| by Neville Ladduwahetty
(December 22, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) While the subject of reconciliation is addressed in Chapter 8 of the LLRC report, recommendations as to how issues pertaining to reconciliation are addressed are contained in Chapter 9. There is bound to be disagreement as to the validity and relevance in respect of the totality of the recommendations. However, there has to be consensus in respect of some core recommendations , some of which would require time and resources to implement while it would be possible for others to be implemented within a relatively short time frame.
The need therefore is to identify the core recommendations and set up a mechanism that has the needed authority and the resources to implement them. The key issue that is vital to reconciliation is the political solution. Although the Commissioners deemed it appropriate to venture into the realm of a political solution by way of devolution and a possible second chamber, the stand taken by the TNA for the re-merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces with Land and Police Powers and the positions expressed by Government spokespersons in regard these issues reflects how intractable are the issues associated with the political solution. Under the circumstances, without being detracted by the task at hand as far as evolving a political solution is concerned, the focus should be to address those recommendations that deal with other aspects of reconciliation.
Currently, reconciliation is handled by the “National Reconciliation Unit” set up by the President under his Advisor on reconciliation – Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe. According to a report in The Nation (December 18, 2011) the terms of reference for this unit “…included monitoring and reporting to the President on progress with regard to the Interim recommendations proposed by the LLRC and promoting appropriate activities for this purpose through the relevant Ministries”. Coordination of activities between the relevant Ministries appears to be handled by the District Secretaries. The fact that this unit was expected only to monitor and report to the President means that the current arrangement was intended to be a stop-gap arrangement to handle only the Interim Recommendations of the LLRC. However, it has to be conceded that these arrangements would be woefully inadequate to successfully implement the recommendations proposed in the LLRC report.
An improved alternative would be for the current unit to be granted executive powers and resources sufficient to be responsible for the implementation of the core recommendations both in the long and short term with the exception of the political solution since this latter would be handled by the Parliamentary Select Committee that was set up specifically for the purpose. The disadvantage in an arrangement where one entity is held responsible for the implementation of activities that come within the jurisdiction of several Ministries is for the latter NOT to take their tasks too seriously, because responsibility for success or failure lies elsewhere. Therefore, if issues of reconciliation are to be taken with the seriousness they deserve, a fresh arrangement has to be considered.
In the LLRC Report, the subject of Reconciliation is divided into 2 Sections. Section 1 relates to “Issues impacting on Post Conflict Reconciliation” and Section II deals with “Reconciliation”. Issues addressed in Section I could be considered to relate to the broad category of livelihood and aspects of material human development, while Section II relate to grievances of the communities, issues of governance, devolution, language policy, peace education, people to people contact and art and culture.
Over the 2 years since the termination of the conflict, livelihood and human development issues have been addressed but not in a formal and structured manner. With the recommendations in the LLRC report, it is now time that issues impacting on reconciliation are addressed formally in a structured manner. This would require fresh arrangements to be set up for reconciliation to be effective. Such an arrangement must have the capability to address both the hard core issues of reconciliation in Section 1 and the soft issues in Section II of the LLRC report.
Recognizing the inadequacy of the current arrangements and also recognizing the seriousness of the need for reconciliation it is imperative that issues of reconciliation are handled by a Ministerial Select Committee chaired by a Minister, and a separate Ministry set up that is responsible for Reconciliation. Considering that ongoing reconciliation efforts are being undertaken by the respective staff of the Ministries concerned and coordinated by the District Secretaries, elevating the task of reconciliation to a Ministerial body collectively responsible for reconciliation would give the task the emphasis and status that the issues of reconciliation rightly deserve. Under such an arrangement, the staff in the implementing Ministries would continue to perform as before but with renewed energy because any failure would reflect adversely on the Minister concerned. The first task of such a Ministerial Select Committee should be to establish the core issues as well as to prioritize the implementation process.
Such a framework would enable the proposed Ministry for Reconciliation to coordinate the activities of the associated Ministries, while directly focusing on soft issues of reconciliation outlined in Section II. The issue of a political solution based on devolution or any other in the meantime would be addressed by the Parliamentary Select Committee set up for this all important specific task.
Unless reconciliation is addressed with the seriousness it deserves, history could repeat itself. Not only is the need to address reconciliation relating to livelihood and material aspects of human development vital, the manner in which it is undertaken is equally or more vital. For instance, involvement and engagement of the people concerned in aspects of livelihood issues and material aspects of human development is more important to their self-worth than giving handouts of completed symbols of restoration such as standard type planned houses. Just as much as facilities are provided for Agriculture, Fisheries and other livelihood activities, a fixed allowance for materials and technical advice should be provided for them to build houses to fit their personal needs.
The LLRC report has identified issues that would impact on reconciliation based on the opinions and views expressed during their hearings. Some may find these wanting while others would commend them for their esteemed contribution. Whatever these opinions, the work of the Commission must be seen as a valued start and must be acknowledged as such by the Government and addressed with the will and commitment that it deserves. But, however well intentioned the Government may be in its commitment to reconciliation, unless a Ministerial Select Committee is set up the outcomes would be disappointing and consequences serious. However, it must be appreciated that although issues relating to day-to-day living are specific and tangible and therefore could be address by a suitably structured arrangement on the lines proposed above, the healing process of reconciliation is a long journey that requires patience, understanding and cooperation of all communities with an abiding commitment to the concept of one country and one nation.