The National Peace Council (NPC)

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මාධ්‍ය නිවේදනය - 12.05.2015

තම සාධාරණ නියෝජනය සහතික කිරීමට කාන්තාවන් සඳහා කොටසක් වෙන් කිරීම

19 වන ආණ්ඩුක‍්‍රම ව්‍යවස්ථාව සංශෝධනය කිරීම්, මානව හිමිකම්, සාධාරණ නියෝජනය හා තුලනය හා වරණය පදනම් වූ ප‍්‍රතිපත්ති සඳහා වන දිගු ගමනක ආරම්භය වේ. මෙම කටයුත්ත සිදුකිරීමට මෛත‍්‍රිපාල සිරිසේන ජනාධිපතිතුමාගේ රාජ්‍ය තාන්ත‍්‍රිකත්වය හා අගමැති රනිල් වික‍්‍රමසිංහ මහතාගේ දැක්ම වැඩිපුර දායක වී ඇත. 19 වන ආණ්ඩුක‍්‍රම ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධනය පාර්ලිමේන්තුවේදී සම්මත වූයේ ඡුන්ද 212 කිනි. මීට විරුද්ධව ලැබුණේ එක් ඡුන්දයක් පමණි. මේ මගින් ජනාධිපතිවරයා අධිකරණයට හා පාර්ලිමේන්තුවට වගකිවයුතු අතර පක්ෂවාදී දේශපාලනයෙන් ස්වාධීන වූ රාජ්‍ය ආයතනවල ආත්ම ගරුත්වය සුරක්‍ෂිත කෙරිණි. මෙයට අධිකණය, පොලීසිය හා රාජ්‍ය සේවය ඇතුළත් වේ.

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CITIZENS PEACE AWARD FOR 2011 TO DR NIMALKA FERNANDO

The Citizens Peace Award for 2011 of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka has been awarded to Dr Nimalka Fernando, President of the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism.  In making this award to her, the National Peace Council considered the courage, commitment and leadership she has demonstrated in a consistent manner over a long period in working for human rights, people’s empowerment and justice for sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.   The awards ceremony took place on June 26, 2012 at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations & Strategic Studies in the presence of members of government, opposition, diplomatic community and long time colleagues and activists from civil society and grassroots communities.  (See video of the event on  http://vimeo.com/45087670  )

Nimalka Fernando is one of Sri Lanka’s best known human rights advocates both internationally and locally.  With a track record of social activism from her school days, and networking with civil society groups throughout the world, she has been a powerful civic voice for human rights, justice and peace.  She has addressed countless meetings with small groups throughout the country, as well as appeared on a large number of talk shows on national radio and television. She has shown it is possible for citizens to utilize their own unique strengths to work for their fellow citizens, individually and in association, and change hearts and minds.  Her forthright stands in favour of the application of international standards to issues of governance and accountability have earned the disfavour of successive governments and extreme nationalists.  Her example of dauntless courage and in speaking up and working for social causes she believes in has been a source of strength to civil society. 

The Citizens Peace Award was established in 2010 by the National Peace Council to honor and encourage those individuals in civil society who have demonstrated courage and consistency in the protection of and respect for human rights; peaceful settlement of disputes and promoting increased understanding between and among communities.  Other criteria considered included work in hostile conditions, sacrifices made and being a Sri Lankan citizen working within Sri Lanka.  The selection of the winner was by the nine member Board of Directors of NPC and ratified by its 19 member Governing Council. The prize is made possible by funds received from the Sakai City Government’s Peace Contribution Award, Soroptimist International of Osaka Izumi and the National Peace Council.

Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

PEOPLE’S RESOLUTION ON HUMANITARIAN ISSUES

Over the past two years the National Peace Council worked with over 700 members of inter-religious groups in 12 districts of the country, including the North and East.  These groups with the representation of religious clergy of all the main religions engaged in humanitarian initiatives to meet the needs of war affected women and children in particular.  On June 16, 2012 total of 164 representatives from the groups that have been participating in this process met in Colombo and gave their assent to a resolution which was born out of their first hand community level experiences.   The National Peace Council believes that this resolution is one that calls for the attention of the government and other decision makers.

