TNA Statement Needs To Be Probed And Acted Upon To Achieve Reconciliation

Continuing disagreement about the civil war, about war crimes and violations of humanitarian laws should not inhibit a process of reconciliation. However, instead of seeking to bridge the ethnic divide, what is being demonstrated in Sri Lanka is continuing policies adopted during the war which cannot be justified now. The role of the military in large numbers is perceived as oppression by the Tamil people and this has every potential to recreate the causes of conflict.

(November 02, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) After a protracted and very costly war as occurred in Sri Lanka it is necessary to start with political reconciliation between the different ethnic communities and also between the government and ethnic minorities. It is not easy to heal the nation after such a traumatic conflict. The hurt and harm inflicted on the victims especially the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods caused during the war would have caused deep scars. This reconciliation cannot be achieved without democratization and among the people of different communities, the government and political parties.
Continuing disagreement about the civil war, about war crimes and violations of humanitarian laws should not inhibit a process of reconciliation. However, instead of seeking to bridge the ethnic divide, what is being demonstrated in Sri Lanka is continuing policies adopted during the war which cannot be justified now. The role of the military in large numbers is perceived as oppression by the Tamil people and this has every potential to recreate the causes of conflict.
The National Peace Council is deeply concerned about the statement tabled in Parliament by Hon. M A Sumanthiran representing the Tamil National Alliance, the third largest party in Parliament. The report is a serious indictment of the government’s treatment of itsTamil population in the North and East. Among the important issues raised, one is that “Out of a total land mass of 65,619 sq km, Tamil people inhabited18,880 sq km of land in the North and East, but after May 2009, the defense forces have occupied more than 7,000 sq km of land owned by Tamil people. There is one member of the armed forces for approximately every ten civilians in the Jaffna Peninsula. This heavy presence of the military continues to be the most serious concern in the North and East.”
Their serious concern relates to the continuing military control over civilian lives, apart from their physical presence. A form of regimentation seems to be in force where “Families must inform the army of the guests they receive, their relationship, and the reason and duration of their visit. Any family gathering to celebrate the birth or naming of a child, attainment of puberty of a girl, a wedding or even a death, requires prior permission from the nearest police post. Every village has a “Civilian Affairs Counter” managed by the armed forces where anyone entering a village is required to register themselves. The army must be informed even of community activities such as sports meets.” Is such monitoring of civilian life really necessary now that the war is over? A professed democracy cannot justify such monitoring which smacks of the activities of the totalitarian party in George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm? Such control of civilian life points to military rule and not democracy.
The report also makes a serious charge that “Most disturbing are the increasing number of sexual assaults carried out against women and girls in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts, often by government officials and the military. Incidents are reported of women being raped by soldiers, and the victims and their families being too ashamed and afraid to make complaints or file charges. Doctors are being forced by the army to record that perpetrators are ‘unknown’ or ‘unidentified’ persons even though complainants have identified perpetrators, often where the involvement of army personnel is alleged.” The brutality with which these assaults are carried out is especially disturbing, says the Report. The people also face a serious drying up of economic and employment opportunities due to the labour force from the South being brought in for work on projects taking place in the North, which continues to keep them in poverty.
As in all wars, unless work is done at the grassroots to get rid of the injustices which caused the war, unless people are treated with respect and the rule of law prevails, and unless peace with justice is made real, there is the danger of resentments spilling over into renewed conflict. There needs to be a break with the past. What happened during war has no place in a time of peace. Unless investigated and remedies found, there is the danger of an expansion of abuse of power into other parts of the country also. Totalitarian trends in one part of the country could easily spill over to the rest of the country.
Reconciliation seems to mean different things to differing shades of political opinion, but the widespread adoption of the term by both the governing and opposition parties, as well as society as a whole, should convince the government into accepting that a process of reconciliation is necessary and cannot be linked only to economic development projects but must extend to social and political life as well. NPC sincerely hopes that the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to be released shortly would direct the country towards a process of true reconciliation that will create space for the realization of peace with justice for all Sri Lankans.
Governing Council
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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