Moving forward after the recent Provincial Council election results

The results of the recent Provincial Council elections represent both an Opportunity and a Threat. For the government it also made clear both its Strengths and its Weaknesses. Whether however government is willing to, or capable of, making the sort of SWOT analysis that will enable it to go down to history as one that brought peace and prosperity to Sri Lanka remains doubtful.

The Opportunity presented was by the Northern Province. Though the TNA swept the poll, the voters have expressed a marked preference for the moderates amongst them. The choice of Justice Wigneswaran, which was welcomed by pluralists in the South, turns out to have been entirely justified, given how overwhelmingly he topped the preferential vote.

It is true that, during the campaign, he engaged in rhetoric that seemed to suggest sympathy for terrorism. But, as I told a friend who seemed unduly worried about this, having gone out on a limb as it were in approbation of the Wigneswaran candidature, such rhetoric cannot be avoided in such elections. DBS Jeyaraj, the most perceptive of Tamil journalists, had pointed out the possible danger of this, given that Wigneswaran had been nominated against the wishes, not only of extremists, but also of those in Jaffna who would have preferred a man of the area.

Jeyaraj, I think understandably, worried about whether Wigneswaran would become a victim of his own rhetoric, something that has happened to so many politicians in Sri Lanka, including sadly Mr Bandaranaike and Mr Chelvanayakam. But the reason I remain optimistic about Wigneswaran is that, even while he was breathing fire on the campaign trail, he was enunciating a very moderate and sensible point of view internationally, as in the brave interview he gave to the ‘Hindu’. In that he made it clear that excessive interference by politicians from Tamilnadu was not at all helpful.

His forthrightness there is the more to be admired because the bane of Tamil politics has been the tendency to be influenced by outside factors. As I told the British Foreign Office in 2009 (before the Ministry of External Affairs became paranoid about me, and inhibited such contact), they had every reason to tell us to talk to the Tamils of Sri Lanka. This we ourselves needed and wanted to do. But to preach to us about talking to the TGTE was outrageous, and indicative of their own selfish electoral interests rather than the concerns of Sri Lankan Tamils. Even Mr Sambandan, who is I think a good man, but weak, has tended to follow foreign advice, with disastrous consequences, as I believe happened when he advocated support for Sarath Fonseka in the 2010 Presidential election. I don’t think Mr Wigneswaran, though he will be forthright in pushing for rights and equitable benefits for the people of the North, will make that sort of mistake. Continue reading

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Commonwealth Secretariat, Human Rights Commission of SL and Reconciliation

Workshop in Vavuniya

The Commonwealth Secretariat organized  a workshop for staff of our Human Rights Commission and invitees  last week.  The objectives  were facilitate to identify HRC’s role in contributing to the country’s on-going national reconciliation process;  share  experiences and best practices of  ‘A’ accredited NHRIs in contributing to the reconciliation processes of their own countries; facilitate discussions between the HRCSL staff, NGOs, grassroots organizations, community and religious leaders, and senior local administrative officials in the areas directly affected by the former conflict to reach consensus on a collaborative project/s on how to contribute to the on-going reconciliation process AND  raise awareness among the Commissioners and staff on how the direct involvement of the HRCSL in the reconciliation process may improve its effectiveness, independence and authority under the Paris Principles.

Status of HRC

Our HR Commission was granted Status ‘A’ in 2000 by the ICC. In 2007 it was downgraded to a’ B’ Status by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the International Co-ordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC). The ICC was established for the purpose of creating and strengthening national human rights institutions which are in conformity with the Paris Principles.

The Commonwealth and HRC

The Secretary-General in his Departure Statement issued in February from Colombo observed that bolstering the capacity (of the HRC)  involved in national reconciliation processes was an area of collaboration with the Secretariat.

In May,  the Chairperson of the HRCSL Justice Priyantha Perera and his delegation, which included the Commissioner in charge of the Inquiries and Investigations Division, and Regional Coordinators from Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa – met with the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General in London. They were in London to participate in the Commonwealth Roundtable on Reconciliation. The HRCSL delegation confirmed the areas in which they would appreciate Commonwealth Secretariat support and technical assistance such as – support for the HRCSL to determine its role, as the national human rights institution, in national reconciliation efforts including making firm recommendations to the government on the fast-tracking of issues around language; making public high profile cases of disappearances and sharing the reports widely; engaging in advocacy with government and Parliament around counting and naming the dead; commencing engagement with government on issues of memorialization.

The UN on Role of NHRI’s

The UN Manual on “National Human Rights Institutions: History, Principles, Roles and Responsibilities”  on the role of NHRIs in post conflict situations, describes that NHRIs can play both a preventive and a restorative role in such circumstances.

“Reconciliation may ensure that people, especially those that have experienced violations, are able to voice their feelings, experiences and expectations. It may support the rehabilitation of combatants and their reintegration into society. And it helps to create an environment where people can live together again. Ensuring justice may serve to deal with past abuses so as to ensure that there is no impunity for gross human rights abuse.” Continue reading

Vallipuram Temple holds Its Ther Festival

2013_09_21_2A massive crowd of devotees gathered at Vallipuram Sri Alvai temple to pay homage to Lord Vishnu on the day of Ther festival held on 18th September. People offered Pooja and cried “Aro Hara” as the effigy of deity is taken in a gaily decorated cart in a grand procession.

On initiative of Commander Security Forces-Jaffna (SF-J) Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, an Air Force helicopter showered petals of flowers on the sacred cart and the temple from the sky magnifying the glamour of the event.

Commander SF-J Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe along with senior officers of the 52 Division attended a special Pooja on Wednesday (18) to get blessing of Lord Vishnu for Security Forces members serving in Jaffna.

Continue reading