It is important to note that those who ratified the resolution were religious clergy from all four major religious communities and their lay adherents.  The resolution that was approved at the conference therefore would be an expression of thinking from the community level itself.  It is an important indicator to the government of unfinished tasks in the area of resettlement and rebuilding of the lives of those affected by the war. While the resolution focused on the humanitarian needs of women and children who were affected by the war, it also showed that more needed to be done, especially where the political and human rights of the people were concerned.

Among their many observations they noted the lack of proper infrastructure for people who are being resettled, the high degree of military presence which vitiates civil administration, continuing abductions and disappearances, the problems of rehabilitated LTTE cadre in finding employment, the difficulties of those who have lost their family members in getting death certificates or even ascertaining what happened to them, continuing restrictions on fishing and farming activities due to military controls, the use of outside labour instead of utilizing the people of the area in infrastructure projects, the prevalence of social vices due to poverty and abuse of power, the need to utilize both Sinhala and Tamil languages in government offices and the utilization of land to serve commercial interests rather than those of the people.   (Please see full text of the resolution below and list of participants below)

The formulation of the resolution by the religious clergy, and their ability to agree on matters on which there is considerable controversy, is an indicator that it is possible to reach agreement on matters that affect the lives of people through a consultative process where there is goodwill and trust.  This will be a source of encouragement to the government and political authorities who need to engage with each other in political negotiations aimed at arriving at political solutions to the problems in the country.  The National Peace Council calls for the demonstration of political will by the political leaders of the country who are vested with the power of decision making to take heart from the receptivity of the people and engage in conflict resolution and problem solving that would meet the needs of the people.

Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

Resolutions for Improvement of Living Standards among Women and Children in Post-War Sri Lanka

(National Inter Religious Convention held at the Sri Sambuddha Mandira, Colombo 5 , June 16, 2012. Facilitated by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka with support from the European Union)


Overview

12 District Inter Religious Councils have been established in their respective areas including the North and East, comprising religious and civil society leaders, committed towards seeking humanitarian solutions to issues faced by women and children in post war Sri Lanka. Additionally a National Council has been established, along with 3 Provincial councils, comprising of religious and civil society leaders selected from their respective district committees. The Southern province council comprises of members from the Anuradhapura, Kurunegala, Matara, and Galle districts, while the Eastern province council comprises of members from the Polonaruwa, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara districts. The Northern Province council comprises of members from the Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, and Puttalam districts.

District Inter Religious Committees have gained significant information regarding the humanitarian needs of women and children in areas directly and indirectly affected by war, and have taken steps to channel their problems towards government representatives, members of the opposition, the business community and religious leaders. These Inter Religious Committees have been able to address some of the grievances in this regard.

Meanwhile a resolution, passed by 44 religious leaders and 59 civil society representatives at the Southern province inter religious convention on 28 April2012 was submitted to political leaders and religious leaders in the area. A separate resolution was formulated at the Northern Province inter religious convention, encompassing several recommendations made by members of the Northern province inter religious council, as well as a solutions formulated by the 48 religious leaders and 61 civil society leaders representing their respective councils. The resolution was passed on 12May 2012 in Mannar, and was presented to political and religious leaders in the Northern Province.

Issues faced by victims of war

We as members of the DIRC initiative, and religious leaders representing the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities, seek to promote democratic rights of all individuals regardless of national, language, and religious differences. Under the premise of a religious brotherhood we wish to make the following recommendation.

Observations and Proposed Solutions

1. Bringing normalcy to civilian life

The Council has identified the following issues, with regards to people presently living in war ravaged areas.

-Individuals being displaced from their land and property.

-Large groups of people remain displaced due to destruction of property during war, construction of military camps, demining operations, and acquiring of land for various security reasons. Large groups of people currently live in resettlement areas while certain others live with their relations. Over 10 000 people are still housed in welfare camps in the north. A similar situation exists within the Eastern province, though as not appalling as in the North.

