Sinhala  Tamil    Seperate    
Governtment of Sri Lanka


A time for moderation

( Created date: 01-Aug-2013 )

The last couple of weeks have seen momentous changes. Basil Rajapaksa has been to Delhi and Shivshankar Menon to Colombo, reminding one of the very successful manner in which relations between the two countries were conducted during the conflict. Even before the visits, the President announced the long delayed elections to the Northern Provincial Council, a move that Basil Rajapaksa is reported to have described as ‘a big victory in democratization’.

Given that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had come out swinging as it were against the 13th Amendment and Provincial Councils, this would suggest that the new situation represents a defeat for him, and a resurgence of moderation. But it would be a mistake to think that the viewpoint represented by Gotabhaya is either negative, or that it has been negatived. After all, it should be remembered that he was part of the troika (along with Basil and Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge) who were responsible for relations with India during the conflict period, and he was at that stage perhaps the Sri Lankan in whom the Indians had the greatest confidence.

Chanaka Amaratunga and the 13th Amendment

Chanaka Amaratunga died tragically on the 1st of August 1996. Almost exactly 9 years previously he had penned the Liberal Party statement on the Indo-Lankan Accord, which still stands as the most intelligent assessment of that seminal episode in modern Sri Lankan history. It was a ringing assertion of principle and moderation at a time when dogmatic opponents of the Accord were suggesting that disaster had struck us, as though a remedy was not urgently needed for the disasters the country had been going through for years.

The relentless erosion of democracy – with the referendum that postponed elections, the political arrests and torture and murder that were widespread (Ananda Sunil for example, and the state sponsored murders in Welikada in 1983), the intimidation of Judges of the Supreme Court who delivered unwelcome judgments or statements (which the West delighted in during those Reagan days, when ‘our bastards’ were protected whatever they did) – and the ruthless suppression of moderate Tamil opinion had led to violence that was corrosive. Though it is now argued that the Indians prevented what would have been certain victory over the Tigers in 1987, that was certainly not assured, nor could it have led to lasting peace and reconciliation, given the deep resentments in the country at the time, in the South as well as the North.
Text of a presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
At the Officer Career Development Centre, Buttala, August 6th 2013
The text of this lecture was prepared some time back, but the recent incident at Weliweriya has suggested that I need to qualify what I said. Over the last six years I have probably been the most effective spokesman for the military internationally – which is doubtless what led to the Ministry of External Affairs ensuring that I no longer have an official role in this regard.
But I have continued to defend them against unfair attacks, and done so successfully. Indeed, after my assessment of the Channel 4 videos, the UN Special Rapporteur is reported to have told one of his students that, did he need someone to defend him in a Court of Law, he would select me. I have been able to do this because I have believed that our forces fought a clean war. Though there may have been individual aberrations, which need to be investigated as the LLRC Report indicated, we have much to be proud of in comparison with other countries faced even with far lesser threats.
Given their competence and decency, I have long believed that the military should do even more than it is doing now, to promote greater coherence and efficiency in the Nation Building process. I still stand by that view. But I realize that I have not made forcefully enough here the point I have also noted, that the work of the forces should be within a civilian framework, and in line with norms prevalent in a peaceful situation, with avoidance of military responses appropriate to an emergency.
This is in line with the point made by His Excellency the President, which I agree with, that we cannot simply discharge members of the forces because the period in which we needed large numbers is now in the past. His argument was that we needed to retrain them to take their place in a society free from conflict. For that purpose we had to identify civilian roles, in for instance the worlds of business and administration, which they could satisfactorily fulfil.
But to do that we need to ensure a mindset free from the militaristic approach that was necessary during the conflict. And we need to ensure that actions appropriate when self-defence had to be a priority are not thought of, let alone practiced, when there is no danger.

Post Conflict Role of the Army in the North and East, and maintenance of the Professional Image and Dignity of the Army

( Created date: 12-Aug-2013 )

Expansion of the summing up by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
of the last session of the Seminar on Post Conflict Role of the Army in the North and East, and maintenance of the Professional Image and Dignity of the Army - Buttala Officer Career Development Centre, August 7th 2013

In summing up this last session, I will try also to sum up the Seminar as a whole, since I think this was a timely initiative with thought provo
king presentations made by both the civilians and the officers who participated. I believe these need to be connected to make clear the lines along which we should proceed in fulfilling the tasks we are discussing.

