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Reconciliation Initiatives

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP, former Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), who was also Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, has been appointed as Adviser on Reconciliation to HE the President.

Many initiatives for reconciliation are happening through various branches of government. These are not sufficiently well known, so the website of the former Peace Secretariat will be used to communicate some notable developments. 

Apart from socio-economic and political initiatives, reconciliation requires the encouragement of pluralism and multi-culturalism, which will also be highlighted on this site.  Efforts will also be made to counter those who promote division; though problems should be raised, and addressed, there must be balance, so as to avoid the perpetuation of bitterness.  FOR THE RECORD

The pages of the former Peace Secretariat will be maintained as an archive and can be accessed through the menu bar above.  Publications include 'We Help Ourselves', a pictorial record of the assistance to civilians proferred by the Security Forces during the last stages of the struggle against the LTTE. PUBLICATIONS    
 
 
 

 

 


Reports and Reflections


UN vote and reconciliation in Sri Lanka Experts debate whether UN resolution will help bring reconciliation between majority Sinhala community and Tamils.

Apr 08, 2014

The UN Human Rights Council at its session in Geneva passed a resolution against Sri Lanka that paves the way for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes in the final phases of the civil war in 2009.
 
Both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam rebels have been accused of committing atrocities during the war, but the conduct of government troops have been criticised due to the high level of casualties, with one UN report saying that about 40,000 civilians were killed by troops.
 
We ask two Sri Lankan experts whether the UN resolution will help bring reconciliation between the majority Sinhala community and the Tamil minority.
 
Cunning piece of work
 
Rajiva Wijesinha, Member of Parliament and Adviser on Reconciliation to the President. Former head of the Peace Secretariat and former secretary of the Human Rights Ministry.
 
The resolution against Sri Lanka that the United States precipitated in Geneva was a very cunning piece of work. It dealt with a number of issues that are of concern to many Sri Lankans, but which are not material for such resolutions.
 

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Extremists in Govt. determined to destroy country’s credibility - Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

Mar 21, 2014

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, a National List MP of the ruling Party, who along with a group of government parliamentarians wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa warning about possible economic sanctions, said in an interview with Ceylon Today, extremists within the government ranks are 'determined to destroy country's credibility.' He also said the External Affairs Ministry has been forced into the 'mute submission of the extremist agenda.'

Q: You were one of the six government parliamentarians, including four ministers, who sent a letter to the President regarding the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution. What was that letter about?
A: That letter was intended to draw attention to the dangerous situation the country was in, which we felt had not been conveyed accurately to the President.
 
 
 Q: What did you urge the President to do? What did you warn him about?
A: We urged him to address international concerns strategically and have informed discussions to develop a counter-strategy to address what would be raised in Geneva this month. We need to convey systematically the work done by the government since March 2009 towards uniting this country, using competent communicators able also to deal with questions.We need to recover the lost friendship with our neighbour India, not least because it is difficult to obtain the wholehearted support of Asia, the Non-Aligned Movement and the larger Third World, without having its support. We need to strengthen the relationship with Japan and China since we cannot ignore some recent statements made by them, which suggested the importance of moving swiftly through our own mechanisms on fulfilling our commitments in the area of human rights. We also need to work with African and Latin American States. Most importantly, we suggested that we need to ensure credibility by fast forwarding implementation of the LLRC recommendations, and having a dedicated agency for this purpose, which acts transparently and responds promptly to concerns and queries.

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US seeks to eventually partition Sri Lanka - Tamara Kunanayakam

Mar 18, 2014

The United States has no genuine interest in accountability or reconciliation in Sri Lanka, but is seeking a strategic military base in Asia, says Tamara Manimekhalai Kunanayakam, onetime Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Holy See.
In a wide ranging interview with Ceylon Today, Kunanayakam said, the US would demand more
concessions using the resolution as a tool and charged the UN Rights Chief as a 'US instrument' doing Washington's bidding.
Kunanayakam also alleged the resolution was aimed at demonstrating Sri Lanka's alleged failure to
demonstrate accountability and to showcase the island as a failed State to maximize on concessions, including a demand to create a US military hub in Sri Lanka.
Excerpts from the interview:
 
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
 
 
Q: What could be the ramifications of the US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka being adopted by the UNHRC?
A: We need to consider the contents of the resolution. It clearly confers powers on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate, without mentioning an 'international' investigation. But, the Office of the High Commissioner is international and so the reference is to an international investigation.
It also gives three clear mandates. First is to assess progress towards accountability and reconciliation and a second – stemming from the previous resolution – to monitor national processes. The third and the new inclusion is a mandate to investigate alleged violations of human rights and related crimes.
 
