The 6 + 1 Formula of Sri Lanka’s National Rehabilitation Programme is beginning to reap a peace dividend, paving the way to reconciliation

Post–war rehabilitation of ex-combatants is a relatively new discipline in the field of international transitional justice. What is even newer is the increasing recognition of the inextricable link between successful rehabilitation programmes and the achievement of genuine and sustainable national reconciliation. In fact, rehabilitation programmes are now regarded as a sine qua non for any country emerging from the throes of an armed struggle.

A high–level national meeting was convened last week in Colombo to review Sri Lanka’s post–war rehabilitation efforts. The aims of the meeting were three-fold: namely, to review the current status of rehabilitation of former cadres; explore new ways of extending the current programme of rehabilitation from ex – combatants to the rehabilitation of detainees in custodial settings such as prisons; and finally, discuss possibilities of research and training facilities for further development of programmes island wide that could be used in the criminal justice system more generally in dealing with ordinary drug and common criminals to higher offenders of the penal law. The strategies envisaged include programmes to inculcate an ethos of toleration, moderation and coexistence.
Accordingly, the following key messages and observations were tabled for consideration.
REHABILITATION FOR RECONCILIATION
The overarching theme highlighted throughout the discussion was that in order to create a conducive environment for peace and reconciliation it became necessary to put in place such rehabilitation programmes. As one of the initial steps following the conclusion of the armed struggle, the programme was aimed at preventing a relapse into conflict.
Foreign observers at the meeting remarked that the rehabilitation programme was completed in a record period of time and that it is shorter than that which is normally required at the conclusion of a three decade conflict. Furthermore, it was revealed at the meeting that the Sri Lankan team involved in designing and implementing the rehabilitation programme have been consulted internationally, to share their experiences and have conducted capacity building programmes in Peshawar in Pakistan, Jakarta in Indonesia and in a number of other countries.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AS A STABILISATION STRATEGY
Taking the discourse one step further and locating it within the broader context of suspicion and prejudice that still exists in a small section of the populace, it was opined that the lessons learnt from the rehabilitation programmes should be transplanted on a larger scale in communities demonstrating such inter – ethnic tensions. It was recommended that amongst the useful channelling of the lessons would be towards introducing programmes for community engagement to ensure that recurrence of extremisms and prejudice do not re – emerge. This was tabled as an imperative in stabilisation strategies.
Future generations will be the ultimate beneficiaries of successful rehabilitation programmes. A sound programme will thus impact on the stability of the nation. Speaking at the meeting, an international commentator visiting Sri Lanka for the exchange, having worked in similar programmes and contexts across the globe, remarked that the Sri Lankan people have demonstrated the resilience and potential that exist to bounce back after a long drawn out struggle and ought to be used as an example by foreign jurisdictions contemplating similar rehabilitation programmes for not only expediency and the technical expertise involved but for the lesson that the ‘other’ is not isolated or punished after the end of the war but rather embraced into the folds of the communities and everyday life and living in the country.

THE 6 + 1 FORMULA
The post war rehabilitation programme undertaken in Sri Lanka was explained as follows: A coordinated and integrated effort was put in place beginning with the formulation of a national policy on rehabilitation of ex – combatants. Six key sectors of intervention were identified and adopted, namely, Education; Spiritual, Religious and Cultural; Social, Community and Family ; Livelihood and Vocational; Psychosocial; Sports and Recreational. The 6+ 1 dimension that was developed into the process was a community awareness programme which sought to sensitise receiving communities on the necessity to embrace ex – combatants into mainstream society. The reinsertion phase within rehabilitation included vocational and educational training programmes and pre – reintegration mentorship programmes to orient ex – combatants into living a harmonious civilian life.
The overarching objectives of the rehabilitation programmes were to facilitate the transition of ex – combatants into civilian life and further to groom individuals to becoming responsible members of the community while integrating into the social fabric of the receiving communities.