The first session dealt with what is needed in general, and the constraints on work in the North. This was followed by a session on what the forces are doing, while the third session gave a case study as it were of the way in which the forces work in the field of Disaster Management, the most obvious field in which military involvement is essential. Finally we had a conceptual approach to the task of National Building.

In a sense this mirrored the general account by General Udaya Perera of the role of the armed forces, when he spoke of the physical role they fulfilled, and then noted the moral and conceptual perspectives they needed to adopt. To put this simplistically, we need to know what we are doing, but also why we are doing it. The rationale has to have a moral purpose, and then we need to understand how the task must fulfil the purpose. We need then to see too that work that negates that purpose, even though it seems a short cut to an obvious objective, can nullify all our efforts.

Thus we had to defeat the Tigers, but we had to do this on behalf of the Tamil people too, since they are an integral part of the nation we were fighting to hold together. And this perspective has to continue too after the fighting has ceased, because as General Aruna Perera indicated, when there is a fragile peace, you have to continue with operations other than war to ensure that it becomes solid and sustainable.  

Unfortunately, as Mr Divaratne pointed out in the opening presentation, when he laid out what government has done in the North, we are lacking a conceptual framework for Reconciliation, which should inform all our work, so that the physical efforts you are putting in are seen to be part of a moral commitment.  General Aruna Perera noted that, beyond the basic needs that we fulfilled so swiftly, the people also have a thirst for esteem and self-realization that we have not done enough to fulfil.

July ‘83 and National Reconciliation

Some decades ago I quoted Santayana’s dictum that a people who cannot remember its past is doomed to repeat it. I cannot remember the exact words. Shortly thereafter President Jayewardene repeated the quotation, and it was much in vogue for some years. Now, in writings on July ’83, the idea that a people who cannot remember its past is doomed to repeat it has been powerfully revived, though the quotation has been forgotten. A convenient and convincing illustration for that idea has been found in the ongoing racist anti-Muslim hate campaign and anti-Muslim action, which some weeks ago led to widespread fears of a repetition of the July ’83 pogrom, this time against the Muslims. All that can be seen as the consequence of a failure to remember the past, specifically the horrors brought to us by racist anti-Tamil action, particularly in July ’83.


I now want to make what seems to me a crucially important clarification of what Santayana probably, or almost certainly, had in mind in making his dictum. An erudite philosopher, Santayana could hardly have been unaware of the fact that a people often remembers its past selectively and with distortions to suit its present and future interests. I suppose that is what Henry Ford had in mind in declaring, "History is bunk". Some would argue that all history is purposive, not an unbiased record of what really happened but future-oriented interpretations meant to serve the interests of a people. However, it is incontrovertible that some things did actually happen in the past, and commonsense tells us that our interpretations can be right or wrong to varying degrees. So, what is important is not just to remember the past, but to try to remember it as it actually was, not as we would like it to have been.

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The World Today: China, India and the United States as seen from Sri Lanka


Text of a presentation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP, at the Seminar on

Crossed Perceptions: China, the United States, the European Union, Brazil and the Emerging World

October 22nd 2013, Rio de Janeiro

Let me begin with one of the formative myths of the Sri Lankan state. It deals with the introduction of Buddhism to the country, in the 2nd century BC. The king at the time, Devanampiyatissa, was out hunting when he came across a strange man in the forests of Mihintale. This was Mahinda, the son, or some say the brother, of the Mauryan Emperor Asoka, who had converted to Buddhism after a terrible war in which, to complete his conquest of India, he had slaughtered thousands.

When the monk saw Tissa, he asked him whether he saw the mango tree before them. Tissa said yes, and then the monk asked whether there were other mango trees. Tissa said yes, and then the monk asked if there were trees other than mango trees. Tissa said yes again, whereupon the monk asked whether, apart from all the other mango trees, and all the other trees that were not mango trees in the world, there were any other trees.

Tissa thought hard, and then replied that there was indeed the original mango tree the monk had pointed out. This was when Mahinda decided that Tissa was a fit person to understand the doctrines of Buddhism, so he preached to him and converted him and through him his people. Buddhism has since been the dominant religion in Sri Lanka, though, I think uniquely, we also have substantial proportions of our population belonging to the other principal faiths of the world, Hinduism and Islam and Christianity.


