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Lanka, House of Lords, 08.01.2013 Sri Lanka, Question for debate, Lord Naseby, Grand Committee, 08 January 2013 To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment to date of the implementation of the independent report from the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in Sri Lanka, and of the challenges facing Sri Lanka in implementing recommendations still outstanding http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130108-gc0001.htm Please let us comment on a few points in Lord Bates’ contribution*: 1.’’conflict went on for 26 yrs’’: 26-yr war was over but the 65-yr conflict goes on unabated: ''When the war ended in May 2009, it was the worst that was over, but the ethnic conflict that spans more than five decades is not yet over’’ - National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, 14 November 2011 ‘’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’’ - Jayantha Dhanapala’s submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), 25 August 2010 (Dhanapala is a Buddhist Sinhalese and was formerly UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament) Sri Lanka is earning tourism business on the ethnic conflict: ''A knock on the sturdy front door of this grand mansion - little different from other homes of Colombo's rich and famous - one late-*September day in 1959 propelled this prime ministerial residence into the headlines. A saffron-robed Buddhist monk was welcomed, bypassing security because of his religious status. The visitor was a genuine monk - but he was also an assassin who reputedly believed Ceylon Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, a fellow-Buddhist, wasn't tough enough on Hindu Tamils. He pulled a revolver from under his robes, shooting the politician who was kneeling respectfully. Bandaranaike died hours later in hospital'' TOURISTS, SERENDIPITY RETURN TO SRI LANKA, 21 January 2013, http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a//article/15893959/tourists-serendipity-return-to-sri-lanka/ (* Prabhakaran was a toddler then) 2. ‘’the peace treaty was signed two or three years ago’’: Which treaty please? No treaty was signed 2/3 yrs ago. A Ceasefire Agreement was signed in 2002 and was abrogated unilaterally by the govt in 2008. There were Banda-Chelva Pact of 1957 and Dudley-Chelva Pact of 1966 abrogated unilaterally by the then-governments when there was opposition from the Sinhalese Buddhists. Non-violent sit-in protests by Tamils in 1956 and 1961 were crushed by Sinhalese mobs (watched passively by the Police) in Colombo in 1956 and by the armed forces sent by the government to Jaffna in 1961. Because Tamils demanded federalism, a state-aided pogrom was unleashed on them in 1958. Because Tamils began to seek separation in 1976, a state-aided pogrom was unleashed on them in 1977. But stateaided violence of varying quality and quantity has been going on non-stop till today – reports by national,
regional and international organisations. Many Sinhalese critics have been to their maker or driven out of the country over the last 5/6 decades till today. Paradise Poisoned: Learning about Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka 's Civil Wars(2005), John Richardson, Professor of International development, American University: ‘’Paradise Poisoned is the principal product of a seventeen year project, devoted to understanding linkages between deadly conflict, terrorism and development, by viewing them through the lens of Sri Lanka's post-independence history, from 1948 through 1988.…….My vision is of a day when no citizens in today's developing nations will have to ask 'how did we come to this?' Paradise Poisoned will have achieved its purpose when that day comes.'' 3. ‘’I guarantee as a fact that the people of Sri Lanka will still be wrestling with this issue in not five years' time but in 50 or 100 years' time’’: Ohhh, Lord Bates? WHY? Textbooks prepared by the Dept of Education of previous governments and programs prepared by the present Defence Secretary have the answer: http://www.scribd.com/doc/104760706/Sri-Lanka-Educationfor-War-Must-Be-Transformed-Into-Education-for-Peace Recommendations in scores of reports over 4/5 decades by UN Human Rights Committee and very many organisations and groups of eminent persons have all been ignored by successive Sri Lankan governments and by the international community. Paradise Poisoned: Learning about Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka 's Civil Wars(2005), John Richardson, Professor of International development in American University's School of International Service and Director of the University's Centre for Teaching Experience: ''How could we have come to this? What could we have done to prevent the conflict that has killed our family members and friends, devastated our lives, destroyed what was being so painstakingly developed? What can we learn and share from our experiences that may help others to avoid following a similar path? How can we share what we have learned most powerfully and effectively? The 'we' of these questions are, principally, political leaders and citizens of the nations, from Angola to Zaire , that have been victimised by civil war. There is another group of individuals, too, who must continue to pose questions about the causes and prevention of civil wars. Foreign political leaders, multilateral and non-governmental organisation leaders, leaders in the private sector and development practitioners share in the responsibility for causing civil wars, though they bear few of the costs.'' 4.’’South Africa would be much better placed’’: That’s exactly what the President of International Crisis Group suggested: What South Africa can do to help with reconciliation in Sri Lanka, 24 July 2011. When Ministers in South Africa government offered help, the Sri Lankan government quickly declined it. In the Late 1990s when Nelson Mandela offered help at UN General Assembly, the then-president of Sri Lanka instantly declined it. Research shows that intrastate ethnic conflicts are very vicious and can only be resolved by a third party. 5.‘’I am disappointed all other parties did not take part in it (LLRC)’’: LLRC, was appointed by the President and no political parties were expected/invited to join it. That is the usual procedure of a ‘’Commission of Inquiry’’ any government appoints.