CONNECTING THE DOTS OF REHABILITATION, RECONSTRUCTION AND RECONCILIATION
Having completed the successful rehabilitation of approximately 11, 400 ex – cadres, the following have been identified as future plans by the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation: obtaining foreign employment opportunities in collaboration with the Bureau of Foreign Employment and the private sector. The negotiations of such a process is currently underway; providing ex – combatants the ability to subscribe to a loan scheme of LKR 250, 000 at a 4 percent interest rate to enable the generation of self – employment opportunities; to put in place a programme to provide three wheelers to the ex – combatants with an exemption of the required initial payment; provision of pre – school diploma courses as a means for capacity building and increasing employability; utilise the services of the ex – combatants for construction and development work in the North and East which will in turn facilitate the flow from rehabilitation to reconstruction activities and thereby fostering improved relationships and reconciliation within and between communities.
HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL REHABILITATION
Under the theme of ‘ Health is a Bridge for Peace,’ the interventions were directed at medical and psychosocial rehabilitation separately. The interventions were premised on the two presumptions, namely, that war is a ‘disease’ and hence needs to be both prevented and cured; and secondly, that genuine concern for an individual’s health, in this case, the ex – combatant, also helped build attachment to the community and society. The key activities conducted under this aspect of rehabilitation included psychosocial training programme for rehabilitation centre administrators which included psychosocial first – aid: counselling, listening and providing options as solutions for ways forward. This was followed by a Pre – Reinsertion and Reintegration Mentoring Programme which was carried out over a period between one – month and one year in duration. This was coupled with Training of Trainers Programmes for counsellors on pre – reintegration mentorship programmes which included orientation and exposure to the practical ways of encouraging diversity for harmonious coexistence, peace-building activities and identifying and fulfilling social roles. Training in emotional intelligence and life skills were also provided at such mentorship programmes.

RATIONALE FOR THE REHABILITATION MODEL USED IN SRI LANKA
What started off as a commonsensical approach to rehabilitation, namely, catering to the needs of the beneficiaries metamorphosised into a sophisticated model which was implemented. The factors that helped to nurture radicalisation were identified: a secure support base, propagation of disinformation, emotive strategies for recruitment and sustaining of a radicalisation mindset through the removal of contact of the individuals from mainstream society and demonising the perceived opponent.

Logically following from the identification of the above, the rehabilitation model sought to reverse the process of radicalisation through the promotion of an alternative non – violent means to achieve a sense of meaning, belonging, acceptance, purpose, value, power, and dignity of self and respect for family. The 6 + 1 components identified were hence incorporated back into the lives of the ex – cadres, which are elements of normal living of a human being in society. The ex – cadres reconnected with their culture, society, religion and family, thereby filling the void that was created with the end of the armed conflict, thereby preparing them for life in civil society.

The methods used in the rehabilitation model were as follows: emotive narrative techniques that were previously used for radicalisation were now used for different purposes, namely to celebrate the value of life, family, community and country; restoration of significance as peace builders through peacebuilding activities; countering of the single narrative of a mono – ethnic ideology through an inculcation of a multi – ethnic ideology involving training in the notions of diversity and harmonious living; supporting interaction and reconnections with family, society, friends, education, and vocation. This was coupled with empowerment activities that involved celebration of faith, religion, culture and traditions.

THE PRELIMINARY FINDINGS OF AN INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT
The national meeting convened last week is the first occasion at which the results of the assessment conducted by the international social scientists were presented. The statistical analysis presented revealed that support for violence had dropped significantly among the rehabilitees as a direct result of the rehabilitation programme.

The final conclusion of the international scientists was that they, as social scientists, would be in a position to, cautiously though not conclusively, state that the exposure to the rehabilitation programmes had been successful. The scientists went onto urge that the process is far from over and needs to ensure the successful re – integration of beneficiaries into communities to ensure that there is no relapse into violence.
By Salma Yusuf; salmayusuf@gmail.com
Source:http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/172-opinion/20735-transitional-justice-rehabilitation-in-review.html

