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UPFA parliamentarian Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha says the reconciliation process is essentially a multi-pronged approach, as the government approach to anything should be. However, he noted that although there is no guarantee that the proposed PSC would bring about the final political solution there is a trust feature if all parties including the TNA participated in it. Referring to the Eastern Provincial Council election, he observed that the government should have initiated a dialogue with the TNA on a national government since the party had expressed its willingness to discuss. “I think it should have been tried, but I also understand the difficulty. Managing a coalition is not easy. The government should however take note of the results,” Prof. Wijesinha said.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: How confident is the government that the Indian government would put pressure on the TNA to participate in the reconciliation process?

A: I am not privy to what happened in India but I do know that India would like a reasonable solution.  From what I know, while they sympathise with the TNA position they also understand our position and might take a basic line between the two positions.  It is simply that the more dogmatic personnel on both sides perhaps would like to push their points of view; I think we must take all views into account but aim to satisfy the moderates on both sides.

Q: The TNA has questioned the government reconciliation process. What is the reconciliation process proposed by the government?

A: The reconciliation process is essentially a multi-pronged approach, as the government approach to anything should be. The government assumed, with some justification but I think it needs fine-tuning, that they needed to do quick restoration which is also what is prioritized in the National Reconciliation Policy document my office prepared  In that, we divide the reconciliation process into different segments. Of which the most important is restoration, which is based on the enormous physical suffering that the war brought; the bulk of which was borne by the people of the North. The government assumed that a lot of the macro stuff would lead to people returning to normal life; this happened in the East where the remarkable development programme was picked up by the state.  By and large they gained satisfaction, this does not mean that there are no questions but by and large there is satisfaction with the President.

In the North we have two separate problems, neither of which did we address carefully enough.  The first is in the Wanni where I think we did a fantastic job in restoration, and again I think the people are very satisfied, but we are not giving them the extra skills development to take advantage of the situation. I told the Indians we had to introduce local labour for their houses and they agreed.  But when I went up last time there are three contractors in one particular area, one is using local labour the other two are not.

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Gordon Weiss and the Darusman Panel

17. Amongst the least plausible of the charges heaped up against the Sri Lankan government are those regarding what the Darusman panel terms ‘Human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict’.

The most dramatic of these concerns relates to rape, a word the panel uses 17 times. Over half the mentions use tentative locutions (‘may’, ‘inference’) or refer to vulnerability or fear. Other mentions are formal headings or in lists of possible crimes. There is only one assertion that instances of rape were recorded, another that instances were reported.

The desperate nature of these allegations is apparent from a related charge, that ‘women were forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food, shelter or assistance in camps’. The footnote that is supposed to substantiate this refers to a section of a UN report that referred to activities in areas controlled by the LTTE, perhaps the shoddiest instance of  footnoting in a text replete with inaccuracies.

Gethin Chamberlain - Guardian UK

From the very start indeed there were efforts to introduce charges of sexual violence and perversity that fell apart when probed. The most vicious of these was a claim in the ‘Guardian’ by a gentleman called Gethin Chamberlain that 11 women had been found with their throats slit by the welfare centres. It turned out that there was no basis whatsoever for this story, and Chamberlain admitted that his source – which he implied was from the UN or an international Non-Governmental Organization – was unreliable. He refused however to retract the story, claiming it was too late by the time I pinned him down, but declared that he had not relied on that source again.

Sadly there were those in the UN who wanted to play such a game, though fortunately we were able to nip this in the bud, or perhaps mud. On April 30th a report was issued which claimed that ‘On 29 April the bodies of 3 women were recovered near the river in Zone 3’. This was entirely false, as was admitted by those responsible for the report when I questioned them on May 2nd.

