Deutsche Welle – Colombo ‘failing to engage’ with Tamil minority

Five years after the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war, there are few signs of a government-led reconciliation, MP Rajiva Wjesinha tells DW, arguing that mistrust and suspicion have only grown stronger.

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Shortly after the Sri Lankan army defeated the separatist “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” in May 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared an end to the country’s bloody civil war which had lasted more than 25 years during that period claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people.

Five years after the end of the separatist conflict, Sri Lanka is still struggling with reconciliation between the majority Sinhala community and the Tamil minority. International human rights organizations hold the army as well as the LTTE-separatists responsible for crimes committed during the civil war. UN High commissioner Navi Pillay has repeatedly criticized the government in Colombo for having failed to establish a “credible national process to address abuses.” As a result the UN Human Rights Council recently decided to launch an independent international investigation of human rights violations during the war.

In a DW interview, Rajiva Wijesinha, a member of the Sri Lankan parliament for the ruling coalition, says the government is not paying enough attention to the needs of people in the former war zones and welcomes advice from countries “which have not been unfairly critical” of the Sri Lankan government’s reconciliation approach. Continue reading

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Reconciliation and the role of India

Reconciliation and the role of India

Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

At the Observatory Research Foundation

Delhi, December 13th 2013

I must admit to being deeply worried about the current state of relations between India and Sri Lanka. I contrast this with the excellent situation that obtained in 2009, when India was the chief component of the protective barrier against efforts to stop us eradicating terrorism from our shores. One might have thought that this was a goal the whole world would have supported, but sadly this is not an ideal world and countries will naturally put their own self interest first. Fortunately, not only did India’s interests coincide with our own at that stage, but given the terrible toll terrorism funded by external sources was taking on both our countries, I think it is also true to say that we worked in accordance with the highest moral perspectives.

But the aim we shared then, of eradicating terrorism on our shores, went hand in hand with another commitment, which was the promotion of pluralism in Sri Lanka. This again is a moral goal, but it also has a practical dimension, in that the full incorporation of the Tamil people in the body politic in Sri Lanka would have reduced the potential for future terrorism.

Sadly Sri Lanka has not pursued the Reconciliation process with the commitment it requires. Given its urgency I believe we should try to understand the reasons for this, and try to overcome them. In this process India has a significant role to play.

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Getting the balance right – David Cameron and foreign relations

Soon after David Cameron had left Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times in England published a satirical piece about his visit. It accused him of behaving like a public school prefect and treating the Sri Lankan President like a fag, a junior schoolboy who was at his beck and call.

Cameron’s was certainly a brilliant performance, full of British bravado. Having decided, correctly in my view, that he would attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, he had to contend with the anger of those who have in effect been running British policy with regard to Sri Lanka, which has been deeply negative about our success in overcoming terrorism in this country. He had therefore to put in an aggressive performance to keep them happy, and this he certainly did.

I do not mean only the extremist members of the diaspora, who have been enormously successful in lobbying British politicians where it matters. Having concentrated their attentions initially on Labour, and obtained brilliant results through David Miliband, they were quick to switch in 2010 when the Conservatives won, while the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry floundered, and did not even bother to appoint a High Commissioner to England for a lengthy period.

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Towards Reconciliation

Rajiva Wijesinha

Adviser on Reconciliation to HE the President

 

Four years after the conclusion of conflict, Sri Lanka still has a long way to go to achieve Reconciliation. This is unfortunate, given the enormous efforts made by government to improve facilities for the people most affected by war. But it is not surprising that, as indicated by the results of the last election held in the Northern Province, we have failed to win hearts and minds.

That would not have been difficult had a concerted effort been made. But this requires planning, and unfortunately planning is not something Sri Lanka has been good at. For over three decades now, we have tended to respond to events or rather to crises. The one exception was the care with which, in the period after 2005, we approached the conflict, with all branches of government working together and care taken to ensure the dissemination of clear and convincing information. Following the conclusion of the conflict however all that broke down, and propaganda, often based on parochial electoral considerations, took over, with little attempt at intelligent analysis of ground realities.

Thus we seemed to believe that reconstruction alone would suffice, and reconstruction that placed a premium on cement rather than people. This is on par with the worst delusions of capitalism as elevated into a political philosophy, the assumption that prosperity will trickle down. But this does not work, and Sri Lanka may in the end have to pay heavily for the failure to conceptualize with sensitivity of those who took on responsibility only for construction and not for consultation, who concentrated only on resettlement and not rather on restoration.

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Statement by Tamara Kunanayakam at the 68th session of the General Assembly Third Committee -28/10/2013

Statement by Tamara Kunanayakam

 

 CHAIRPERSON-RAPPORTEUR OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT

68th session of the General Assembly Third Committee

Item 69 (b) of the provisional agenda Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms

28 October 2013

 New York

Mr. Chairperson,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to address you in my capacity as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development. It is the first time that the Assembly has invited me to present an oral report, instead of an update, of the 14th session of the Working Group, and to engage in an interactive dialogue with the Third Committee. I thank you for this invitation.