Reconciliation and Development in the East

I had not been in the East for several months, not least because the North seemed to need much more attention in terms of my work as Adviser on Reconciliation. However, with the system of Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation Committees functioning informatively, if not always effectively, I thought I should pay some attention to the East, since obviously reconciliation had to be taken forward there too, and also better coordination of aid work, in terms of my mandate in that area.
I had assumed that the basic government strategy of massive efforts at reconstruction had borne fruit in the East, unlike in the North where it was essential to take other steps too in view of the very different circumstances. My visit confirmed that government had indeed worked wonders in the East, for the developments in communications and irrigation and the basic wherewithal for economic activity were phenomenal.
In 2009, during my last visit as Head of the Peace Secretariat, I was overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place since an earlier visit, when travel was painfully slow and there was still uncertainty about commerce. Subsequently, visiting to inspect some work in English Trainer Training, I felt that the trajectory was steadily upward, but even so I was not prepared for the qualitative leap forward that had occurred between then and now.
The road and the bridges that provided a swift alternative route to Trincomalee from Kantale, passing through areas such as Mavil Aru and Mutur and Kinniya that had been places of great uncertainty so recently, was symptomatic of the successful impact of concerted efforts at economic development. Irrigation too had kept apace, and planning, so that harvests were plentiful, and marketing was not as problematic as in some areas in the North, where leaving things to market forces had led to deprivation for the weakest.
The Governor and the Provincial Council had started work indeed on irrigation even before the conclusion of the War, and the programme of Eastern Renewal had built on this with a dedication and efficiency not often seen in this country. Though I knew something of this from reports from students, who were full of the new opportunities available for economic activity, the extent of the opportunities that were available will I hope lead to even greater satisfaction soon for the entire population.
While progress then is heartening, there still remains much that could be done to add value to current achievements. My day in Trincomalee was necessarily only introductory, and affected also by the electoral concerns that had sprung up since I first made plans to visit there this week. Still, even through the meeting I attended to review progress on initiatives under Deyata Kirula, I could see areas in which more concentrated work would help to promote reconciliation.
Most urgent, at least from my point of view, are mechanisms to encourage students to learn together. Given the demographic composition of the East, with similar proportions of all principal groups, it is absurd that all education is still conducted in regimented separation, through Sinhala or Tamil or Muslim schools. At a recent meeting in Parliament of the Consultative Committee on Education, it was revealed that the Ministry would only permit new schools if they were multi-racial, but surely this is a policy that can be pursued proactively. Given the energy of the current administration in the East, and its commitment to pluralism, they should be encouraged to start schools for students of all races and religions, at least at Advanced Level.
Another area in which more and quicker action is desirable is training for women to promote alternative methods of income generation. I was told of a successful Indian aided project to train trainers in diverse new vocations, and it seemed several batches had already started enterprises. Replicating this should be encouraged, perhaps through Samurdhi funds, which still seem to be used as handouts rather than as investments for enterprise development.
Concentrating on families where otherwise children might be given into care would also help with another problem that was causing great concern, namely the proliferation of children’s homes designed to overcome economic deprivation. As I have discussed in the context of my other responsibility, with regard to expediting implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, the recent policy initiative of the National Child Protection Authority, to promote family support rather than homes, must be supported in every way possible. But there seems to be little coordination in this regard, to ensure that social service organizations, of which there are several in this country, work towards common goals.
The East it seems has more Children’s Homes than any other Province except the North, but officials at least seem aware of this. They have also adopted sensible initiatives to overcome the problem of shortages of personnel. Where elsewhere I had heard complaints that there were insufficient Child Protection officials, here a graduate had been entrusted with the responsibilities, which seemed a more useful deployment than happens in general of those employed under the Graduate scheme. Given what we were told here too about shortages of Counsellors, I hope government at least takes note of my suggestion that unemployed graduates be trained in counseling, if it is deemed necessary to employ them.
But by and large coordination seemed better than elsewhere. The dichotomy between Central and Provincial government officials had been resolved by ensuring that coordination occurred at Divisional Secretariat level, the most useful as I have found for ensuring close attention to problems on the ground. And I was delighted to find, in use at the District Secretariat too, which should supervise and monitor such activities, a Handbook for Grama Niladharis which had been produced last year with UNDP assistance. Why this had not been brought to my attention when I asked about duty lists in the North I do not know, though perhaps it was because the duties are not laid out clearly and simply. But this is certainly a start, and if accompanied by instructions as to regular brief reports that highlight problems, it would be a very useful tool for increasing the accountability we must promote.
By; Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

ENGAGING THE DIASPORA FOR RECONCILIATION

When history repeated itself on 6 June 2012, it became clearer that something is amiss in our post-war nation building efforts. One and a half years on, the itinery of a Presidential visit to the United Kingdom was once again altered when an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the Commonwealth Economic Forum organized by the Commonwealth Business Council was cancelled on the morning of the event. The Commonwealth Economic Forum was organized as one of the events to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in London.

The incident was harshly reminiscent of the events of December 2010 when the President’s address at the Oxford Union was suddenly called off. The massive protest expected in the University premises put the Oxford Union in the akward position of having to make the decision that it did. The then President of the Oxford Union, James Kingston, in an email response to a query raised by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, published in an article authored by the latter in these pages on 9 June 2012 stated the following: ‘I was advised there was a serious public order risk, and a serious risk of major disruption to the activities of the local community. At 5000 protestors, it would have been the largest demonstration seen in the history of Oxford, and the risks would have increased accordingly.’

THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION
The revelation of the projected turn-out at the December 2010 protest as being the largest in the history of Oxford is noteworthy for more reasons than one – the ability of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora to potentially generate the largest demonstration in the history of the Oxford Union is one, and the ability for it to alter Presidential itineries is another. The most worrying aspect, however, is the indicator it serves to provide – perhaps a barometer, albeit non – scientific, of the intensity of passion that still exists in certain members of the Tamil Diaspora abroad with regards to grievances.
Come 2012, and similar such efforts to gather a number as large as 2000 at the Mansion House where the Commonwealth Economic Forum was to be held, signals the unwavering commitment and sentiments that were displayed one and a half years ago at the protests staged at the Oxford Union, and more importantly, three years after the ending of the war. Further, it has been reported in the media that members of the Tamil Diaspora had travelled from other countries in the region, namely, France and Germany to join and strengthen the protests.

