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LLRC report should be given a fair hearing




Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe Rohitha Bogollagama TNA MP Sumanthiran
 
Prof. Rohan Gunaratna Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha  

The Sunday Observer spoke to several personalities on the handing over of the much anticipated Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week. The report which received a great deal of publicity in the international arena, drew equal criticism before it even wrapped up its work.

Those among the most vociferous critics were the pro-LTTE groups and their sympathisers giving the impression that they feared the result would cripple their anti-Lanka campaign.

The Government was firm in its stand and maintained that critics should reserve their comments, until the findings and recommendations were officially put out. The commission released a set of interim recommendations which are now being implemented with the blessings of the well-wishers of the nation.

The Sunday Observer asked these individuals how the reactions and opinions expressed on the LLRC report will affect the ongoing reconciliation process that has been initiated by the Government as a means of healing past wounds and bringing communities together in the post-war phase.

The excerpts of the comments,

Human Rights Special Envoy and Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe;

“There is widespread interest in the outcome of the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) within and outside Sri Lanka. We have pinned a great deal of hope on the work of the Commissioners who are a cross section of the most capable professionals in the country.

The manner in which they carried out their mandate, the exhaustive consultation processes they put in place, the foresight shown and the practicality of their interim recommendations, all give us ample reason to be optimistic.

We have consistently asked those commenting on the conclusions, recommendations and proposals of the LLRC to first study them in their entirety prior to concluding their aptness, usefulness and implementability.

Those who sought to prejudge the process, to cast aspersions on the bona fides of the Commissioners and to downplay the significance of this initiative of President Rajapaksa – even before the final outcome was available - would do well to study the proposals with a fair and balanced outlook before commenting further.

Premature misjudgment of the LLRC’s outcome can only hinder successful post-conflict reconciliation which is the final facet of our Government’s four pronged approach post-May 2009, based on reconstruction, resettlement, rehabilitation and reconciliation, backed by speedy economic development. Objective analysis and constructive criticism, on the other hand, will greatly assist us in successfully overcoming this final challenge to a lasting peace and a more secure and prosperous future for all.”

TNA MP Sumanthiran

It is very difficult to surmise on the reaction and outcome of the LLRC report until we actually see it. And if it is going to be made public soon, then I don’t see why I should make any hasty comments prior to reading it.

Also, your question makes two assumptions on which I may not agree: firstly it says that the LLRC is composed of ‘experts of international repute’. Secondly, you refer to an ‘ongoing reconciliation process in the country’.

Our position is that what is ‘ongoing’ now is the exact opposite of a reconciliation process. I tabled a report in Parliament on October 21 which details many of these efforts.

We would reserve our comments until after the LLRC report is made public

Prof. Rohan Gunaratna:

The LLRC report will receive both praise and criticism. An exhaustive study by Sri Lankans on their painful and tragic conflict, the report provides essential strategies on how to prevent a return to conflict. The commissioners and those who testified are Sri Lankans who understand their country best. Like we developed a homegrown solution to end a vicious insurgent and terrorist campaign, we have now launched a national reconciliation strategy to create a harmonious living.

Both the Sri Lankan government and their partners must listen carefully to the diverse views expressed on the LLRC by the international community. Sri Lanka should also engage those governments, International Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and individuals that are critical of the LLRC report. Future Sri Lanka needs the support of everyone to build a vibrant, resilient and a peaceful nation.

Former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama:

Every country must have its own agenda to pursue. Now that the LLRC report is out, the international community will obviously seek answers regarding the findings. In this context Sri Lanka is well positioned to respond in relation to the process arising from the report findings.

This report has been compiled by a group of eminent independent persons. There is no room for certain quarters of the international community to allege any deficiencies in the composition of the panel or their integrity.

Hence similarly no- where in the world are countries compelled to bring in foreign panelist unless the country is unable to bring forth competent individual to comprise such a panel or the issues dealt with have arises between countries.

The affects of president Rajapaksa in bringing about reconciliation amongst all communities in Sri Lanka and the meaningful political and economic development agenda that he has unleashed should be continued without any distraction merely because some quarters in the international community may continue to complain in frivolous issues with a view to satisfy the LTTE propagantanist and operatives overseas.

The creation of the parliamentary select committee on the national issue and budget proposals addressing the regional development are the highlights we could convey to the world.

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

You are right to focus on the impact of reactions, because many of those who look at Sri Lanka in terms of their own agendas are more concerned with reactions rather than the report itself.

Thus while we have had many criticisms of the LLRC from interested parties, there was little attention on the very sensible interim report they gave some time back - though perhaps government was also at fault in not making that report public along with the actions that were being taken with regard to the issues raised.

Entertainingly we have recently had two conflicting attacks on the LLRC, one that that Commissioners were not independent and would produce a document that would not satisfy our critics, second that we would suppress the Report (ie it would be a report that our critics would like and therefore we would hide it).

I believe from what purport to be leaks of the Report that it moves on from its excellent interim recommendations to suggest areas in which we should be doing more to ensure reconciliation.

In this regard dwelling on the past will not be productive except insofar as it affects current attitudes, and in that regard the focus on bringing closure to those who are uncertain about their loved ones is vital. But we also need to move forward with regard to language and educational policy, as has indeed been foreshadowed in the President’s budget speech, and also in ensuring employment opportunities with no space left for there to be allegations about discrimination.

I believe the LLRC has looked at these areas and I hope their recommendations will be implemented swiftly with regular monitoring and reports on progress, which is what we should have done with regard to the interim recommendations.

Those who have been clamouring for charges of War Crimes, on the basis of manipulated evidence and vague generalisations, may be upset but they are not important as compared with our citizens on the ground who suffered.

I believe it is a positive factor that we have not engaged in witch hunts about those former cadres who were forced to fire on their own people when they tried to flee LTTE captivity, and I hope the LLRC will agree that the positive steps we have taken towards rehabilitation are more important than holding those poor victims accountable for what they were forced to do to other victims.

The more vindictive members of the international community may not accept such a position, but they do not understand reconciliation.

As I have been saying for a long time, we have a good record, both in dealing with terrorism and in our endeavors to heal wounds. But we have not been effective in telling our story and in communicating both what was done and how we plan to do better in the future.

The budget speech also referred to the need to improve our communications strategies, and we should also do more to train communicators, who will also understand the need for reconciliation and the sensitivities of those who have suffered but wish now to move on to a brighter future.

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