“Mirrored Images” – a move towards unity(and sanity)


I had the good fortune to participate at the launch of Mirrored Images, an anthology of Sri Lankan Poetry edited by RajivaWijesinha.  The book was published by the prestigious National Book Trust of India.

Prof RajivaWijisinha had already collected An Anthology of Sri Lankan Short Stories for NBT, beside, of course, his modest collection of Modern Sri Lankan Poetry inEnglish.  But this is a more ambitious work which has drawn from Sinhala. Tamil and English representative works.   The volume which runs to 400 pages contains 138 poems written in Sinhala and Tamil translated into English and 72 poems originally written in English.

These poems were written over the last five decades during which the island nation – after independence – went through radical political, Social and economic changes.  It also witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils which culminated in a bloody civil war.  War means death, destruction and displacement. It also leaves, in its wake, thousands of widows and the disabled who become the responsibility of the country.  That was – and is – the context in which these Sri Lankan poets worked.  So, understandably, a substantial number of the poems in this collection are disturbing and sad.

The legacy of Lakshman Wickremesinghe, thirty years after


Lakshman Wickremesinghe, Bishop of Kurunagala from 1962 to 1983, died 30 years ago, on October 23rd. He was undoubtedly the most impressive Anglican Bishop Sri Lanka has produced, and with every year that passes his stature seems to grow.

Much has been written about him recently, most notably in Rajan Hoole’s detailed assessment of what happened in July 1983. Hoole shows how those events contributed to his premature death for, though he had a heart condition and had been advised to take things slow, he threw himself into trying to assuage the hurt felt by Tamils who had suffered in the state sponsored attacked on them.

He had been in England in July, taking the much needed break his doctors had advised, and trying to set down his thoughts on an oriental view of Christianity. In the last conversation we had, on the phone for I got to England on the day he was due to leave, he assured me that he would take things slow, in trying first to understand what had happened, and how the social dispensation into which he had been born had turned rabid. But seeing the suffering and the bewilderment, he did not rest, being the first Sinhalese dignitary to go up to Jaffna to apologize for what had happened.

Getting the balance right – David Cameron and foreign relations


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.
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.

Reconciliation and the role of India 

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.

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


  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
  1. Alleged rape
  2. Deliberate deprival of humanitarian assistance
  3. Unnecessary suffering for the displaced
  4. 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.

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

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.

Geneva 2014: Is the government falling into a trap?

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.’
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.

UN vote and reconciliation in Sri Lanka

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

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.

Text of an interview given by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, MP to Deutschewelle

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.

Sri Lanka’s Relations with the Outside World – Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Sri Lanka and the International Community


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.

‘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


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. 
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. 

Sri Lankan Minister calls on poets to help unite a divided nation

Writers, actors and dancers asked to help heal the wounds of civil war as new government pushes for reconciliation
For centuries, the poets of Sri Lanka have sung the praises of the island nation’s stunning physical beauty – and spoken too of the conflicts that have torn it apart. Now, the government is looking to the country’s literature to heal the wounds of a brutal civil war.Rajiva Wijesinha, the recently appointed minister for higher education, has called on universities to organise programmes of poetry, along with sports, drama and dance, to “bring together” the largely Buddhist Sinhala majority and the largely Hindu Tamil minority.
“The arts are important. They can only be a part of a much broader effort, but should not be neglected. Nothing will make everyone happy but you can reduce the intensity of grief and anger,” Wijesinha, who recently published an anthology of poetry translated into English from both the main local languages, Sinhala and Tamil.
Sri Lanka is struggling with the aftermath of a brutal 26-year civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives. It ended in 2009 when government forces advanced behind heavy bombardments into the strongholds of separatist extremists fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north of the country.
In the wake of the war, the rift dividing the two major national communities has remained wide.Tamils blame the former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, defeated in a surprise result in early elections last month, which made few concessions to their demands for greater autonomy. Rajapaksa argued that economic growth would heal the wounds of war, and refused to release Tamil political prisoners, order the withdrawal of security forces from land seized by authorities or prosecute alleged war crimes.


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