THE UNDISPUTED CONSENSUS
The reactions, the analyses and the interpretations of such incidents have been wide and varied, yet agreement can be forged across the spectrum of views atleast on the following: the Diaspora communities ought to be engaged with some seriousness in our post-war nation-building and reconciliation efforts.
Engaging the diaspora will not only improve our foreign and international relations but also contribute to internal national stability: the link between the two is inextricable. As my article of 13 June 2012 in these pages concludes, the protection of our national interests and international positioning cannot be clearer. Grounding our foreign relations and policies in strong national positions is the way forward.
The most credible manner of engaging the Diaspora is through addressing the rights of minorities locally, both systematically and genuinely. Rights of minorities need to be coupled ofcourse with assurances for the possibility of peaceful return and life in the country. This is once again illustrative of how domestic policy and foreign policy are inextricably linked.

PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT
The LLRC report has highlighted that there exist perceptions about the conflict areas, what happened in the conflict areas, what is being done in conflict areas, and what is the thinking of the people in the conflict areas: such in turn have an impact on the perceptions of relatives and friends overseas, the Diaspora, and the international community at large.
Hence, perception management must be accorded top priority in any effort to engage the Diaspora and reap the benefits of true reconciliation. Effecting a strong and credible visibility strategy of national progress, plans and challenges is critical to perception management. Additionally, documentation and visibility will serve the larger purpose of measuring progress and identifying gaps to be filled, thereby providing direction for taking the nation-building and reconciliation agenda forward.

INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT : AN OFFICE OF DIASPORA AFFAIRS
The final report of the LLRC recommends that the Government constitute a Multi – Disciplinary Task Force that will include representatives from the Presidential Secretariat, External Affairs, Defense, Foreign Employment, the Private Sector, and Academia, to propose a programme of action to harness the untapped potential of the expatriate community, and to respond to the concerns of the so-called ‘hostile diaspora groups,’ and to engage them constructively with the Government and other stakeholders involved in the reconciliation process.
There may be merit in going one step further to recommend the setting up of a specially designated Office of Diaspora Affairs. The roles and responsibility of the Office must include the emphasis on highlighting the importance of Diaspora engagement in reconstruction and capacity-building; and an identification and assessment of Diaspora organizations and individuals, and contributions they can make towards reconciliation, peacebuilding and nation-building. It must be stressed that Diaspora contributions ought not be only limited to the financial or commercial, but also include technical and professional expertise. The Office must ensure that the Diaspora contribution match the needs, priorities and capacities that exist in the country.
The Office must also seek to encourage visits to Sri Lanka for disillusioned members of the Diaspora community to make assessments for themselves on what is taking place and what remains to be done, and more importantly, how they themselves need to be a part of the country’s plans and future. Every effort should be made to build loyalty and seek to neutralize and counter hostility, misperceptions and grudges, real or otherwise.

FORMS OF INVOLVEMENT AND ENGAGEMENT
Forms of Diaspora engagement that are likely to be most beneficial for the long-term development of the country must be identified. Leveraging Remittance for development purposes can be through investment in real estate, capital markets, BONDS, and a Diaspora Trust Fund which would enable those in the Diaspora to invest in specific development initiatives such as infrastructure and agriculture development, health or education facilities or even shareholders of new private enterprises in the country.

THE ROLE OF OUR EMBASSIES AND HIGH COMMISSIONS
Countering negative propaganda: The opportunities that our foreign missions have to directly engage with members of the Diaspora communities places them in a critical position of being able to provide information on the situation prevailing in the country, governmnet plans and progress. However, it must be mentioned that no attempt to subvert the importance of addressing remaining issues in our post-war efforts must be made. The positive developments together with the success stories of hope must be emphasized with every effort given to actively engage and discuss specific and particular concerns that remain.
Overcome inadequate information about trading opportunities: This will include providing market information, supplying matching and referral services, facilitating the process whereby migrants forge host and source country bilateral trade and investment. The Diaspora can be an important source as well as facilitator of research and innovation, technology transfer and skills development. Our missions can play a critical role in encouraging such transactions and garnering the necessary interest.

THE BENEFITS
In addition to the all-important contribution to the stability of the nation and political future of the country, the Diaspora could be invaluable to supplement local capacities through the formation of a global exchange of knowledge. Admittedly, a remaining challenge is that no government mapping of Diaspora exists, current data is mainly based on those who register with embassies and high commissions. Nevertheless, the existing networks can provide a critical mass of professional peer-review, an effective mechanism for keeping in touch with frontier knowledge and a cost effective means for specialized training and skills formation.
Ultimately, the dividends of successful engagement with the Diaspora communitites will be felt by the country both locally through an improvement in relationships between communities and increased national unity and stability while contributing towards positive international positioning. Diaspora engagement is by no means a small or easy task but it is one that cannot be overlooked any further in any effort to take the country forward towards genuine reconciliation.

