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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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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Counting the Dead and Paying the Cost

The Daily Mirror reported last week that between November 30 and December 10, the government would carry out a census of those who were killed or who had disappeared, during the war years – July 1983 to May 2009. The subject dealt elsewhere in writings as the numbers game.

LLRC

For those affected or accused it is no game. The impact is quite serious. The LLRC recommended were ,’ Conduct a professionally designed household survey covering all affected families in all parts of the island to ascertain first hand the scale and circumstances of death and injury to civilians, as well as damage to property during the period of the conflict.

The progress has been – Using data on ‘Population and Housing Census 2012′ covering the entire country including North and East Provinces for the first time since 1981, Department of Census and Statistics is taking following initial steps to conduct a survey on affected families.

Steering committee comprising senior officers of relevant Ministries and Agencies meets fortnightly to discuss activities related to the census on death/injuries to persons and property damages due to conflict.

The methodology suitable to conduct the census was devised and data collection forms were designed. Both were pre-tested in selected GN divisions in Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa and Mullativu districts in order to cover different conflict situations since 1982.

The outcome of the pre-test was evaluated by DCS working group. Final draft to be submitted. Department of Census and Statistics is planning to conduct an Economic Survey covering entire country which will generate most of data on the affected families.

The second LLRC recommendations was to ,’Take all necessary measures for implementation of the [Registration of Deaths Act] at the administrative level.. Give adequate publicity to the relevant provisions of the Act through media, Grama Niladharis etc., especially in the conflict affected areas.’

The progress has been-During 2011, 37 and 761 deaths were registered in the Northern and Eastern Provinces respectively. In 2012, these numbers were 38 and 801. In addition, 29 mobile services were held during 2011 in various DSDs in North and East to issue death certificates. Services were also held in Mullaitivu District Secretariat in September 2012.

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