Sri Lanka: Conscientious Sinhalese tell LLRC about injustice to ethnic minorities from the time of independence(1948

) till today Jayantha Dhanapala’s submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), 25 August 2010: ‘The lessons we have to learn go back to the past – certainly from the time that we had responsibility for our own governance on 4 February 1948. Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality. Our inability to manage our affairs has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens. We need to rectify this bad governance and the first and foremost task before us is to undertake constitutional reform in order to ensure that we have adequate devolution of power. We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic institutions. (Dhanapala is a Sinhalese and was formerly UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament) K.Godage(former Sri Lankan diplomat) addresses LLRC, 15 September 2010: ‘’ …. We have persistently discriminated against the Tamil people from 1956…. The Tamils have

undergone, and are undergoing immense hardship. We need to reach out to them. It is because we have not reached out to th em, that we had Wadukottai resolution in 1976, 20 years after 1956. Then the 1972, Constitution, it removed Section 29 from the Soulbury Constitution. There is no reason for any one to be insecure, as a result of giving into
the reasonable demands of the Tamil people. .... Now I must tell you of a very, very sad, bad and dangerous situation. We have in our prisons over 2000 young Tamil men. Some of them have been taken on suspicion. Just picked up and taken. In detention without charges for years, Sir, for years ….’’ Prof Priyan Dias addresses LLRC, 07 October 2010: ‘’If we do not feel guilty for the Northern military uprising we cannot go anywhere in the future as a country.’’ Bernard Gunatileke(former Sri Lankan Sinhalese diplomat) to LLRC, 11 August 2010: ‘‘The most important factor, which we have failed to attend, is meaningful devolution of political power to the periphery from the centre. There must also be involvement of the minorities in the political activities in the centre.’’ Friday Forum to LLRC, 1 October 2010: '' If the overall nature of governance does not instil confidence, then whatever policies and efforts are put in place to achieve national cohesion and unity, they are bound to fail. Hence, strengthening of democratic governance, the Rule of Law and protection of human rights on the basis of equal rights should be essential goal posts on the path to reconciliation. .... The failure of successive governments to make the 13th Amendment and devolution of power work even in the South has left serious doubts as to whether devolution of power will ever be effective in the north-east. … Meaningful constitutional reform should necessarily be put in place - a strong legal régime of human rights protection.'' Submission by Harim Peiris to LLRC, 7 October 2010: ‘’ We may have united the nation geographically, but remain polarized ethno-socially. It is not possible to simultaneously argue the need to maintain Emergency Law, the need for war time levels of defence expenditure and deployment of a network of security installations in the North not found anywhere else in the country and still maintain that the Tamil people are not alienated from the Sri Lankan State. ….. The immediate short term measures that are required are the humanitarian needs of the conflict affected people of the North and East …… If General and Presidential Elections can be held in the North and the East it is impossible to argue that the Northern Provincial Council's elections need to be delayed any further. However, I would also respectfully submit that the frustrations experienced by the elected Chief Minister of the Eastern