By Salma Yusuf; salmayusuf@gmail.com
Source: Daily mirror July 17 2012 & Ceylon Today July 19 2012

Role of Youth Leadership in Reconciliation

Peacebuilder Pushpi Weerakoon is no stranger to the Conflict Transformation field and is well loved among many youth groups and civil societies. She is a trained Mediator from Harvard University with an MA in Conflict Transformation from the Eastern Mennonite University. Pushpi also holds an MBA from University of Wales and specializes in International and Commercial Law from University of Buckingham. In 2011 Pushpi was honoured with the Rotary National Peace Award. I caught up with her while she was been busy doing what she does best providing ‘service above self’ as a Rotarian and as the Coordinator at the National Reconciliation Secretariat at the Presidential Secretariat headed by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP, the Reconciliation adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Q: How do you coordinate these numerous number of service projects?
A: I work through a multi-talented diverse network I have build myself ever since schooling at St Bridget’s Convent, Colombo which kept growing as I attended several universities and then worked as a Conflict Transformer across continents. The experience of having worked in the humanitarian field since 2003, seeing the volatile ground reality, change of attitudes among the victims and offenders during and post conflict, I believe broadened my understanding and sensitize me towards the deeper needs of the beneficiaries. Presently when I identify a need to be fulfilled I appeal to my network with a project proposal emphasizing on the urgency of the need and take the initiative to liaise among the different stakeholders to get the project rolling. Remember what requires to initiate a good service project is an idea/ a good solution to the identified issue and a good communication strategy to get this idea across to the right forum/individual.

Getting these two correct will automatically lead you to the resources and funds required to implement it. It is important that the solution sought is agreed upon and promoted by the consensus of the beneficiaries and the contributing stakeholders to achieve a sense of ownership and to sustain the project. You also do not have to belong to the same sector your initiating the project in, all you need is a like-minded, energetic support group who believes in you and the cause you set out to achieve. Also master the art of networking through social media. Spreading the word by Ping, Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Linkedin and interactive websites goes a long way. Give credits where its due. We humans loves to be acknowledged. That self satisfaction most of the time by itself is a huge motivation to keep doing selfless service! Finally and most importantly be confident, believe in yourself to make that change you want to see.

Pushpi with Prof John Paul Lederach

Q: How do you understand the idea of ‘reconciliation’?
A: My guru, the father of conflict transformation, Prof. John Paul Lederach calls it “a meeting ground where trust and mercy have met, and where justice and peace have kissed.” In simpler terms, it’s about bringing people together to move them beyond the past through re-establishing trust and normalcy, forgiving each other, in a justifiable society where the previous belligerents would be able to co-exist peacefully. In Sri Lanka, a successful reconciliation process would pave way to victims and offenders of both the main fractions of the conflict not only to co-exist peacefully but also to work for the betterment of our next generation. It should rekindle mutual respect among ethnicities such as Sinhala and Tamil and also among different fractions of single ethnicities such as Northern and Southern Tamils and Muslims.

All communities should accept ex-combatants/beneficiaries, military and the Police, war widows and disabled into their localities with open arms. There should be a positive atmosphere for the natural day-to-day activities to progress without fear and prejudice. Most importantly the youth who are cut off from the rest of the country for over two decades and made to think the southerners were of different nature, must mingle together and share their values and cultures to disperse the misunderstandings. Youth Leadership is imperative to Reconcile a nation. Even though such a process will never be achieved overnight, even small steps taken without delay could lay a foundation for a lasting relation.

Q: Why is youth leadership imperative to reconcile a nation?
A: Youths are not just our future but also our ‘present’, in the literal sense a ‘gift’. The energy, vibrancy and the intellect of them is the key to drive the Sri Lankan Reconciliation and the Development process forward . They should take the initiative to re establish the relations among the diverse communities in the North, East and South by way of building bridges through sharing of resources, cultures, values, lifestyles and thought processors which would bring about attitudinal change within to help recognize the richness of the diversity. It is very important our youth understand the true history of our nation, why conflicts/internal struggle took place, the stakeholders and their hidden agendas and the power dimensions which rekindled the armed struggle. Knowing the true history will make you understand why still a certain sector of our society feel deprived and unheard. It is this feeling that we should work at to diminish.

As citizens of Sri Lanka inspite of our ethnicity, religion or cast we must all have a sense of belonging with the feeling of been respected and heard. We must understand that this cannot be achieved by Development alone, there must be a ‘meeting of minds’ through educational, vocational and service programs. I’ve also witnessed many a times our youths explaining to their elders that naming and shaming is not the way forward.