Amin Awad - UNHCR

I was particularly careful, because the report had been issued without consultation of the Ministry of Human Rights, in terms of the procedures agreed upon by UNHCR. This was on the assumption that the purpose of UNHCR activity was to prevent abuse, but clearly some junior staff in UNHCR assumed that their role was to denigrate the government. The Head of UNHCR tried to defend its position by claiming that his staff who had contributed to the report had spoken to government officials at the Camp but this too turned out to be a lie. Fortunately I was able to bring together the girls who had issued the report and the officials they claimed to have spoken to, and they could only declare that they had spoken in general terms about problems. They had no answer when I suggested that the bodies of three dead women was a serious matter and they should, if they had any sense of responsibility, have raised such an issue immediately.

Part of the problem lay in the awe which the head of UNHCR, a Sudanese with career ambitions, seemed to feel for one of these young ladies, called Anna Pelosi. He told me that she was related to the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and that one had to be careful in dealing with her. It is possible of course that Amin Awad, a delightful and generally helpful but nevertheless slippery character, may have made all this up, but this was an area in which it seemed to me he did not display his usual self-confidence. Read the rest of this entry »

TIMES OF INDIA – 31 August 2011

‘Most of displaced in SL rehabilitated’

Daniel P George

Chennai: A Sri Lankan MP has urged Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa to visit the island nation and see the rehabilitation process for herself.

Talking to TOI on Tuesday, Prof. Rajiva Vijesinha MP and advisor to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on reconciliation, said that most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) had been rehabilitated and that efforts were on to help the others.

“There is a lot of ignorance about the situation in Sri Lanka,” Vijesinha said and alleged that the preliminary UN report on the situation in the country lacked accuracy.  Appealing for the rehabilitation of the IDPs, the MP said “India’s expertise  in the education  and training sector  will be of great help to the Lankans at this stage and the Sri Lankan government should harness this  expertise”.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) he said, was initially instrumental in combatting terrorism and its help would never be forgotten.  “What is happening now is the same anti-IPKF propaganda is being carried out against us.  The LTTE is known for it.  The Tamils are our own people and it is our duty to help them get back their normal lives,” Vijesinha said.  Vijesinha said the selective approach of those attacking the Sri Lankan government were glossed over in the UN report.

It was the allegations that were creating difficulties in resettlement and restoration of peace, he alleged.  The war against terror Wijesinha said “is not like the others we come to know through the media, where the protagonists seem more important than us to what is termed the International community. Conversely, the civilians among whom the terrorists operate are much more important to us in the Sri Lankan situation, since they are our own citizens, than civilians are in other theatres of war, where they are seen as alien”.

1.  With the end of the military conflict does the government think that there are more do be done on the social and political front to establish normalcy or does the government feel that the end of the military conflict itself solves all the problems ?

 Not at all, as government always said, a military solution was necessary to deal with terrorism once the LTTE proved intransigent, but political and other problems required other measures.

2. If the government feels more needs  to be done, what steps it has taken so far to accomodate the minority Tamil community?

 Rapid resettlement and economic empowerment is taking place. This proved successful in the East, and is being pursued in the North, though obviously much more needs to be done. Also political empowerment through the resurrection of local and provincial authorities. This was done swiftly in the East, and has been started in the North, with the next tranche of local elections – the third after hostilities concluded and resettlement began – due at the end of July, with Provincial Council elections thereafter, as happened in the East.

3. Does the government seriously think that devolution is a neccessary component for future ethnic harmony?

 Certainly devolution as practiced elsewhere should be implemented in the North, and extending it as appropriate will be finalized through discussions with the TNA as well as the input of that and other parties through the Select Committee that is planned. At the same time, given that the Centre will also continue to exercise power, and in particular in areas pertaining to security issues in the broader sense, it is important to introduce a greater voice for the peripheral units at the Centre too, which is why the President’s manifesto introduces the idea of a Second Chamber based on those units.

4. Does it feel that forming a uniformed society with no consideration for minority ethnic and cultural identities and freedoms to preserve same is part of the solution?

Not at all, uniformity goes against both the government’s commitment to pluralism and the socio-cultural history of this country. After the introduction of Tamil as an official language in 1987, for instance, little was done to enforce this provision, but this government has taken more measures in this regard than any other.

 5. Why there is so much delay in addressing the housing and land problem of the IDPs? Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

July 2020
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