| by Dr Rifai
(December 21, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Recently chairman of the lesson learnt and reconciliation commission C. R.De Silva and his team published their report recommending many reconciliation steps to build a peaceful communal relationship between different communities in Srilanka. Some daily news papers have already begun to publish this report in series so that public will know what is on and what is not on it. Reading through some elements of this report it appears that this is one of the solid and comprehensive reports that have been published in Srilanka in recently years. It deals with different issues and problems of affected people in these long wars between Srilankan government and LTTE. Srilanka has had many commissions’ reports in the past but rarely recommendations of reports are applied and implemented. This report should not go to the history book as another mere report rather contents of this report should be rightly applied and implemented to heal the wounds of this long war in our Island. I wonder if our political leadership will honestly and truthfully enforce the application and implementation of this report. I believe that recommendations of this report are all-inclusive and comprehensive. Now up to the politicians, policy makers and high level administrators to take up the task of applying and implementing all these recommendations. In Western countries any professional negligence is a punishable crime and offence. But in our countries professionals know how to get away with it.
I suspect that as long as these recommendations remain mere recommendation without any legal status or legislative power to implement these recommendations these reports I’m afraid will remain mere reports in papers same like our political manifestos. These reports are one of the best reports that have been presented after extensive and paints taking studies. These reports are written and presented by some of best legal experts in Srilanka. Reading through some pages of these reports reveals that there reports are made objectively without discriminating on the basis of race, language, religion or regionalism. Of course, this report has been vehemently criticized by some international human rights groups, foreign governments and Tamil Diaspora groups. The critiques argue that this report does not deal with core issues of this conflict. Particularly this report that does propose any solid political solution to this long lasting conflict and more importantly this report does not endorse/sanction any further enquiries on alleged war crimes by both sides. For this reason, they critiques argue that this report is bias and subjective. Yet, reading through all element of this report one could conclude that this report is done objectively to reconcile all sides in this conflict. The commissioners of this report have tried their best to be objective as much as possible in their effort to collect information, paint taking details, interviews and pools of opinions from all segments of Srilankan communities, from eyewitnesses, relatives of victims, IDPS, politicians, government officials, military offices, religious leaders and laymen of different Srilankan communities. This report reflects and mirrors different of opinions of all sectors of Srilankan communities and interestingly some constructive recommendations are made in conclusion remarks.
The recommendations of this report should be rendered as legal documents so that application of these recommendations will be legally adopted and abided. It is interesting to note that article 9: 109 t0 113 of this report provides some recommendations for the resettlement of Northern Muslims. Muslims like other communities in Srilanka have been very badly affected in this long war. Indeed, unlike other communities they have been forcefully, intentionally and inhumanly evicted overnight without any remorse. It is regrettable to note that successive Srilanakn governments have failed to address their problems yet, until this report is published now. This report too has not comprehensively dealt with Muslim resettlement and compensation. When Muslims were evicted they lost almost all asserts and properties and sources of their incomes. They have been living as IDPs in camps for the last two decades and some have returned to their native places voluntarily on their own expenses without any financial support from the government or with little bit of financial support from NGOs and Government. This report notes that concerns of evicted northern Muslims should be addressed. It further notes that a greater numbers of evicted Muslims made their representations before the commission about their plights and difficulties as IDPs. Yet, I wonder this commission has made any serious studies on the plights and difficulties of Muslims. This report recommends in its article 9.111 that Solutions should be found to address the plight of the Muslim Community as one of the long-standing IDP issues arising out of the protracted conflict in Sri Lanka. This could be achieved through the creation of a uniform State policy aimed at resettlement of these IDPs and/or integrating them into the host community. This policy needs to be communicated to the IDPs so that they could take considered decisions with regard to the resettlement options available to them either in their original places of habitat or in the host communities. It further recommends that
9.112 Such State policy should also include an assistance package including financial assistance and other material support such as support for housing construction.
9.113 A special committee should be appointed to examine durable solutions and to formulate
a comprehensive State policy on the issue, after having extensive consultations with the IDPs and the host communities.
With regard to resettlement of IDPS this commission recommends two main points: it demands to formulate a special committee to guide and monitor the process of resettlement and secondly to adopt national policy on resettlement. There is no doubt this is an excellent idea. This committee should be all all-encompassing committee and made up of different religious and ethnic groups: Singhalese, Tamil and Muslims of IDPS. So, that these people could represent their own communities and work together for the resettlement of all communities without discriminations and bias. The national policy on this issue will enhance the process of resettlement if Srilankan government honestly strict to it in its implementation without political and racial bias. This national state policy on resettlement should not be limited to some financial assistance and hand outs rather it should aim at compensating all affected people for their livelihood and other asserts. Reconstruction of their damaged houses alone is not enough. Thousands of people lost their sources of incomes and businesses. Therefore, this state policy on resettlement should include some comprehensive compensation scheme as well.
No doubt that there must be a uniform state policy on resettlement. That is the best way to deal with resettlement. Srilankan government should not pursue communal path in national issues like this. Every Srilankan national should be treated equally without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion. Yet, this policy of equality and justice has been denied in Srilanka for long time. That unfair treatment is one of the main causes of all these ethnic conflicts. There is no point in reminding the past mistakes again and again. We all need to get together and move forward in a right direct of communal harmony and reconciliation. This commission rightly pointed out that it was due to the negligence of both Tamil and Singhalese political leadership that war in Srilanka escalated. Unfortunately, in Srilanka we all have communal jealousy and envy within each communities. Since the independence, each community has got this communal feeling deep in its mind set Whether we like it or not. This is an open secret and we all Srilankan should think nationally as Srilankan rather than within our communal line.
This report has highlighted the problems of Northern IDPS Muslims and it has also proposed some constructive recommendations to resettle them either in their native places or in other parts of Island and it is now up to Sirlankan government and administrative officials to impartially implement these recommendations. One the best lessons we have learn from this conflict should be that discrimination and social injustice and bias policies must be eliminated from our societies and if we fail to do that people may go back to this type of conflict sometime in future. To avoid this type of conflict repeated again in Srilanka all communities should be treated equally and fairly with respect and dignity. Justice must be done to all without any political or social discrimination. For me some last parts of this report is more significant and thought provoking statements that beautifully summary the failure of our political leaderships in Srilanka since the independence: This report notes that “The conflict could have been avoided had the Southern political leaders of the two main political parties acted in the national interest and forged consensus between them to offer an acceptable solution to the Tamil people. Tamil political leaders were equally responsible for this conflict which could have been avoided had the Tamil leaders refrained from promoting an armed campaign towards secession, acquiescing in the violence and the terrorist methods used by the LTTE against both the Sinhala and Tamil people…” in some western countries breeding hatred between communities is illegal and punishable by law. We in Srilanka may need such type of legislations to shut up mouths of people who spread hatred and resentments among communities. This report in its recommendation calls for such sanctions in Srilanka. This commission recommends that community leader should reach out all Srilankan people in humbleness and humility to bridge the gap between communities.
Srilankan Muslim community should support and facilitate the implementation of these recommendations as stipulated in this report. This is in the greater interest of our community and greater interest of Sirlankan communities in general. The international community and human right groups are eagerly waiting to see if Srilankan government will seriously and honestly implement these recommendations. This report will testify sincerity, truthfulness and honesty of Srilankan government. The credibility and integrity of this report is unquestionable and yet, this report does not have any legal validity yet until its recommendations become legal status or become mandatory. Time will tell us the real truth of this report.