This is true, we must be open minded and understand the positive results of the current reintegration system. We must not just advocate but also be sensitive to the adoption of restorative approaches with the understanding that the victim and the community have both been effected by the action of the extremist LTTE and that we must help the ex-combatants to make amends with both the victim and the community while healing the trauma of the victim and meeting the offenders needs. This I’m sure as my adviser, grandfather of Restorative Justice, Prof Howard Zehr would agree with me would not only contribute to the co-existence of the victims and ex combatants side by side but also positively contribute to the economic and social development in our ongoing nation building process. With the innovative ideas and projects initiated by the network of youths and civil societies I work with today, this process of achieving a mutual understanding and building a nationally agreed social perception for a peaceful co-existence is becoming a reality.

Pushpi & Prof Howard Zehr


Q: What are some of the pressing issues that needs to be addressed in the North?

A: In Vavuniya and Kilinochchi apart from infrastructure development such as roads and housing for returning IDPs there is an urgent need for safe houses (currently the only safe house available is in Jaffna) for young unmarried mothers, education on sexual and reproductive health, medical supplies, income generating activities for war widows and disabled, education and vocational training for youths, English and Maths teachers, extracurricular and sports activities and religious/cultural exchange programmes in the schools, Tamil speaking Women Police Constables, human rights training for Police and Army and security for all including ex-combatants. In a more broader context there is also a grave need to find a solution for the Muslims evicted from the North as far back as 1990 and give serious effect to the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution in 1987 which made both Sinhala and Tamil the official languages. In a more practical sense it should be compulsory for at least two national languages and maths to be passed in O/L s and to sing the national anthem both in Sinhala and Tamil to have a continuous dialogue, understanding and acceptance among the different ethnicities.

Q: Have you initiated activities to address these issues?

A: Yes. There are many programmes in the pipeline. Right now I’m in the process of bringing together the Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors to set up a vocational centre in the North with the help of Aide Et Action, Archmage Co and US Diaspora. I have also looked into the possibility of reviving a vocational training centre in Elenkopurm village in Theravil GN in PTK and a cultural centre in Trincomalee through the contribution of diplomats. The Rotary National Youth Exchange programme which brought students from North to cities in the South is set to launch its 2nd phase to take students from the South to North and improve the projects implemented by the students in the 1st phase. I’m also liaising with a US College in Boston to help conduct English classes. Prof Rajiva Wijesinha and Rotary International President Kalyanjee has discussed the possibilities of investing in training teachers.

Rotary club of Colombo Mid Town has adopted the Learn and Lead scholarship programme which provided scholarships to underprivileged students especially in the conflict affected areas to study in reputed institutes. Rotary clubs are also looking into the possibilities of rehabilitating war victims by providing artificial limbs. We are also in the 2nd stage of conducting the Rotary National Thalassemia awareness campaign which was supported by NPIP Entertainments and in addition to this I’m setting up the National Crohns and Colitis Association. I’m also currently in conversation with authorities to provide vocational training in rehabilitation centres for Juvenile victims. A group of Indian Rotarians have also expressed their interest to conduct medical camps in North.

The Reconciliation secretariat have begun to establish Reconciliation units in districts and clubs in schools. These school clubs have already begun to reach out to their sister or brother schools in the North by way of publishing joint newspapers, cultural and vocational programmes. We also have an active Civil Society and a Youth Forum which brings together diplomats, principals, NGOs, INGOs, Rotary clubs and Youths to provide solutions for pressing social issues.

The Secretariat has also proposed a National Policy on Reconciliation with emphasis on the need of establishing an independent; institute to seek redress stemming from deficiencies in the system of administration and lack of good governance that affect all citizens regardless of ethnicity, Public Service Commission to ensure that there is no political interference in the public service and that recruitment and promotions in the public service are in conformity with the equality provisions in the constitution.

We also strongly propose there be independence of the judiciary and the Police with regard to the appointment process and functioning, and to make the public service and the police inclusive of all communities with special attention to ensuring adequate representation of the population in any area. I’m confident that through all of these service projects and proposed policies we’d be able to reach out to those who felt marginalized and direct our hearts and minds toward sustainable peace as the Rotary International President Elect Sakuji Tanaka has set out the new theme to be.

Q: You have received full sports colours while in school and have also played for the university. Haven’t you thought of using sports to bring youths together?
A: Why not! All of the Youth Exchange programmes and workshops includes a component of sport. The Rotary National Youth Exchange participants from Mullaitivu, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Vavuniya and Jaffna had a wonderful time and made new friends by playing cricket, Football, Volleyball, Basketball and Elle at Royal College Colombo. We used swimming as a relaxing exercise to wound up an exhausted day filled with lectures and meetings. At some of these sessions we did come across naturally talented uncut gems. Due to less sporting facilities in the schools many have not been able to pursue their dreams much further (One of the students in this group used a bamboo stick to practice high jump and represented his school at the Nationals last year). The Reconciliation Secretariat is hoping the sister/brother school adoption programme of Southern schools by Northern schools will initiate many sporting events as much as other resource sharing events.