Province - incidentally an ethnic Tamil, in relation to the unelected Governor – incidentally a retired Sinhala Military Officer should not be allowed to be repeated in the North, if devolution is to be meaningful, and indeed such issues should be resolved, in the East. Strengthen individual human rights and fundamental and democratic political freedoms, by acceding to Sri Lanka’s international and treaty obligations and in keeping with Supreme Court Judgments in this regard, through the passing of enabling domestic legislation, that will fundamentally strengthen the rights of the individual citizens. Its fundamental Human rights.’’ (Harim Pieris was civil servant and Advisor to a former President) Elmore Perera(Founder, Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance(CIMOGG) to LLRC, 10 November 2010: Beginning with the “Sinhala Only” policy of 1956, which disregarded the multi-cultural and pluralistic nature of society, the removal of the constitutional provision guaranteeing minority rights … The 1983 racial riots were a disaster. Tamils were treated as being sub-human. Many of those who could leave the country by lawful or even unlawful means did so. Those who remained were subjected to arbitrary, humiliating treatment. Rounding up of 30 to 40 Tamil youth on Friday evenings, producing them before Magistrates to be remanded, and later releasing them on bail, after they had paid lawyers Rs1,000/- each for this purpose, was a regular occurrence in many parts of the city. Tamils, who could readily be identified as such from their National Identity Cards, were at the mercy of the lawenforcement agencies which arbitrarily enforced even laws of their own making. Except for brief periods when President Premadasa and President Kumaratunge made feeble attempts at reconciliation, there were no consistent attempts made to seek reconciliation. It was limited to lackadaisical efforts to defeat the LTTE militarily. Many Tamils were driven to feel that it was “better to fight and die rather than live like slaves”, in the hope that, “at least they would get a free state where Tamils can live a life of dignity”….’’ (an eminent lawyer and past President of the Organisation of Professional Associations) Prof A.P.R.Aluwihare to LLRC, 3 November 2010: ‘’It is politicization and a lack of rule of law which have contributed to many problems we have had. …. even politics has become politicized in this country …. the problem is not that we don’t have good laws even now, but that guys who are rich and powerful and political wriggle their way down the laws and in terms of the mandate of the Commission of preventing future trouble it is very important to set that process into reverse with a political will.’’ Austin Fernando, Former Secretary of Defence, 18 August 2010: ‘’When I look at the responsibilities, some of those government senior politicians were very silent. On the other hand the Opposition politicians were sabotaging the thing(peace talks) ....’’ Submission by Dr John Goonaratne, 15 September 2010: ‘’ This has been so since independence when discrimination on the basis of ethnic identity began to grow. If the grievances of Sri Lankan Tamils are not reconciled within Sri Lanka and are done merely to keep Chennai and New Delhi off our backs, we will only have ourselves to blame if there is a repetition of the events of 1980s…..’’ (Dr Goonaratne was a senior civil servant in the Foreign Ministry) Dr Anura Ekanayake(representing Ceylon Chamber of Commerce) to LLRC, 6 September 2010: ‘’We need to ensure that the benefits of the end of the war must be felt equally by all sections of the community. …. Then finally we need to accelerate civil administration vis-à-vis military administration in the north and the east supported by a transparent political process to establish local government.’’ Kumar Rupasinghe, Chairman, Foundation for Co-existance, 20 October 2010: ‘’key findings of the report is that whilst Tamil is an official language in the country, there are glaring discrepancies in its implementation. The report is abundant with instances of humiliation .... let us look at the dismal state of affairs of what young people of the plantation sector go through on a daily basis – another aspect of humiliation. …. Then the injustice to the Muslims. ….’’ Manel Abeysekera to LLRC, 23 August 2010: ‘’It is our neglect of Tamil sensitivity … the main underlying cause was our neglect of the Tamil language tantamount to an undermining of human rights of the Tamil people which caused the aggravation of the conflict and the widening of the chasm between officialdom and the main minority, the Tamils. All development measures must be people centered and not merely for infrastructure alone or as show pieces where the cost benefit is not in favour of the people.….The practical thing to do in my opinion is firstly to draw up an action plan with priorities and the implementation time-frame ...... I wish to emphasize the following points which I consider important for reconciliation c. not allowing an influx of Sinhalese to the North for rehabilitation related development work ’’ Mr. Mangala Moonasinghe to LLRC, 17 August 2010: ‘’…so, who started terrorism – it was we – and then gradually naturally the youth, Tamil youth, went into terrorism in the north. … So terrorism did not come on its own. We created them sir, we created them.’’ (Moonasinghe is a former Sri Lankan diplomat and MP) Asoka Goonawardana to LLRC, 25 August 2010: ‘’ There has been a contradiction in approaches to conflict and development - centralized approaches as far as development is concerned and devolved approaches as far as conflict is concerned. This contradiction or this separation of the approaches is the governance gap. This is important and must be addressed as one moves on to a process of reconciliation. Reconciliation must be envisioned within an institutional framework for democratic governance – more democratic governance than what we have had so far. …. Sri Lanka’s experience in devolution under the 13th Amendment has suffered from inadequacies in design as well as in practice especially from a lack of coherence and commitment in moving from centralized to devolved governance. ’’ (Goonawardana was former Chairman of Finance Commission and Executive Governor of Marga Institute) Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando to LLRC, 19 November 2010: ‘’The way the minority groups are treated in the country is far from the nationally or internationally accepted standards and principles. … The media reports do not appear to be accurate regarding the IDPs, they are released, they are not resettled.