People are being resettled in areas where there is an obvious lack of basic necessities and they are unable to fulfill their basic needs. Failing to uphold the rights of such people to live in a permanent residence has led to an overall erosion of civil life. Furthermore these people have lost their traditional livelihoods, as they have been resettled in areas far away from their original dwellings.

Military interferences on daily life

The military has a large presence on civil administration activities in the North, and consequently people feel a military presence in all social, cultural and religious activities organized within the area. The council feels that this is a detriment towards fostering a healthy civil society and an obstacle towards post war reconciliation.

Abductions and Disappearances

The Council sadly notes that 3 years after the conclusion of war there still surface reports of abductions and disappearances from the North and East. Those abducted include schoolchildren, which is most saddening.

Activities carried out by paramilitary groups

The Council points out that the functioning of armed gangs and paramilitary forces within the North and East has adversely affected civil society.

Loss of Life, and individuals faced with permanent disabilities

The Council also notes that there are large numbers of widowed families in the North and South who had lost their husbands and loved as a result of war. The council feels that justice should be served to these families.

Rehabilitation programs and Inmates in custody

Ex-combatants are held captive in the absence of sufficient evidence and their families are unable to receive information regarding them. Meanwhile, individuals getting released from government rehabilitation centers face a problem of securing employment.

Loss of personal documents

Individuals who have lost family members during the war face a problem of obtaining death certificates, and consequently are unable to show ownership to their land. Moreover, others who had lost important personal documents such as marriage certificates and Birth certificates also face a problem in this regard.

The following proposals are aimed at addressing the above mentioned issues as well as programs to ensure normalcy within the civil society:

-Speeding up resettlement of displaced persons in their traditional homelands and restoring infrastructure in villages.

-Removing military presence from civil Society activities, and the relocation of military camps from settlement areas.

-Instituting a reparation scheme to compensate for loss of life, and damage to property incurred during the war, in addition to speeding up legal proceeding regarding individuals held in custody.

-Investigating into abductions and disappearances and the dismissal of paramilitary and other armed groups.

-conducting mobile services to provide important personal documents to people.

-Speeding up demining efforts.

Eviction of Muslim Community by the LTTE from the North

During the war the Muslim community living in the North was evicted with 24 hours notice by the LTTE. They could not take their belongings with them. Most of these people have had to spend a long period of time in welfare centres for the displaced or with their relatives. As a result there was much harm to the culture and way of life of the people. Also the competition for scarce resources with the host community has led to economic, educational, health, social and political tensions. In addition, some of the Sinhalese people who fled the North during the war have shown interest in returning. These issues have led the Inter Religious Committee for the Northern Province to make the following recommendations:

i. The Muslim people who were evicted from their homes by the LTTE should be provided with legal assistance to resettle

ii. The infrastructure facilities for all displaced persons (Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese) to resettle should be provided without delay. A non-partisan mechanism needs to be set up to monitor and speed up the resettlement process.

2. Livelihood development and improvements in local life.

A large number of individuals have lost their traditional livelihoods as a result of war, and are unable to cultivate their farm lands today, since they are being utilized by the Army and Special Task Force. Therefore, traditional farmers have lost their livelihood and the problem has also been aggravated by the fact that land is being given to multinational companies.

Fishing restrictions imposed by the Army in addition to illegal fishing activities carried out by Indian fisherman has had an adverse effect on the fisheries industry in the North while fishing activities carried out by fisherman who receive special privileges and government protection has also hampered the industry. Furthermore, the use of illegal fishing methods has also contributed to this problem.

Barriers to trade exist in the Northern Province and consequently the business community is faced with several important problems. For instance, traders in the North and East have been unable to build trade relations with other traders from the south.

Unemployment is on the rise, since there is little opportunity for small scale enterprise, and this situation is complemented by the fact that the area has poor infrastructure especially in relation to technology. This is further aggravated since labor for development activities are being procured from areas instead of the North and East.