Q: So the future is bright?
A: Of course! but remember it’s up to us to make it as bright as we want it to be. Peace is something we must work for even reconciliation is an ongoing process. The government, civil societies, private sector, media, youths and the rest of the citizens including the diaspora must play their respective roles in making this process a success. It’s not something one sector could achieve. The root cause of the ethnic conflict could lie in the failure of successive governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people, a political solution would be imperative to address the causes of the conflict but rather than pointing fingers and waiting till the other do it, we should individually take it upon ourselves to contribute in whatever way we can. Every little bit adds up. A collective peace achieved would have a longer life span since the many stakeholders having a sense of ownership would also be the guardians of it.

Interviewed by Daria White (A Bulgarian national, Ms White is a Phd candidate at James Madison University who also holds an MA in Conflict Transformation specializing in Peacebuilding and Trauma Healing from the Eastern Mennonite University USA)

Source; http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/04/03/fea03.asp

Livelihood initiatives by Save the Children

Amongst the many efforts to promote initiatives as well as livelihoods in the North is a project run by Save the Children in Akkarayan, Killinochchi. It is funded by Swedish International Development Agency.  The project targeted 900 resettled families with children in the Northern region.

Jeyakumar , a beneficiary of the project, received Rs 50,000 to invest in his business of producing gram snacks. Save the Children also provides technical assistance to the beneficiaries through its field staff, while assessing progress.

Packing Gram crackers

He earns above Rs 25,000 per month from the business, and is keen on saving to buy his own land.

Though not educated beyond grade 6, Jeyakumar is maintaining accounts very well. His wife Pavalarani helps him with preparation of snacks and maintaining their hygine.

Their children, Thanushanthan (13), Kopinath ( 11) and Jeyanthan (7) are doing very well in school, although they have had a difficult life.

“I like to become as a good entrepreneur and my aspiration is to provide at least 10 job opportunities for the people of my village.  And also I would like to provide financial and moral support to my children to achieve their aims.” Jeyakumar said.

Goods ready to be transported

Jeyakumar , a beneficiary of the project, received Rs 50,000 to invest in his business of producing gram snacks. Save the Children also provides technical assistance to the beneficiaries through its field staff, while assessing progress.

He earns above Rs 25,000 per month from the business, and is keen on saving to buy his own land.
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Democratizing reconciliation – from rhetoric to reality

