointed would report soon, and that it would be highly critical. As a first response the President appointed Mahinda Samarasinghe as his Special Envoy with regard to Human Rights. I have recorded meeting with him in February at his Ministry of Plantation Industries, and it was then I think that he said he wanted to resurrect the old team.

I told him that would not be possible without Dayan and I would not join him in going to Geneva, but I would help him as best I could in Sri Lanka. That I think was when Minari told us that the Ministry had not responded to letters from the UN Human Rights Office special procedures mandate holders. This was typical of the head in the sand approach G L Peiris had adopted which for her own reasons Kshenuka Seneviratne, our envoy in Geneva, encouraged.

Mahinda Rajapaksa knew things were in a mess, and he even sent Mohan Peiris to New York to meet with the Secretary General’s Panel. For some reason it was assumed in those days that I had some influence with him, though that was not the case at all. G L Peiris had not known till it happened that Mohan had been sent, and he asked me whether I had gone too. And Wimal Weerawansa engaged in an attack on Mohan and more on me, claiming that we had let down the country in talking to the Secretary General.

It was Weerawansa who had launched a fast outside the UN offices when the UN Panel was set up, and Mahinda Rajapaksa had rushed to revive him with lime juice. Clearly those who did not understand the world thought only of scoring brownie points with each other and voters in Sri Lanka, and G L and Mohan who should have known better stayed silent.

In April the report submitted to the UN Secretary General – which came to be known as the Darusman Report, a term which the journalist Bandula Jayasekera declared I had popularized – came into the public domain, being leaked it seems on all sides. I was at my cottage at the time and immediately began rebutting its allegations in detail but when I got back to Colombo I realized this was not thought necessary by anyone else. Basil Rajapaksa chaired a very confused meeting in Colombo at which it was decided that the Report should in effect be officially ignored.

This post continues with an account of the formulation of the National Action Plan for Human Rights. That sadly is now forgotten, though a glance at it would have helped this government to solve some problems that have got worse over the years through neglect. For instance it had very clear proposals with regard to alleviating the awful situation in prisons.

But, typical of this country, the past is forgotten, and all agencies tasked with productive work wish to reinvent the wheel. The last government, instead of building on that first Action Plan, produced another that was intended more to keep foreigners happy, a stance adopted with a vengeance by the Human Rights Commission it appointed.

And when that Human Rights Commission produced a report on prisons, it made no reference at all to either Action Plan. So it laboured much to produce recommendations that had been in place already, with no analysis of why those recommendations had not been followed. And it fails to look at the mechanisms available to reduce over-crowding, to ensure that instead of custodial punishment the system of justice looks at rehabilitation outside prison walls.

I thought of having pictures of those who worked positively for human rights and those who stymied the process, including the last Chair of the Human Rights Commission, but then I thought that much more pleasant would be pictures from the second visit for a rehabilitation workshop in January 2013. I used a couple of pictures of that yesterday, so I concentrate here on the landscape, its bleakness and also its beauty, for by then the paddy fields were flourishing.

Work on the Human Rights Action Plan and on Rehabilitation after the war

Since I was left holding the baby, as it were, of the Action Plan we were pledged to produce, I arranged for us to meet in the Attorney General’s Office for Mohan Peiris was the only other senior figure left with any commitment to the exercise, Mahinda Samarasinghe having washed his hands of the whole business.

Mohan was very supportive though he was too busy to spare much time for the process. But he was happy for me to chair the discussions, occasionally starting them off himself, and within a few months we had a final draft. Great support was provided by Dhara Wijayathilaka who had been Secretary to the Ministry of Justice many years earlier and been instrumental in promoting Women’s Rights; by Yasantha Kodagoda who had been involved in dealing with disappearance issues and had a lot to contribute about systems to safeguard detainees; and of course Nishan who had the process at this fingertips.

While working on this I continued of course with my work on rehabilitation. So on January 13th 2011 in Vavuniya I observed the entrepreneurship workshop I had funded and also watched interrogation of the former cadres. Though there was much hype about the ICRC not being let it, in fact the International Organization for Migration was closely involved in the process and confirmed that conditions were generally good and there were no constraints on the detainees being visited. In fact almost all those detained had had visitors, and I could see such contact happening while I was there, contrary to what was claimed.

I did suggest then that the authorities publish statistics of visitors but those were the days when they thought they did not owe anyone explanations and recording the good work they were doing was unnecessary. Once again I regretted the closure of the Peace Secretariat which could have made the position clear, and to a vast audience given the reach of our social media. But those in authority in government had not wanted any alternatives to their overwhelming power, not least I think because they were nervous of the trust that in those days Mahinda Rajapaksa had in me.

At last pictures from out of Colombo, as I look here briefly at the other work I did with regard to the people of the North and East following the closure of the Peace Secretariat at the end of July 2009. This was productive, both the work in rehabilitation I began, in cooperation with the excellent Commissioners General of Rehabilitation the Secretary of Defence had appointed, and also with regard to producing a National Human Rights Action Plan as we had pledged during the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Geneva in 2008. The pictures are from a couple of Reconciliation workshops in Vavuniya.

Coincidentally, in talking about the President’s problems today on my Council for Liberal Democracy facebook page – – I deal with Rehabilitation issues, in discussing the need for better systems in public service.

A range of post-war work

I also continued with work in connection with the former combatants, for whom the Ministry had produced, with support from the ILO and a very competent Portuguese consultant, a blueprint for Rehabilitation and Reintegration. Unfortunately that was never formally adopted, because the Minister was at odds with our Minister, both I think being aspirants for the post of Foreign Minister.

Meanwhile the Secretary of Defence, realizing that that Ministry was not fulfilling its responsibilities and indeed did not have the capacity to do so (its primary responsibility was Justice), appointed General Daya Ratnayake as Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. He did a great job and so did his successor, Sudantha Ranasinghe. I knew them both well for they had been Commanding Officers at the Sri Lanka Military Academy, and I found them both intelligent and efficient.

But unfortunately their terms of reference did not include Reintegration and though the Secretary told me when I pointed this out that it was implicit, that was not enough in a context when many others wanted to interfere. But I did what I could, using half my decentralized budget as a Member of Parliament, for entrepreneurship workshops for former combatants.

I was I think one of the only National List Members of Parliament who did not hope to contest a district at the next election. Such ambitions on their part meant they used the Rs 5 million allocated to each MP for development projects to win favour amongst their constituents. But I thought that I should use mine more widely, and decided to deploy half in the Ratnapura District where I have a cottage and half in the North.

For the first year then I spent a couple of million of Entrepreneurship Workshops run by a very efficient agency called Business Consultancy Services. I would drop in on the workshops and was impressed by the commitment of the staff and the tremendous appreciation evinced by the students.

I had initiated this programme well before I got the Reconciliation appointment letter, but that was what I was engaged in the day after I got it, going up to Vavuniya on January 13th. But in fact the day before, after accepting the appointment at the Presidential Secretariat, I went to the Attorney General’s Department to continue work on the National Human Rights Action Plan.

That had become my baby as it were when the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights was closed down. The staff we had hired to produce the plan were taken on by the Foreign Ministry but they were not given any assistance, and the Ministry Consultant Nishan Muthukrishna did not go with them for his appointment was delayed and Mahinda Samarasinghe snapped him up for his new Ministry.  

Rajiva Wijesinha


December 2020
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