Some of the people from the South are employed but no people have been employed from the war torn areas.
Counselling process is denied to the victims of war - the Presidential Task Force (PTF) has denied these facilities for healing and reconciliation. This Commission has already submitted an interim report to the President. I tried my best to have access to that report but I failed.’’ P.B.Hettige(retired civil servant) to LLRC, 30 September 2010: ‘’.... These appointments were given to members of the family of employees in the north and kith and kin of soldiers and not to the people of Jaffna. Now these persons who received such appointments after about 6/7 months they used to get transfers back to their home towns and to those vacancies thus created others were appointed. ... The Tamil people were caused an injustice. By making Sinhala the official language though much was done to the Sinhalese the Tamil people were forgotten; they were neglected. ..... no Government did anything for the development of the roadways in Jaffna. No industries were started .... it was to avenge these acts that the Tamil youths voluntarily joined the LTTE. ....’’ Prof Laxman Jayatilleke to LLRC, 9 November 2010: ‘’.... He said please go and tell that our schools don’t have teachers and our community is in a way badly off with regard to education facilities. .... There are enough Tamil speaking graduates who pass out; there are places of education which can train the teachers; and so recruiting and deploying teachers in sufficient numbers will be an important thing together with supervision of the schools. .... So developing the universities of both the east and the north are critical and of crucial importance.’’ Judge C.G. Weeramantry to LLRC, 29 November 2010 ''There are certain essential prerequisites: ‘’i.A total commitment to democracy in all its aspects and ii.A total commitment to the Rule of Law and to Human Rights.'' …. There are many factors to which we should give our attention in this connection, for without confidence and trust that their rights will be upheld and guaranteed without fear or favour, there

cannot be contentment and harmony, especially among minorities whose confidence in law and order needs to be built on firm foundations. Since this is an institutional, administrative and legislative field which has such deep implications for the future of a united Sri Lanka living in harmony, peace and equality under the protection of the law I trust the Commission will give it careful and considered attention.’’ (His submission also states how he tried with previous Heads of governments to have appropriate constitution for equality for all citizens. Judge Weeramantry is a Sinhalese and is a world-renowned legal scholar and a former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice) Submission by the Catholic Diocese of Mannar to LLRC, 8 January 2011:’’Previous Commissions of Inquiry have failed to establish the truth into human rights violations and extrajudicial killings they were inquiring and bring justice and relief to victims and their families. According to government statistics about the population in Vanni in early October 2008 and number of people who came to government controlled areas(May 2009) after the war, 146,679 people seem to be unaccounted for.'' Submission before Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) by Chandra Jayaratne, 23 September 2010: ‘’…... Years of inequitable allocation of national resources and consequential disparities in regional economic development, infrastructure development and public service delivery have sown the seeds of discontent and disillusionment leading to conflict, insurrections of the South and the North and even the armed struggle towards a separate administration … ….. ……. Some of these perceptions commonly referred to in discussions include: IDP’s being denied access to their former places of residence Challenging the right to title of the properties traditionally owned and /or occupied persons living in conflict affected areas Large tracts of previously occupied lands being demarcated as high security zones Unjustified land acquisitions on security considerations but allocated for non security related purposes The publicly announced resettlement benefits to internally displaced persons not being distributed equitably and in line with the announced scheme Lack of basic amenities like water, sanitation, power and proper housing for the newly resettled families Resource allocation not determined on community priorities and allocated without consultation and outside the need base and at times missing the most vulnerable and in need, possibly due to identity based biases Some areas like Jaffna receiving more than necessary resource allocations and peripheral areas lacking in even basic allocations Preventing willing and capable NGO’s/INGO’s, international community and Diaspora from helping people in need at their most vulnerable moment of need Building of new permanent military cantonments with residential facilities for military personnel and their families Plans to settle majority community families in order to change the traditional area demography otherwise than by natural development oriented migration Arbitrary arrests and detention in the post war period as well Continuing active engagement of unauthorized armed groups Continuing disappearances of civilians List of persons in custody, camps and detention centres not being made public Failure to assist families in tracing missing persons Negative impact on civilians during the conflict due military excesses Unease of single women headed families fearing for their safety in the presence of large number of armed personnel of the forces Removal of burial sites of persons affected by the conflict Some important cultural, religious and remembrance sites being damaged and destroyed Disrespect shown by visitors to holy sites and sites held in high esteem by resident communities Free availability of liquor, cigarettes and narcotics Emerging consumerism promoted by business houses who fail to participate in adding value to the civilian communities Savings of the region being channelled to other areas whilst unmet needs of area community remain Decision making in the hands of the military or officials from the Central Government. .…’’ (Jayaratne is a Sinhalese and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies and a former President of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce)

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