Whoever said that demand must drive supply was certainly not talking about reconciliation. However, the relevance and applicability of the philosophy and its wisdom in a post-war reconciliation setting cannot be overstated.
After all, reconciliation is as important a goal as it is a process. While Government efforts in post-war rehabilitation, reintegration, and reconstruction have been commendable for the most part, there remains a need for ensuring that the dividends of such efforts are sustained and lead to a meaningful transformation in the lives of those affected by conflict.
While my previous writings in these pages have called for State-led programmes of reconciliation, it is imperative that such initiatives be informed by the needs and aspirations of communities they are intended to reach. Accordingly, the strengthening of both local mechanisms and processes of consultation of grassroots communities becomes paramount.
WHITHER DEMOCRACY?
The democratic process of involving those affected in decisions that will ultimately affect their own lives serves an immediate purpose in itself – it rebuilds confidence in the State while creating a sense of connection to the country, which will go a long way in deterring the resurgence of conflict. Consequently, generating ownership of such programmes amongst the communities will lead to increased buy-in and thereby up the chances of successful implementation of the initiatives undertaken. This will, in turn, ensure sustainability of the dividends of the initiatives, lead to empowerment of previously vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities, kindle renewed hope in the future, while throughout fostering independence and self-sufficiency in the individuals and communities concerned.
That said, it must be cautioned, that while such consultations and discussions should be held regularly they must also seek to be inclusive and engage all ethnic communities and groups concerned, the reverse of which could be disastrous in that they will only reinforce and entrench previous perceptions of discrimination and marginalization, descending into a new spiral of conflicts.
FEELING THE REGIONAL PULSE
n this regard, it is worth considering the recently set up District and Divisional Reconciliation Committees in the conflicted-affected regions of Jaffna, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.
In the past few months several meetings have been convened seeing the participation of Assistant District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries, Grama Niladharis, representatives of Rural Development Societies, School Principals, religious leaders, police officials, medical personnel and officials concerned with social support mechanisms.
While these meetings and consultations have been limited in their ability to effect change, the participants at the meeting have expressed appreciation at being heard and listened to, which is in itself a valuable tool for conflict transformation.
Through meetings held thus far, the following have been identified as key issues requiring immediate attention: liaison between Women and Children Desks at Police Stations and officials concerned with Social Service, Probation, Counselling, and Women and Child Development; better training for Counsellors and Awareness Programmes for students and single women households:The need to promote employment opportunities was stressed throughout, but it is noteworthy that requests were for micro-credit facilities and the establishment of cooperatives rather than simply a demand for government jobs; Tunukai and Manthai East Divisions in the Mullaitivu district require urgent attention in the transport sector, with particular need for government run buses – the lack of which has affected productivity and economic growth in the area as officials arrive late at work as private transport services are not always dependable.
Accordingly, weekly meetings in the following three sectors with relevant actors and group representations present must be proposed: Livelihood and Development Meetings – Government officials should make clear what has already been provided and announcing future plans of actions whilst encouraging prioritization of requests. The focus should be on ensuring that support is directed towards ensuring the economic empowerment of the population rather than perpetuating dependency; Protection – This should involve Women’s Societies and the police, with the particular involvement of Women’s and Children’s Desks, which should be established in at least every DS Division. The creation of support groups, for counselling as well as protection, should be considered, with the meeting taking cognizance of those in vulnerable situations. The meetings would be additionally usefel in terms of leading towards closer cooperation with the police, which would in turn enable swift redress in cases of criminal activity, but also advice and warning when dangers are anticipated. Particular attention should be paid to former combatants to promote their active integration into community life; Social and Cultural Activities: This should involve Education as well as Cultural officials. Youth and Sports Groups, the police and Civil Affairs officers from the army may also be invited. The aim of the cultural and social activities should be such that they serve the community while bringing people together.
EMPOWERING THE STATE ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE
The value in empowering the smallest possible units in the state’s administrative structure cannot be overstated, for the greater the reach to the grassroots communities, the higher the chance that needs will be met. In this regard, strengthening the capacities, both structurally and functionally, of Divisional Secretariats and Grama Niladhari Divisions will be of extreme benefit. There is a need to make understandable to Grama Niladharis and Divisional Secretaries a clear list of duties, and specifications as to the consultations needed, together with reports that ought to be prepared – a worrying lack of such knowledge was revealed at the recent meetings. Additionally, and not less importantly, in post-war contexts such as Sri Lanka, there ought to be put in place by such officials the number of individuals displaced during the time of war, numbers of those returned, and finally what had been received and what the specific needs of each group and individuals were. While such an approach of local consultation, participation and ownership will serve communities well, they will also provide higher benefits for the State. It will ensure accountability, transparency of processes and goals, inform international aid programmes, ensure effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of programme benefits, increase confidence in the citizenry of the State which will undoubtedly improve the relationship between the two and thereby strengthening the social contract, and hence contributing to a new culture, structure and system of governance.
IMPLEMENTATION OF LLRC AND NHRAP
With much talk of the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) being put in place, a similar democratic process of consultation and ownership should be mobilized.
Any measures taken to design programmes to implement the LLRC and NHRAP should meet the following objectives to ensure optimum impact in the lives of the Sri Lankan people: To bring the initiatives of the LLRC and the NHRAP to the people, and to promote ownership of the Commission by the people of Sri Lanka – the first step towards achieving such would be to have the LLRC and NHRAP reports officially translated into Sinhala and Tamil languages and widely disseminated to the citizenry islandwide; to enable Sri Lankans to identify the causes of disunity among themselves; to enable the Sri Lankan people to actively participate in generating solutions to the problem of disunity – forums at the local levels to engage different groups and communities can achieve this by being both a means and an end to achieving a sense of togetherness and solidarity; through such discussion there will be a recognition and acknowledgment of the problems faced by the ‘other’ while at the same time generate momentum towards finding solutions together; to enable the Sri Lankan people to set-up structures and channels through which unity and reconciliation programmes can be channelled – local government units are well placed to play a critical role in this regard; and to consult with the people themselves on how to steer the country to a more productive path towards a range of developmental socioeconomic activities, including wealth generation, culture, sport and development of a positive national identity.
While the recently set up District and Division Reconciliation Committees are an important step in the right direction, they need to be formalized and strengthened further by a range of measures that facilitate a swift access to redress, including being connected to service providers. Such will pave the way for a new culture, structure and system of governance, renewing the social contract and improving the relationship between citizens and the state. It is only through the democratization of such national processes and mechanisms that the benefits envisaged will percolate to the people of Sri Lanka, translating the rhetoric into reality. This is a matter that cannot afford to be delayed any further. The time for action is now.
By Salma Yusuf: salmayusuf@gmail.com
Source:http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/172-opinion/19540-democratizing-reconciliation–from-rhetoric-to-reality.html