The opportunity for economic expansion was stunted by the long drawn war which affected the region, and the opportunity for regional trade between the North and East was also held back as a result of war. Even thought it has been three years since the conclusion of war, there has been little work done towards economic integration and the Council also feels that there has been lack of opportunity given with regards to traders from the region. The Council makes the following recommendations to address the above mentioned problems.

-Handing over of farmland utilized earlier by the military to their original owners whilst supporting them in developing land.

-Addressing the problem of illegal fishing activities carried out by Indian fisherman in local waters, and implementing steps to uplift the local fisheries industry.

-Utilizing workers within the region for construction and infrastructure development activities.

-Developing local industries with the aim of creating a market for local goods.

-Developing a comprehensive mechanism to conduct cross regional trade between the North, East and South.

-Re starting manufacturing operations within factories.

3. Social Security and Promotion of Culture.

Lack of social security remains an important problem to be addressed in war ravaged areas, and has resulted by the weakening of civil society organizations and NGOs in the region. This has resulted in an overall degradation of culture leading to an erosion of cultural values and ethics. For instance there have been a number of reports where ancient artifacts had been stolen from temples .The Council hopes to make the following recommendations to address these problems.

-Child abuse, child labor, orphans and under age marriage.

-Drug abuse prevalent within the region.

-Prostitution and spread of pornography.

-Rising crime rates.

-Mental problems relating to high levels of stress.

-Lack of protection for widowed families.

-Lack of protection for senior citizens

-Erosion of cultural values, as a consequence of tourism within the region.

Women and children have been largely victimized by these problems. The Council hopes to make the following recommendations to address the problems mentioned above.

-Creation of social security committees centering places of worship, and implementing counseling programs.

-Strengthening the capacity of child protection committees.

-Implementing counseling sessions, aimed at people suffering from depression and other mental problems.

-setting up organizations to look after senior citizens.

- Preventing activities related to tourism, which has an adverse effect on the culture.

4. Education, Vocational Training, and Employment Opportunities

A large number of youth joined the military during the time of war, and as a result missed out on educational opportunities. High levels of government spending on defense and low levels of appropriations for education, vocational training and improvement of employment has affected the resource potential of educational institutions. Lack of teachers and infrastructure in schools in the North has resulted in high dropout rates. The Council makes the following recommendations to address the problems mentioned above.

-Implementing vocational training and skills development programs aimed at children leaving school after ordinary level.

-implementing vocational training programs aimed at the international job market.

-Developing the resources of vocational training and educational institutions.

-Increasing the role of the private sector in vocational training activities, under proper guidance.

-Creating a program to involve retired army personnel in development efforts.

-providing alternative livelihood opportunities to individuals who had lost their traditional livelihoods as a result of their land being taken over for tourism activities.

5. Promotion of Sinhala and Tamil in within government agencies

The Council has realized that there are only a handful of government officials in the north who have the ability to communicate in Tamil.

Tamils and Muslims in these areas, face problems when seeking services from government agencies such as provincial councils and police, since they are unable to communicate in the Tamil language. The problem also extends to judicial institutions within the area, since there are only a few translators, and subsequently impacts the serving of justice.

Meanwhile, since the activities of the North and East provincial administrations are conducted in the Tamil language, the Sinhala community becomes greatly inconvenienced.

The Council brings the following recommendations to the attention of relevant authorities.

-Employing Tamil language proficient individuals for government service.

-Implementing a program to provide Tamil proficiency to Sinhala speaking state employees, and applying the same program for Tamil state employees to improve their Tamil language proficiency

-Implementing the national language policy on state circulars, gazette notifications, and signboards.

-Implementing steps to create a culture where both Singhala and Tamil language is used.

6. Land and Resettlement

The Council has noticed several problems with regards to resettlement efforts in the North and East, especially in instances where displaced families are resettled away from their traditional land. It is also saddening to note that people have been displaced due to government efforts during the post war time, as a result of apportioning land for tourism activities, and the transfer of land for foreign companies for business purposes. Furthermore this has resulted in the loss of traditional livelihood for people in the area.

The Council makes the following recommendations in this regard.

-Stressing the importance of resettling people in their traditional lands.

