Presentation at the Colloquium of MARGA & CHA : Re Narrative iii-Last Stages of the War; A Private Sector Perspective
Aug 31, 2014
Let me start with a paradox. This is an extremely impressive book, but I find it woefully depressing. It has been put together, according to the introduction, by three patriots who are also strong adherents of pluralism and the rule of law. Godfrey Gunatilleka is, as Dayan Jayatilleka once described him, arguably the best intellect in public life, Asoka Gunawardena is the most balanced and practical of administrators, and Jeevan Thiagarajah combines unparalleled energy in the service of his country with wide ranging knowledge of what happened in various spheres during the conflict.
Why then am I depressed? There are several reasons for this. The first is very simply that it comes far too late. Second, it requires fleshing out through details which are only available with government. Third, it leaves unstated the need for immediate action by government in the spheres in which it is unable to refute allegations made against the country. Fourth – and I cannot believe that the main writers were responsible for this, given the very different perspective Godfrey put forward in the television interview – it seems to swallow wholesale the allegations against the UN leadership in Sri Lanka made by the Petrie Report. Finally, it leaves out one group of significant actors, namely those who have contributed heavily to the Darusman Report, if we are to believe Wikileaks: I mean the NGO representatives who produced evidence against Sri Lanka.
For these reasons, the fourth and fifth sections of this book are weak. The first two sections are very strong, and provide an object lesson to the Sri Lankan government as to how it should have dealt with the allegations in the first place. The third section is well argued, but its main point is weakened by the failure to affirm forcefully the need for a credible internal inquiry with regard to the treatment of surrendees. In this regard the book is less balanced than the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report, which is surprising since its rationale is that of a middle way between that and Darusman.
‘The Right to Land and the Right to Development“ Irreconcilable Differences?’ at the Forum on ‘Sri Lanka’s Road to Sustainable Development’ organized by the Law and Society Trust, August 22nd 2014
Aug 24, 2014
The Right to Private Property is not recognized in the Sri Lankan Constitution. When the Liberal Party first asserted the need for this, in the eighties, we were considered eccentric, as we were then with regard of our advocacy of the German Mixed System of Election and a Second Chamber.
Now that the idea – like those others, I should note - is more widely accepted, I should also stress the flip side of this, as it were, namely that this Right is not in conflict with State needs when it comes to development. Those must necessarily take precedence. As I have pointed out recently, in dealing with the constant queries that come up at Divisional Reconciliation meetings, the State does have the right to take over land for public purposes, and this cannot be circumscribed. However it has to be exercised in conformity with clear regulations, which include the stipulation that nothing that is not strictly necessary for the stated purpose is taken over. There must also be transparency as to the purpose and the rationale for selection, and the process needs to be justiciable. The third principle that must accompany these is of adequate compensation, again with transparency as to the calculations, and justiciability.
The principles may be simple, but putting them into practice is not. Also, given the delays and expenses of our legal system, it is desirable to put in place, to ensure justice, mediation mechanisms, so that recourse to law is rare. And there must be systems in place to ensure that judicial or quasi-judicial decisions are not flouted.
I say this because of the sorry history of a project that I think exemplifies the problems we face. I refer to the Southern Highway, which I think everyone will agree is a welcome development that benefits the country as a whole. Yet we know that it took ages to complete, and the route was changed finally so that much more private property was taken over than on the initial plan, and much more compensation paid than should have been necessary. And though the ADB had a complaints mechanism in place, and though that mechanism ruled in favour of those who had objected to the new route, that ruling came too late to bring relief.
Sri Lanka’s Relations with the Outside World - Post Conflict Reconstruction in Sri Lanka and the International Community
Aug 01, 2014
A couple of years back one of the more thoughtful of our career Foreign Ministry officials tried to put together a book on Sri Lanka’s international relations. This was an excellent idea in a context in which we do not reflect or conceptualize when dealing with other countries.
However it turned out that hardly any Foreign Ministry officials were willing or able to write for such a volume. Still, with much input from academics, the manuscript was finalized. But then the Minister decided that it needed to be rechecked, and handed it over to his underlings at the Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies, where it has lain forgotten since.
Recently I retrieved from my archives the two pieces I was asked to write, and am republishing them here -
Sri Lanka needs to be aware of both facts and principles in dealing with Post Conflict Reconstruction. The facts are simple, and we must recognize that the world at large is aware of them. First, we need aid and assistance for reconstruction. Second, that assistance will be more readily forthcoming if we make significant progress towards reconciliation. Third, reconciliation will be judged in terms not only of what government says, but also the responses of the Tamil community.
These three facts are I think readily recognized by government, and there is no essential difficulty about working in accordance with them. There is however a fourth fact that we need to bear in mind, which is that some elements in the international community believe that the attitude of the diaspora is the most significant element in assessing Tamil responses. This is potentially an upsetting factor, and we have to make sure we deal with it convincingly. Similar to this is a fifth factor, that assessments made in Colombo are often used by salient elements in the international community to judge what is happening with regard to reconciliation and the responses to this of the Tamil community at large. Again, this is a factor that government must take into account.
Text of an interview given by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP to Deutschewelle
May 14, 2014
Five years after the end of the civil war, how do you assess the reconciliation process between the majority Sinhala community and the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka?
It is not going at all well, largely because there is no focus on Reconciliaton. In the Draft National Reconciliaton Policy prepared in my office, we noted the need for..
Establishing a multi-stakeholder institutional mechanism with responsibility to promote and monitor the reconciliation process. A Parliamentary Select Committee should review the work of this mechanism. The mechanism should thereafter cease to exist at the end of three years unless Parliament decides otherwise.
Far from this being done, I had no response whatsoever to the draft. This was to ignore what the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission had clearly stated, viz ‘‘...despite the lapse of two years since the ending of the conflict, the violence, suspicion and sense of discrimination are still prevalent in social and political life. Delay in the implementation of a clearly focused post conflict peace building agenda may have contributed to this situation.’
The situation after five years is much worse, because the government has not understood that reconciliation cannot come through what is termed a trickle down effect. This is the more astonishing in that the President has a political perspective that understands you cannot rely on a trickle down effect to promote national prosperity through pure capitalism. He appreciates the modern Liberal philosophy expressed by John Rawls through the Maxi-Min principle. But, while working on rural development, he does not apply similar practices to the areas decimated by the war.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.