There is need for concerted action across the board to achieve genuine reconciliation. “Those anxious for reconciliation should endeavour to support government in setting up mechanisms to work quickly and imaginatively towards the goals laid out in the LLRC report. Unfortunately, there seems no urgency at the moment about implementation, or even allocating responsibility for the different tasks,” he said.
According to Prof Wijedasa, what certainly will not work is a Committee of Ministry Secretaries, chaired by someone without executive authority in this regard. “Rather, there should be a Ministry for Reconciliation, charged with fulfilling the recommendations of the Commission as best possible. I would also suggest that it be given a limited life span, of two years perhaps, after which it should have made itself redundant,” he said.
But whoever may head such a ministry, he said there is need of an efficient and experienced Secretary, and dedicated staff, though very few would suffice given that the bulk of the actual work would have to be done by other Ministries.
However, current lethargy, as exemplified for instance by the failure of the Ministry of Education to even think of mechanisms for increasing the supply of competent language teachers—- despite the clear commitment of the President to building up a trilingual society—-makes it clear that innovative ideas and ensuring their implementation would have to come from a dedicated agency.
Prof Wijesinha’s own view is that the recommendations of the Commission can be fulfilled very easily, provided initiative and imagination are brought to bear, along with the will to succeed.
The process of a political settlement too can be expedited if action is taken immediately on recommendations in this regard that are not controversial. For instance, the mechanism of a second chamber to promote regional input into national legislation could be put into operation straightaway. Of course, better training on legislative principles for potential members will be needed.
“We should also be ensuring proper training for local government representatives so that they can use more effectively the powers and resources they do possess, to resolve problems that should not require intervention by distant officials and politicians,”he added.
Reconciliation will not be difficult to achieve, and the LLRF report shows the way. Prof Wijesinha said: “We should not be distracted by insistence on retribution and stress on major political problems, when we can so easily deal with the root causes of resentment and, through setting mechanisms of empowerment in place that are generally acceptable, move on to solutions for more contentious issues.
He went on: “But we should also recognize that the failure thus far of government to work consistently in required areas, to have followed intensively the interim recommendations of the Commission even if common sense had not already indicated the way, has led to suspicions which government must assuage through committed action. As the Commission makes clear with regard to Reconciliation, ‘the responsibility for being the prime mover of this process lies squarely with the Government.’”
January 10, 2012, 9:36 pm/ BY S VENKAT NARAYAN/ Our Special Correspondent