 
The resolution is clear on the High Commissioner's new mandate – to conduct an international investigation here. It is not important whether it is by a commission of inquiry or one carried out by the High Commissioner. But the latter will be worse than the former. The UNHRC consists of three members and there could be some balanced position-taking as they would reflect at least three regional perspectives.

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Current Trends in India’s relations with Sri Lanka Text of a Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP At the Conference on Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South Asia Held at the Kathmandu, Nepal February 15th 2014

Feb 16, 2014

Relations between India and Sri Lanka stand today at a crossroads. There is a perception in India that Sri Lanka has not lived up to its commitments with regard to devolution, while in Sri Lanka there is a feeling that India will work together with the United States to support a resolution critical of Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March this year. 
 
Unfortunately there is much truth in both these perceptions. Having committed to implementing the 13th Amendment, and indeed suggested that it could go further, Sri Lanka has done too little in this regard, and what it has done, it has done too late, as with the holding of Provincial Council elections to the Northern Province. Conversely India voted for a resolution the United States brought against us in 2012, though after much agonizing; in 2013 it voted against us on a stronger resolution with no hesitation, and all indications are that this year it will end up going along with a resolution that will seem to sanction international, for which read Western, interference in Sri Lanka.
 
This is in marked contrast with 2009, when India was the chief component of the protective barrier against efforts to stop us eradicating terrorism from our shores. One might have thought that this was a goal the whole world would have supported, but sadly this is not an ideal world and countries will naturally put their own self interest first. Fortunately, not only did India’s interests coincide with our own at that stage, but given the terrible toll terrorism funded by external sources was taking on both our countries, I think it is also true to say that we worked in accordance with the highest moral perspectives.
 
But the aim we shared then, of eradicating terrorism on our shores, went hand in hand with another commitment, which was the promotion of pluralism in Sri Lanka. This again is a moral goal, but it also has a practical dimension, in that the full incorporation of the Tamil people in the body politic in Sri Lanka would have reduced the potential for future terrorism.
 

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Geneva 2014: Is the government falling into a trap?

Jan 27, 2014

The exclusion of intellectuals and their input in the making of public policy — foreign policy in particular — and the consequences thereof, was a recurring theme at a recent public discussion on the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session in March 2014.  Nativist, xenophobic tendencies were coming to the fore and “We don’t know how to converse with the world anymore,” warned Dayan Jayatilleke, the keynote speaker.  Dr Jayatilleka is best known as the former UN ambassador in Geneva who led the team that defeated a hostile resolution brought against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council Special Session in May 2009, soon after the military defeat of the LTTE.   Sri Lanka lost two subsequent US-led resolutions in 2012 and 2013.
 
The discussion held at the auditorium of the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) was organised by the Liberal Party and moderated by its leader Rajiva Wijesinha, a National List MP and Secretary to the (now dismantled) Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). Prof Wijesinha noted the absence of input from independent think tanks in foreign policy decision making, and lamented the failure of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in this regard.
 
Jayatilleka has been arguing consistently in the media that the cold war the country faces is an intellectual battle. A bibliography on Sri Lanka has developed over the years with a number of documents being produced, but though these were studied in the West there was no significant discourse in Sri Lanka he said, on his fortnightly TV talk-show ‘Vantage Point’ aired Thursday on ‘MTV Sports.’ “We are going into battle without knowing the history.” He said it was unthinkable that the GoSL did not respond to the flawed report of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel (the ‘Darusman report’). There were two brilliant critiques of it that had been disregarded. One was by the Marga Institute, a much respected independent think tank, and the other a study titled ‘The Numbers Game’ by a group of highly educated Western-based Sri Lankans. Listing some of the other literature on the subject he mentioned the Petrie report, Gordon Weiss’s book ‘The Cage,’ The Routledge Handbook on R2P, and a UK House of Commons research paper in 2009 titled ‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka,’ which traced the campaign against Sri Lanka originating much earlier than the ‘last stages of the war.’

