| by Tissa Vitarana
( January 08, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The LSSP welcomes the LLRC Report because it provides a positive and constructive basis for achieving reconciliation and national unity. It is a balanced, serious and comprehensive report that also makes available, as a separate Annexures publication, all the data drawn on by the LLRC Commission in preparing its report in a transparent manner. The conclusions drawn are clearly fair and the recommendations are sensible, and it is our hope that the Government will implement them, soon and as completely as possible. The LSSP and its supporters, including those in the North and East, are appreciative of the main content of the Report, although we do not accept any of the blame for past events.
|Tamil people – File Photo|
Spoilers. Unfortunately there are many spoilers, both internal and external, who do not want the Government to succeed in achieving national unity and to take the country forward to significant economic development. Internally the problem is caused by those bankrupt political parties that do not think nationally from a perspective of one multicultural Sri Lankan nation, but depend on exploiting our social diversity for narrow political gain on monocultural lines. The claim made by parties like the JHU that the Commission has exceeded its mandate, in recognizing the need for devolution, is without any foundation. Because clause 5 of the President’s mandate to the Commission clearly states ” institutional, administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among communities”. There is in addition a blanket clause, “to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of the Warrant”. The real basis for their objection is the stress given in the Report for devolution.
Need for devolution. It is sad that there are still parties that are not prepared to learn from our tragic history. It is because power was concentrated in Colombo that we had two JVP insurrections (“Colombata kiri, gamata kekiri”), and the entire ethnic conflict and war, led by the LTTE. It is through the devolution of adequate powers to the provinces (states) that India has stayed together, despite the British prediction that India would break up within 10 years of independence. Separatism in Northern Ireland was ended, and it has remained a part of the unitary framework of Britain for the last 13 years, by ensuring an adequate level of devolution.
The incident of the blocking of the entry of the head of the Congress Party of India to the UP State, which to my knowledge is the only such instance that has occurred in over 60 years in independent India, was due to a peculiar set of legal circumstances exploited by Chief Minister Mayawathie. There is no reason to reject devolution as a whole because of this type of rare incident, which could be easily prevented by suitable constitutional safeguards. Regarding Police powers, the fact that we have in Sri Lanka provision for a National Police, to be located in the provinces, unlike in India, is a further avenue for the Centre to intervene when necessary. All officers above ASP in a Province belong to the National Police Force. The Provincial DIG is appointed by the IGP, in consultation with the Chief Minister. But if there is no agreement, the appointment is made by the President. The APRC view was that there was no need for a Provincial Police Commission, as provided for in the 13th Amendment. There is no basis for the fears expressed on devolution of Police powers.
It is through a process of devolution that power, which is now largely concentrated in Colombo, can be passed down to the people at Village Committee (Gam Sabha) level, by giving appropriate levels of power to the Province, the District and the Division, while applying the principle of subsidiarity. This would generate the loyalty that would effectively bind all the people to the Sri Lankan state. The retention of the unitary character of the state, would confer constitutional and legal guarantees against separatism.
The LLRC Report is in marked contrast to the Darusman Report, which gives undue weightage to propaganda material prepared by and for the terrorist LTTE, and gives less credence to the view point of the lawfully elected Sri Lankan Government. This is despite the Government’s unique record of supplying food and medicines to the Tamil people in LTTE occupied territory, and in the process also supplying the LTTE itself, over the war period, with minimal violation of human rights in accordance with our religious tenets and respect for life. It is very sad that the UNO, under Ban Ki-moon, has lent itself to be used as an instrument of ‘regime change’ for certain big powers led by the USA, to be used against governments with a non-aligned foreign policy that do not adhere to their neo-liberal agenda. The Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon himself thereby contravenes the UN’s mandate by not showing due respect for the sovereignty and independence of these member states.
It was reported recently in the media that Ban is to view the horrific Channel 4 video which vilifies the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, to which the Darusman Report gives credence. It is our hope that he reads the LLRC Report before that, as it would enable him to take in the comments on the video by Prof. E.A. Yfantis, (Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science, University of Nevada; Director of the Image Processing Computer Graphics Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ICIS) and NASA consultant), in his 108 page report, included from page 217 in the LLRC Annexures. He states “the blood in the 3GP videos is not real blood…..videographic and mathematical analysis show that the videos either were edited, or staged, or both……. Careful analysis led us to the conclusion that this is a very deliberate and orchestrated video.”
Human Rights Violation. The main plank on which the international campaign headed by the USA and its allies, the LTTE supporters and the UN mechanism relies to engineer regime change in Sri Lanka, undermining the democratic decision of the people giving parliamentary power to the UPFA Government for the next five years, is to raise the issue of human rights violations, and thereby to demonize the head of the Government. We are glad that the report does not try to hide the fact that there is evidence of some individual acts of human rights violations from within the Government forces, and recommends that a suitable and effective mechanism should be established to investigate and punish those responsible for these, and this should also apply to any future human rights violations.
But the Report makes clear that (a) such acts occurred mainly at the final phase of the war when the LTTE callously used the Tamil civilians as a human shield even in No Fire Zones, Safe Areas and hospitals, (b) these were unusual circumstances occurring during a war with the most ruthless terrorist organization that the world has seen, and (c) the Government and the state took a policy decision to minimize Tamil civilian casualties, but at greater risk to its own troops, by confining fire to short range weapons and desisting from using long range weaponry at the final stages. I can vouch for the latter because this was discussed and agreed to by the Army chiefs at a meeting that the President summoned at the request of myself and Minister Dew Gunasekera, in response to an appeal on behalf of the affected Tamil civilians by supporters of our two political parties in the North.
Immediate and complete implementation of the LLRC Report. Therefore if the Government takes immediate action to fully implement the recommendations of the LLRC, and also activate the Select Committee of Parliament to help solve the national question, the efforts of hostile forces abroad whose aim is ‘regime change’ can be effectively countered. The Tamil and Muslim politicians must play a constructive and positive role in taking forward the process of reconciliation and achieving a credible political solution. Rather than being hypercritical and chauvinist they should be more balanced, appreciating positive features of the LLRC Report , while pointing out any shortcomings that need to be corrected, and make genuine demands for its early implementation to benefit the Tamil and Muslim people, particularly those affected by the war. The TNA must become the responsible voice of the Tamil people, and no longer that of the LTTE lobby. This will go a long way to dispel the fears generated that devolution may be abused to achieve the separation that was the objective of the LTTE.
As the Report infers, the mess that has been created by politicians needs to be cleared by politicians, through a political solution based on devolution. This can only be done by a genuine dialogue among all the stakeholders which takes on board all relevant issues. It may not be feasible to deal with all issues at once, they may need to be prioritized and taken up in a phased manner. Early implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC by the Government would promote national reconciliation and help to strengthen confidence in the outcome of talks.
Tissa Vitarana, General Secretary, Lanka Samasamaja Party.