-The handing over of land to foreign companies in a manner, which minimizes the effects on the civil society.

-Minimizing unnecessary political intervention.

-Ensuring security for resettled individuals.

7. Fostering Mutual Understanding and Reorganizing Efforts

We understand that areas which were under the supervision of the district inter religious council’s represent areas consisting of all stake holders of war. Thus the Council welcomes the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission whilst stressing the importance of implementing the recommendations. At the same time the Council believes that programs should be implemented with the aim of promoting mutual understanding and goodwill between the people of the North and East and rest of the country.

Participation

No

Name

District

Status

01

Ven . Manapaha Dhammaransi Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

02

Ven Bodhagama Sasanarathana Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

03

Ven. R. Indrarathana Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

04

Ven. Sudeerananda Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

05

Ven. K. Sumiththa Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

06

Ven .Porowagama Chandananda Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

07

Ven. K. Angnathassa Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

08

Ven. Wilgamuwe Nandharathana Thero

Kurunegala

Clergy

09

Rev. Fr. Stanley Nissanka

Kurunegala

Clergy

10

Rev. Fr .Anton William

Kurunegala

Clergy

11

Moulavi R. Rayees

Kurunegala

Clergy

12

Mr. Rex Jayarathne

Kurunegala

CBO leader

13

Mrs. M.P.R.J.B Mahawela

Kurunegala

CBO leader

14

Mr. D.M. Senavirathne

Kurunegala

CBO leader

15

Major W.Gunadhasa

Kurunegala

Clergy

16

Ms. Kumari Jayasena

Kurunegala

CBO leader

17

Mr. M.Kamardeen

Kurunegala

CBO leader

18

Mr. Anura Kehelhena

Kurunegala

CBO leader

No

Name

District

19

Ven.Buddiyagama Chandarathana Thero

Puttalam

Clergy

20

Ven.Madampe Piyarathana Thero

Puttalam

Clergy

21

Ven. Iththepana Sumana Thero

Puttalam

Clergy

22

Moulavi Abdullah Mahmood Alim

Puttalam

Clergy

23

Sr. Emard Mari

Puttalam

Clergy

24

Moulavi M.A. Ishak

Puttalam

Clergy

25

Moulavi M.N.M. Nasan

Puttalam

Clergy

26

Moulavi J.Jaheer

Puttalam

Clergy

27

Moulavi A.H.M. Lafir

Puttalam

Clergy

28

Moulavi S.H.Salman

Puttalam

Clergy

29

Moulavi R.M Lareef

Puttalam

Clergy

30

MoulavJ.M Jeisan i

Puttalam

Clergy

31

M.R.M Rilan

Puttalam

Clergy

32

Mr.I.M.A.Shabrry

Puttalam

Clergy

33

Moulavi Thahir Janoos

Puttalam

Clergy

34

Kurukkal Sundararama

Puttalam

Clergy

35

Ms. T.P.A. Thilakarathne

Puttalam

CBO leader

36

Mr. V. Shivadharshan

Puttalam

CBO leader

37

Mr. S.R.M.Muzzamil

Puttalam

CBO leader

38

Mr. Newton Sirimanna

Puttalam

CBO leader

39

Ms. Priyanka Priyadharsani

Puttalam

CBO leader

40

Mr.V Shammugavel

Puttalam

CBO leader

41

Ms. Elizabeth Nawarathna

Puttalam

CBO leader

42

PUBLIC MOURNING MUST BE PERMITTED TO TAKE PLACE IN THE NORTH

The third anniversary of the end of the war will be celebrated in the coming week.  In the past two years this has taken place with victory parades and with public commemorations of war heroes by the Government although many people would say it was not appropriate after a civil war when citizens of the country were killed in large numbers.  It is also necessary to remember that the government is being accused of war crimes and violations of humanitarian laws.

After the Second World \War the Allied countries that won the war celebrated their victory.  But the Germans who mourned the loss of their loved ones were not allowed to mourn in public. However, later on such mourning was permitted even in public. For the German people who suffered so much loss, their mourning could finally be made in public.  This was a lesson that was learned nearly seventy years ago.