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Interview by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP regarding recent political and international developments

Jan 04, 2014

1.  Chief  Minister of the  Northern province justice C.V.Wigneswaran has been complaining that Governer S.A Chandrasri  is not consulting on anything with him and doing everything on his own, making the massive mandate of the people of North meaningless. All the provincial Governers have the same  powers, but only the Northern & Eastern Provinces Governers  are behaving aggressively. Other Governers do not interfere with the decisions & functions of the respective CMs. As one of the pro-13A prominent figures from among the majority community, how do you react to this unfortunate situation?
 
This situation is typical of many in which both sides speak and act without any sensitivity to the requirements of the other. It was very sad that the TNA has engaged in negative comments about the Governor for a long time, and in particular during the election campaign and afterwards. Since it seemed to have pre-judged the issue, it could not really have expected the Governor to have been positive about the new administration.
 
On the other hand, despite the boorish behavior of the TNA, the Governor should have made an effort. He should also recognize that the TNA is not a monolith, and he should have brought himself to cooperate within the framework of the Constitution, given that the TNA had been elected with an overwhelming mandate.  
 
Your question suggests that the Northern and Eastern Governors are behaving in an exceptional fashion, but you must remember that the situation in those two Provinces was exceptional in that they had no elected government for several years, following the extravagant behavior of the last (joint) Provincial Chief Minister as also the flirtation between the Government and the LTTE, which was such a disaster for Sri Lanka. Both Governors therefore got used to running an administration.
 
However, while there was potential for conflict when we finally had an elected Provincial administration in the East, because of the capacity for consultation of both the Governor and the Chief Minister, there were no tensions between them. As you know, the East developed in leaps and bounds when Mr Pillaiyan was the Chief Minister, but he would be the first to acknowledge the role of the Governor, who was an experienced administrator.
 
Mr Wigneswaran should acknowledge how much the Northern Governor did for the development of the Province, and recognize that they need to work together to ensure a smooth transition to the primacy of the elected Chief Minister. Similarly, the Governor should recognize that Mr Wigneswaran is an experienced administrator in his own right, and should take his advice on issues on which the Constitution lays down that this is the procedure.

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Responses by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP to a questionnaire received in connection with a dissertation on Foreign Policy behavior of post conflict Sri Lanka: response to war crime allegations and human rights violations

Dec 28, 2013

  1. Why did Sri Lanka not make a formal and credible reply to the expert advisory report to the UNSG. Was just rejection sufficient?
 
No, that was an inadequate response as we can see from the follow up. I think we did not respond because we felt the UNSG was wrong to have commissioned such a report. However, given that he had sent it to us, we should have made a formal response. That response could have been in the form of questioning the procedure that had been followed, to draw attention to inadequacies in the report.
 
I actually sent some suggestions at the time to the Secretary to the Ministry and to the Attorney General who was supposed to be assisting the government with the issue, but nothing was done. I was told to write myself to the UN, and I did so, on a couple of issues, but when I got no response it was clear that there had to be official questions raised. However the Ministry of External Affairs failed to understand this, which is why the report – and the sequel which I warned them of – are now seen as credible documents.
 
I give below the list of possible questions which I sent to the authorities who did nothing –
 
1.  Did the Panel consult the heads of UN agencies in Sri Lanka with regard to the various allegations contained in the Panel report, and in particular those concerning
  • Alleged rape

  • Deliberate deprival of humanitarian assistance

  • Unnecessary suffering for the displaced

  • Lack of information about rehabilitation sites?

It would be useful to ask the UN Secretary General to circulate the letter of the UN Resident Coordinator with regard to conditions at the camps, and request reports from him as well as the heads of the WFP and UNHCR with regard to these matters. In particular the UN Secretary General should be asked to share with the panel the reports of the various protection agencies that functioned during this period.
 
2.  Did the Panel consult the head of the ICRC with regard to the various allegations contained in the Panel report, and in particular those concerning
 
  • Transportation of the wounded and others from conflict areas to government hospitals, and the treatment received by these

  • Transportation of food and other supplies to the conflict area

  • Information provided by the ICRC to government about conditions in the conflict area, and in particular the establishment and operation of medical centres

It would be useful to ask the UN Secretary General to circulate the letter of the ICRC head to the navy regarding its support for ICRC operations, and to request reports from him with regard to these matters.
 

