Here is full text of the Memorandum to the President Mahinda Rajapakse, submitted the Association for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (ARRR)
His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Dear Mr. President,
(October 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) We, the Association for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (ARRR) welcome you to Australia and wish you success in your contribution through CHOGM, with Global and Commonwealth Issues. The ARRR, composed of Australian-Sri Lankans, was organized in 2009 to help and assist the war-affected people in Sri Lanka. We seek to help in the healing of war wounds in Sri Lanka and help bring about national reconciliation.
We submit that care of the war-affected people and more facilities required for a better life need to be at the core of all reconciliation efforts. Our services are based largely on the experiences and wisdom of Sri Lankans who migrated to Australia as a result of the civil war and those who migrated long before the war began.
Many who migrated during the war continue to feel strong emotional links with Sri Lanka, particularly to their areas of origin. They desire the conditions that prompted their migration to be restructured or weeded out in Sri Lanka. This desire manifests in two ways amongst the Sri Lankan Diaspora. Some seek reconciliation, economic development and pragmatic political solutions. Some others seek ‘Tamil Eelam’ as a political solution that could lead to economic development. It should be emphasized that both groups have an abiding interest in the land of their birth. We feel you have the will, skills, support and mandate to meet the first set of desires quickly and in a meaningful manner. If done effectively, this will negate the desire of the second group for a ‘Tamil Eelam’.
We feel that your Government needs to pay special attention to the key issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka, on the basis that they are of priority concern to the people. The issues we have identified are outlined on the following pages.
Key Issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka to be addressed:
A. War-affected people:
1. Institutionalized Government support for the war-injured and disabled.
2. Institutionalized Government support for widows and their children.
3. Institutionalized Government support for war-orphans and children abandoned as a result of the war.
4. Focused attention on the resettlement of people remaining in IDPS camps still waiting for their land or homes to be ready.
1-3: Special programs like the Ranaviru Sevaya for the disabled soldiers and families of injured and dead soldiers should be set up with private participation and international support. At present, there are no organized and focused efforts in this direction.
B. War-affected areas:
1. The proposed land re-registration scheme should be managed on by task forces and special land courts set up in relevant areas in North and East.
The deadline for submission of documents should be extended to one year with the process to be completed in 3-5 years. Priority should be given to legitimate owners who occupied the land or houses before the war began.
Special Assistance Centres could be established in war affected areas to help the victims of war compile and submit their information to the authorities.
Clearly laid out scheme for handling abandoned, unclaimed and illegally possessed land with policies regarding redistribution of land also clearly defined and communicated.
The land acquired by the armed forces, if privately owned, should be compensated at reasonable rates.
2. The bureaucracy in the North and East has to be energised and empowered to deal with the post-war situation in a sympathetic and problem -solving manner.
This should involve re-training, transfers, close supervision, incentives and rehabilitation.
The bureaucracy functioning at the lower levels in the North and East are in many instances an obstacle to implementing Government programs and private initiatives.
3. Encourage entrepreneurship in the war-affected areas through government sponsored or supported micro-credit schemes and project viability-based bank loan programs.
4. Enable politicians, Government agents and Government servants to participate actively in rehabilitation and reconciliation.
5. Enable religious groups to be actively involved in rehabilitation and reconciliation.
6. Encourage medium and large scale agro-industrial development in the Vanni and the East, with active participation of the agricultural department and national research institutes.
Setting up co-operatives of land owners to consolidate land for viable agriculture and value addition should be considered.
7. Identify state lands available for development and publicize the details involving location, soil conditions, water availability and labour availability. The type of development desired (e.g. agriculture, tourism, industry etc.) could be specified.
8. Harness the expatriate / Diaspora knowledge and skill base to enhance knowledge and experience inputs in projects and inject new concepts and technology.
C. Education in war-affected areas:
1. Establish vocational training centres in all war-affected areas for men and women, and the war-affected. Centres should be designed to meet the needs of people with different levels of education. The vocational training centres should have programs in agriculture, animal husbandry, electricity and electronics, computers, mechanics, carpentry, welding, building skills, baking, sewing etc. These vocational training centres should also serve as demonstration centres for the people of a given area.
2. Re-evaluation of Tamil language and literature syllabi with emphasis on teaching cultural values and moral norms.
3. Special emphasis on teacher re-training, performance and discipline in schools in the war-affected areas. The quality of the teacher-training colleges should be improved with international assistance.
4. Provision of special incentives and facilities for teachers willing to serve in the war affected areas.
5. Encourage vice-chancellors, school Principals and doctors to get help from their counterparts all over Sri Lanka.
6. Commission to evaluate the Universities in the north and east and their affiliated institutions on staff quality, facilities and standards and suggest remedies, should be appointed. Qualified faculty should be obtained through international assistance for stints of 3-5 years and given leadership roles at various levels. Some of these institutions should be downgraded to the level of Polytechnics, if they do not meet the standards to be considered universities.
D. Fishing in coastal waters and the deep sea:
1. In the interest of economic development and territory protection, fishing in Sri Lankan waters by Indian Fisherman should be brought to an end, with the assistance of the Indian Government.
2. The seasonal migration of fishermen to the northern waters from the South, and where it occurs, from the north to the south, should be regulated and brought under a permit system to prevent misunderstanding and political grandstanding.
E. Power sharing and constitutional changes:
1. A clear enunciation of how the government intends to deal with the question of devolution of political and administrative powers to the periphery is overdue.
2. A mechanism to permit participation of elected politicians in the affairs of a province, district or electorate at a policy or planning level to be considered.
3. A constitutional amendment should be passed setting out in clear terms that the citizenship, cultural, religious and security (personal and property) rights of all people in Sri Lanka are inviolable under any circumstances. This amendment should also declare that all acts that are discriminatory towards individuals in terms of origin, language, religion or culture, and acts that promote communal disharmony are subject to maximum penalty in law. These should be entrenched principles in the constitution.
F. Expatriates/ Diaspora:
1. Dual citizenship and possibly voting rights to all Sri Lankans who are citizens of other countries and their children, provided security considerations are not compromised.
2. Provide assurance in words and practice that all expatriate/Diaspora Tamils visiting the Island have nothing to fear, if they have not committed offences relating to the war and terrorism.
3. Create a special one-stop mechanism through the offices of the provincial governors in the North and East, to promote Diaspora investments in the North and East.
The above recommendations and suggestions are as per our current involvement in the issue of reconciling, rehabilitating and rebuilding Sri Lanka. They come with our sincere feelings of participation as we are all trying to manage this issue from various angles. We thank you for the opportunity to submit this memorandum to and we wish you a pleasant journey back to Sri Lanka and success in your endeavours.
ARRR Executive Members
Dr. R. Narendranathan (President)