In the past two years memorial services conducted by the people of the North have been viewed with suspicion and even been prevented by governmental authorities due to the perception that such memorial services are meant for the LTTE. On this occasion too there is apprehension amongst the people of the North that they will be unable to have memorial services for their loved ones due to this suspicion.

Civil society groups in the North report that government authorities have indicated to them that the past should not be re-visited for the purpose of mourning and that the focus should be on the future.  This may account for the restrictions placed on trauma counseling and sharing of memories by communities. However, people who have suffered and lost so much in the past need to go through the process of remembering and grieving in order to become healed personalities.

The mourning and remembering of lost ones in the month of May is an important and indispensable part of the process of coming to terms with the past. If this part of the healing process is blocked there can be no moving forward to the future and to reconciliation that transcends the past. The National Peace Council calls upon the government to permit all public mourning and remembrance activities in the North so that the deepest sentiments of the people are respected as was allowed belatedly by the Allies for the German people.

We note that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the government in its Recommendation No: 9.285 stated as follows:

"The Commission strongly recommends that a separate event be set apart on the National Day to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and pledge our collective commitment to ensure that there should never be such blood letting in the country again.  Based on testimonials it received the Commission feels that  this commemorative gesture, on such a solemn occasion, and at a high political level will provide the necessary impetus to the reconciliation process the nation as a whole is not poised to undertake."

One practical way of expressing solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict that would contribute to a reconciliation process is also to enable public mourning to take place.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

RULE OF LAW AS ANTIDOTE TO RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

The dispute over the presence of a Muslim mosque on Buddhist temple land in Dambulla points to an underlying tension in Sri Lanka's multi religious society that is being exploited by extremist forces. The latest incident is a violent mob attack led by some Buddhist monks on the mosque in the presence of state security forces.  The National Peace Council condemns this act of violence and damage done to the mosque that has caused a deep sense of hurt and insecurity in the minds of the Muslim community.

We are appalled that some leading politicians and religious leaders have justified the forcible removal of the mosque in these circumstances.  At the same time we are gratified that religious leaders of both the Buddhist and Muslim communities have appealed for discussions and a mutually acceptable solution.  The Anunayake of the Malwatte Chapter Most Venerable Niyangoda Sri  Vijithasiri has said that all groups should respect and protect the rights of others.  The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama and Muslim Council of Sri Lanka have appealed against violent protests or demonstrations.

In recent decades there have been many reports of attacks on religious minorities including church burning and controversy over unethical conversions.  However, the harmonious relations that exist between the people have continued.  In virtually all parts of the country there are multi religious settlements where worship of different religions takes place in close proximity to each other in a peaceful environment.  This is a heritage that Sri Lankans can be proud of and needs to be safeguarded.

NPC believes that the primary source of violent social behavior now manifesting itself in acts of religious intolerance is the absence of due emphasis to the Rule of Law. Maintaining law and order and civil administration is the prime duty of the government and state machinery.  The breakdown of the Rule of Law within the country can lead to a situation where persecuted groups will feel justified in looking elsewhere for justice including the international community.   Wherever and whenever there are disputes they need to be settled negotiations or by recourse to the law in competent courts in the country and never by force.

It is unacceptable that protests can emerge at anytime and anywhere with people being chased away, displaced, abducted and murdered while we claim to be a holy land. In particular, NPC calls for an end to the culture of impunity, in which those who wield power act as if they are in charge of personal fiefdoms, whether at the national or local levels.  This is a point that has also been stressed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Government in the aftermath of the country's three decade long internal war when it said that the Rule of Law and not the rule of men should prevail.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

TRANSFORMATIVE CONTENT OF LLRC REPORT REQUIRES PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION

The resolution on Sri Lanka passed at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 22 called on the government to implement the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the government to address the issues of post-war transformation of the country.   The government has so far not made a comprehensive or detailed response to this resolution. Although the issue of the Geneva resolution on Sri Lanka has generated interest within the country, much of the public discussion on it has been ill informed or based on partial assessments. The key role of the LLRC report in addressing both international and national concerns has not been given sufficient attention.  