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Reconciliation and the role of India

Dec 15, 2013

Presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP
At the Observer Research Foundation
Delhi, December 13th 2013
 
I must admit to being deeply worried about the current state of relations between India and Sri Lanka. I contrast this with the excellent situation that obtained in 2009, when India was the chief component of the protective barrier against efforts to stop us eradicating terrorism from our shores. One might have thought that this was a goal the whole world would have supported, but sadly this is not an ideal world and countries will naturally put their own self interest first. Fortunately, not only did India’s interests coincide with our own at that stage, but given the terrible toll terrorism funded by external sources was taking on both our countries, I think it is also true to say that we worked in accordance with the highest moral perspectives.
 
But the aim we shared then, of eradicating terrorism on our shores, went hand in hand with another commitment, which was the promotion of pluralism in Sri Lanka. This again is a moral goal, but it also has a practical dimension, in that the full incorporation of the Tamil people in the body politic in Sri Lanka would have reduced the potential for future terrorism.
 
Sadly Sri Lanka has not pursued the Reconciliation process with the commitment it requires. Given its urgency I believe we should try to understand the reasons for this, and try to overcome them. In this process India has a significant role to play.
 
The first reason is myopia. Major decision makers in government, or rather the only decision maker in this regard, the Minister of Economic Development, believed that material development would ensure integration of conflict affected areas in the national economy and hence promote reconciliation. He was wrong, and it is a pity that he does not understand the need for consultation of potential beneficiaries as well as professionals when planning benefits for some sectors. But in mitigation it should be said that the strategy had worked to a great extent in the East, and he did not have established institutions to which to turn when making plans for the North. The absence of think tanks in Sri Lanka, the abolishing of the Ministry of Policy and Plan Implementation, as well as the Ministry of Human Rights, left a vacuum which sheer energy cannot fill.
 

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Statement of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka On the death of Nelson Mandela

Dec 10, 2013

The Liberal Party of Sri Lanka is deeply grieved at the death of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. He was a beacon of civilization in the 20th century. Without his idealism and his inclusive vision, South Africa would not have been able so swiftly to escape the shackles of apartheid and the resentment to which naturally such a loathsome political dispensation gave rise.
 
Nelson Mandela suffered grievously for his commitment to freedom, a freedom that was denied to the native people of South Africa for many years under colonialism, and then under an ostensibly independent country in which the vast majority of the population were still enchained. The monstrosity of that regime is difficult now to comprehend, but the manner in which it was supported by many countries that claimed to uphold freedom is a blot that the rest of the world will find difficult to forget. 
 
It is a mark of Nelson Mandela’s wisdom and humanity that he ensured that the monstrosities that occurred, and their defence by those who pretended to know better, were forgiven. When the apartheid government realized that reforms were essential, they were lucky to find a reliable partner with whom to negotiate. Both the then ruling party, and the African National Congress, which had suffered so grievously, were mature enough to entrust negotiations to individuals of stature, and they achieved a result that must be the envy of all countries that have experienced conflict.

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Getting the balance right - David Cameron and foreign relations

Nov 28, 2013

Soon after David Cameron had left Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times in England published a satirical piece about his visit. It accused him of behaving like a public school prefect and treating the Sri Lankan President like a fag, a junior schoolboy who was at his beck and call. 
 
Cameron’s was certainly a brilliant performance, full of British bravado. Having decided, correctly in my view, that he would attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, he had to contend with the anger of those who have in effect been running British policy with regard to Sri Lanka, which has been deeply negative about our success in overcoming terrorism in this country. He had therefore to put in an aggressive performance to keep them happy, and this he certainly did. 
 
I do not mean only the extremist members of the diaspora, who have been enormously successful in lobbying British politicians where it matters. Having concentrated their attentions initially on Labour, and obtained brilliant results through David Miliband, they were quick to switch in 2010 when the Conservatives won, while the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry floundered, and did not even bother to appoint a High Commissioner to England for a lengthy period.
 

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The Road to Reconciliation, 2010


View all articles in this section
 
 
 
 
 
 

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