  Continue reading

The numbers game: counting civilian deaths in Sri Lanka’s war

Estimating the number of civilian deaths in the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka is proving problematic.

By Kath Noble

The generation-long war in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009, with the military defeat of the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces. Tamil diaspora groups claimed there had been genocide, but the dominant narrative was of a bloody but essentially fair fight, as captured in the congratulatory resolution passed in the UN Human Rights Council barely a week later.

Even the United States, which backed an alternative and more critical statement, privately felt the same way—a cable published by Wikileaks quotes its Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues as having said at around the same time, ‘The Army could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.’

However, this near-consensus has gradually been eroded, and pressure is now mounting for an international investigation.

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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

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights met Hon. Governor, EP

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 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Her Excellency Ms. Navanethan Pillay met Hon. Governor, Eastern Province Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama on 28th August 2013 at Governor’s Secretariat in Trincomalee.

H.E. Mr. Ravinatha Ariyasinha, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN Office at Geneva, UN High Commissioners’ delegation and the Officials of the GoSL also present at the event.

A discussion on the development of Eastern Province after the conflict was held at this meeting.

http://www.ep.gov.lk/DetailsEventnew.asp?lan=0&eid=308

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay visits Northern Province

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Her Excellency Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commission for Human Rights arrived in Sri Lanka on a 7 day official visit. She was accompanied by five senior officials of the UN Human Right Council.

During her tour to the north part of Sri Lanka, she met Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri at his office in Jaffna on 27th August 2013 and had discussion regarding the current situation of the province. Governor G A Chandrasiri had a breakfast meeting with UN High Commissioner and briefed the main development and reconciliation activities which took place after the end of hostilities in 2009.

Governor gave a clear explanation to the questions raised by UN High Commissioner for human rights especially on resettlement, rehabilitation and land issues.

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UNHCR recommendations accepted by Sri Lanka to improve Human Rights

1. Consider ratifying the Palermo Protocol on human trafficking. (Philippines)


2.
Make further efforts to ratify other relevant international instruments that are vital to the promotion and protection of Human Rights, in keeping with its national capacity and priority. (Cambodia)


3.
Continue efforts to implement the National Action Plan for the protection and promotion and human rights. (Bahrain)


4.
Expedite action to implement the agreed Action Plan in line with the spirit of the LLRC through a process inclusive of all people belonging to all ethnicity. (Bangladesh)


5.
Steady implementation of the National Action Plan for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as well as the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. (Japan)


6.
Take all steps to strengthen and ensure the independence of the National Human Rights Commission. (Germany)


7.
Ensure structural and operational independence of the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. (Maldives)


8.
Strengthen the independence of institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Police Commission and Election Commission. (Norway)


9.
Take action to facilitate greater participation by citizens and civil society in helping to implement human rights action plans. (Australia)


10.
Maintain and strengthen cooperation with various UN mechanisms, as well as financial institutions to overcome the challenges faced in the peace and national reconciliation process. (Benin)


11.
Share with the international community its experiences in rehabilitating and reintegrating former LTTE child soldiers. (Cuba)


12.
Prioritize the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. (Italy)


13.
Provide greater cooperation to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to accomplish its work. (Ecuador)


14.
Ensure women’s participation in the post-conflict, reconstruction and peace building process. (Finland)


15.
Adopt necessary measures to ensure that gender equality is a legal and practical reality, combating particularly gender violence.(Spain)


16.
Criminalize all forms of violence against women and hold the perpetrators of such violence accountable. (South Africa)


17.
Increase efforts on strengthening protection of children’s rights in such areas as child labour, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation. (Iran)


18.
Consider incorporating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, otherwise known as the “Bangkok Rules“ as part of its work on the treatment of prisoners. (Thailand)


19.
Fully and transparently investigate alleged grave breaches of international humanitarian law during the conflict. (UK)


20.
Take necessary measures to bring to justice and prosecute perpetrators of violations of the international human rights law and humanitarian Law. (Chile)


21.
Take necessary steps to ensure that all detainees are afforded a fair trial within a reasonable period. (Ireland)


22.
Continue to carry out the policy aimed at improving the judicial system, reforming law enforcement bodies and decreasing the level of crime and corruption. (Russia)


23.
Carry out an independent and credible investigation on the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. (Switzerland)


24. 
Ensure legal ownership and return or restitution of houses and lands to internally displaced persons, according to international standards. (Holy See)


25.
Remain committed to sustainable economic and social development, further promote national reconciliation, and achieve stability and development in the country. (China)