| A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
SRI LANKA: The report of the Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation — the issuing of the report is a non-event
(December 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There was no reason to expect much from the report of the LLRC as this commission had no mandate to investigate and to file a report on the basis of investigations. It was a mere commission of gathering some views but even in that the people who were most affected, that is those who are from the north and the east, did not have genuine freedom to give a narrative of what they knew about what had happened to them and those known to them.
The commission having had no mandate to investigate was, from the beginning, subjected to manipulation by those in power who used the commission to state the government’s point of view about the incidents relating to the period between 21st February, 2002 and 19th May, 2009. The commission in its final report has reproduced quite faithfully the government’s version as told by ‘those witnesses’ who came before the commission to narrate the official version.
The very absence of the affected population made the possibility of any independent report quite impossible. Therefore there is no reason for disappointment in this final report as the whole exercise relating to this commission was meant to be a farce, particularly to counter the criticism from UN agencies and other outside agencies for a credible inquiry. The appointment of the commission gave credence to the argument that, as the Sri Lankan government itself is having a commission to inquire into whatever allegations of human rights abuses, violations of humanitarian law and war crimes that might have taken place, no international inquiry was needed into these allegations.
Thus, the whole exercise of the LLRC was a delaying tactic to take the pressure off the government in the face of calls from the friends and relatives of the victims, the Diaspora and the international community by providing an excuse that ‘since the government is having a commission we should wait for its results’. The LLRC achieved this aim and did undermine the call for genuine inquiries into the allegations of gross human rights abuses.
Having conducted no inquiry by themselves all that the LLRC could recommend at the end of their report is to request the government to conduct some inquiries on some aspects of allegations they have heard at the commission. This is a ridiculous situation because if the government wanted to make some investigations into some matters such as forced disappearances as recommended by the LLRC the government has had ample time to do so. The government had more information about the actual details of what has happened than what the LLRC has, in fact, revealed in their report.
There are other oft-repeated recommendations which in the past have not produced any positive reaction from the government. The purpose of gathering together some nice sounding recommendations to give itself some credibility does not in any way mean that any of these recommendations would be considered or implemented by the government.
There were other commissions such as commissions into forced disappearances which have made far more serious sets of recommendations but none of them were implemented by any of the previous governments. The new report of the LLRC would only add to the government’s archives of farcical commissions and the worthless reports of such commissions.
One recommendation of the LLRC can be used as an illustration to expose the farcical nature of this recommendation making process by the commissions. The LLRC recommends the need for an independent police commission. The LLRC knows that there was one such independent commission under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. The LLRC also knows that the 17th Amendment was virtually nullified by the 18th Amendment. Without undoing the 18th Amendment and, in fact, much of the 1978 Constitution itself there is no possibility at all of an appointment of an independent police commission. These are matters of law and the Constitution that the LLRC commissioners could not have been ignorant of.
The LLRC was not meant to be and, in fact, has not been able to contribute any kind of solution to the chaotic conditions of the country which is today a dysfunctional legal system. The people may take some solace in the fact that one more farce has come to an end. But that will not be for long. There will be greater lies and manipulated exercises to deny the people of the right to have genuine inquiries into the tragedy that they nation has become.