It is unfortunate that more than four months after its appearance, the LLRC report continues to remain inaccessible to the vast majority of the country’s people as it has not been made available to them in the Sinhala and Tamil languages.  The National Peace Council believes that the people of the country need to be brought into the discussion regarding the rebuilding of post-war Sri Lanka.   There is much that needs to be done to take the LLRC’s message to the general public by educating them on the contents of the LLRC report. 

A basic feature of democracy is that people should participate in issues pertaining to their governance.  NPC is concerned that the important message of the LLRC report, which represents a transformative process to post-war democracy, may be lost in the obfuscation of partisan political debate. The role of civil society is to prepare the ground for the government to implement the LLRC recommendations, along with people’s participation.  We call on the government and international community to support a full effort by civil society to ensure that the political transformation of Sri Lanka as envisaged by the LLRC Commissioners.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

STATE MEDIA MUST NOT BE PART OF HATE CAMPAIGN

There is an ongoing media campaign against some key Human Rights workers and the NGOs who have spoken out in favor of the proposed resolution on Sri Lanka at the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The campaign to vilify and incite hatred towards these NGOs and human rights activists in the context of the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is of particular concern as it involves the use of the state controlled media.

At the core of the discussions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which clearly calls for the upholding of democratic rights, including freedom of expression.  The LLRC emphasizes the restoration of the Rule of Law and the integrity of state institutions. Article 18 of the UN Declaration on Universal Human Rights upholds the right to freedom of thought. This basic right goes with other fundamental freedoms, such as freedoms of expression, association and assembly.  It also covers the rights of individuals who defend the rights of minorities who are struggling for their rights in their own country.

The National Peace Council regrets that even while the government is trying to convince the international community that it is committed in both spirit and substance to the recommendations of the LLRC and to upholding universal human rights, certain sections persist in intimidation of the NGOs and human rights activists using the state media.  We are deeply concerned that the background is being created for targeted attacks and that the state-controlled media is being utilized for this purpose in an orchestrated campaign.  Incitement of the people is a reckless exercise which may spill over to mindless violence against minorities and those perceived to be enemies which the government may find difficult to restrain once unleashed as in 1983.

These harmful efforts will also provide further evidence that there is only limited space for human rights or democratic values within Sri Lanka and hence provide additional justification for the proposed Resolution on Sri Lanka to be passed.  We therefore call upon the government to ensure that the state controlled media is not used to propagate a hate campaign and malicious attacks on the NGOs and those who support the proposed Resolution.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.



ADOPT GENEVA RESOLUTION THROUGH CONSENSUS

A vote on the US-sponsored resolution aimed at promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka is scheduled to take place later this week at the conclusion of the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  Bitterness and rancor have accompanied the debate in Geneva.

The thrust of the proposed resolution in Geneva is the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka.   However, the circumstances under which this resolution is to be passed has created division within Sri Lanka and the international community.

It is the conviction of the National Peace Council that human rights in Sri Lanka can best be protected by Sri Lankans themselves.  We call on the Sri Lankan government to join the international community, even at this late stage, in crafting a mutually agreeable resolution and mechanism for monitoring that ensures the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.

The government and people of Sri Lanka need to take strength from the fact that the countries that are supporting the US-sponsored resolution in Geneva and also those that are opposing it, are giving a central place to the findings of the country's own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and its recommendations.

In the absence of mutual acceptance it is difficult to see reconciliation between Sri Lanka and the international community and between the different ethnic communities within the country as an outcome.  Although only a few days remain before the vote is taken in Geneva, the National Peace Council urges that a resolution is approved consensually.

Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

CONVERGENCE OF MINDS ON IMPORTANCE OF LLRC

The 19th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva is seeing Sri Lanka’s implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations taking centre stage.  The United States and its western allies in particular will be presenting a resolution on Sri Lanka. The indications are that the resolution will call on the Sri Lankan government to “implement the constructive recommendations” of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.  The government in response brought out vast numbers of supporters out into the streets to reaffirm that there should be no interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

The LLRC recommendations which came about through an internal process initiated by the government and nurtured in a home-grown environment is the most effective tool available to the government to respond to any proposed external mechanism. The government has taken steps to implement part of the LLRC recommendations.  However closer inspection of what has been done so far will reveal that the preliminary response of the government fails to give adequate weightage to the tone and spirit of the recommendations when put into practice.

The President himself in his Independence Day speech made reference to the LLRC recommendations and committed himself to its implementation, declaring that the government was tracking its findings on the ground.  In essence he made a commitment to the entirety of that document and not selectively to parts that were more desirable.  There seems to be convergence of minds both in Sri Lanka and in Geneva that the LLRC recommendations hold the key to Sri Lanka’s future.

The National Peace Council believes that while the government seeks to implement the recommendations of its commission it also need to find a way to make the people of Sri Lanka more aware of what the LLRC’s analysis and recommendations are by translating these documents and making them widely available to the general public. We also reiterate that the government should take credible steps to fast track the implementation of the LLRC recommendations in a sincere manner that will negate the need for external attempts to impose a solution.  The implementation should also be necessarily tied up to an independent internal mechanism for monitoring progression which could include members of the opposition political parties and civil society in addition to government members.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

POLITICAL DIALOGUE MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY CONCRETE CHANGES ON THE GROUND

During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna gave support to the Sri Lankan government's intention to have a Parliamentary Select Committee work out the modalities of a political solution to the ethnic conflict.  The Indian government has consistently expressed its interest in a political solution and that the Sri Lankan government gave such assurances during the war that elicited international support.  President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also informed the Indian Minister that his government would be pursuing a political solution to go beyond the present framework of devolution which was an outcome of the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord of 1987 and contained in the 13th Amendment to the constitution.

However, what has been said is in the realm of words and sentiments. Those who are skeptical of any movement forward have expressed concern that such proposals are mere posturing on the part of the government to gain time rather than a sincere expression of the policy of the government.  The National Peace Council is of the view that procrastination will not resolve the problem but only harden the attitudes of the Tamil polity. Despite the end of the war more than two and a half years ago, little has been forthcoming so far in terms of any advance towards a political solution that is based on devolution of power.   The Sri Lankan government's announcement that it is considering a senate or upper house of parliament that would be a bridge between the centre and the provinces  but it cannot be a solution to the demand for autonomy in managing local and provincial affairs in the language of the Tamil people.

The National Peace Council believes that concrete deeds on the ground need to accompany the words spoken and sentiments expressed.  The primary areas of concern are to improve the livelihood of the war displaced people of the North and East, for whom the Indian government has pledged the construction of 50,000 houses, of which 1,000 are now underway.  Unfortunately much of the other infrastructure developments that have taken place, such as the construction of highways and government buildings, have yet to translate themselves into improved livelihoods for the war-affected people.  The government needs to be supported by the international community in reconstructing the north and east according to the needs of the people. The government also needs to carry out its development in consultation with the local people through their representative institutions and in response to their priorities. 

The other area of importance is that of civil-military relations. Dysfunctional civil military relations in the north and armed groups and vigilante groups posing threats to the ordinary people will only jeopardize and pose a threat to the process of rebuilding trust and reconciliation. The trust citizens in the north and east have in the security forces can either enhance or hinder the process of reconciliation.  The military must be accountable for their actions in the north and east at least to a body from civil society consisting of people of the area. For a start we believe that the military command should have regular consultations with elected politicians and civil society leaders on issues of concerns to them at local levels.  Civilians need to feel that military presence in these areas is to support and empower war affected communities and not rule over them but sustain and protect democratic values.  In this regard the following recommendation of the LLRC becomes relevant: “(9.134).   …..the Commission, as a policy, strongly advocates and recommends to the Government that the Security Forces should disengage itself from all civil administration related activities as rapidly as possible…..”  Taking this concept further it will be necessary for the military to be withdrawn to barracks and the police entrusted with the maintenance of law and order as called for by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

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