But Sri Lankan National civil societies are critical of the government for appointing a series of 15 commissions and committees in the last 6/7 years and for not following up with publication of their reports: Centre for Policy Alternatives has posted this online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/85007346/A-List-ofCommissions-of-Inquiry-and-Committees-Appointed-by-the-Government-of-Sri-Lanka-2006-%E2%80%932012 ‘’So far there has been little or no indication of any special effort on the part of the government to implement the LLRC recommendations that formed the centrepiece of the UNHRC resolution. … It is unfortunate that actual implementation of the promises made by the government at the last session of the Universal Periodic Review in 2008 has been hardly satisfactory’’ - National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, 9 July 2012 ‘’ The challenge for human rights and civil society groups is to keep hope alive in the people who are not receiving either the fruits of development or justice. The questions of people like those who attended that workshop in Batticaloa must receive answers whether through the UPR process in Geneva or some other process. The government’s Action Plan to implement the LLRC report with its large gaps can only be taken as a preliminary document that needs a second look and much review’’ - Dual Reality And International Pressures, 8 October 2012, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/dual-reality-and-internationalpressures/ Colombo Telegraph: ‘’Even one year after the LLRC report was published, the Government continues to prevaricate on implementing the proposals in the LLRC report’’, 11 Dec 2012 and ‘’the almost non existent implementation of an LLRC Action Plan’’, 13 January 2013, 6.’’they have been working at conflict prevention rather than intervention’’: Whatever the government has been doing has been only exacerbating the conflict: Though the people of Northern Province have voted in Presidential and General elections, they are not yet given the chance of electing their own Provincial Council: ‘’ The government’s delay in restoring full civil administration to the north means that there will be a vicious cycle. So long as the government is mistrustful of the Tamil people of the north, and the Northern Province remains the one province in the country in which provincial council elections are not held, the government will continue to alienate the people of the north and keep communal discord alive’’ – National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, 16 July 2012 Instead the government formed a Presidential Task Force for Northern Development funded by foreign donors: ‘’The macro-economic decisions that the government makes in terms of developments in the north are not made with the participation of the people or their representatives. This is a major problem and cause for resentment. An example would be the Presidential Task Force for Northern Development. This governmental regulatory body is located in Colombo and is virtually all Sinhalese in its ethnic composition, even though most of the people in the north are Tamil. Several of its members are retired military officers. This money comes from international donors for the rehabilitation of the people of the north. But decision makers in Colombo decide what should be done without reference to the wishes of the people of the area’’ DISPELLING PERCEPTIONS OF UNCARING GOVERNMENT IN THE NORTH, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, 26 July 2012
7. ‘’the Conflict Pool is an essential part of it’’: We don’t know anything about the Conflict Pool you are talking about. But we are aware of the British govt Global Conflict Prevention Pool : ‘’In Deember 2002, the Pool brought five senior members of the Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy to London, Belfast and Edinburgh to study devolved administrations’’,http://collections.europarchive.org/tna/20080205132101/fco.gov.uk/files/kfile/43896_con flict%20broc.pdf 8. ‘’ If all the countries simply look at ways in which they can offer practical help and provide support for all the different parties in working through this tremendous difficulty, I think that there will be a chance of long-term stability’’: How can we thank you enough for such good intention, Lord Bates? But nobody can help Sri Lanka if they go only by the lies spoken by the Sri Lankan govt that enacted 18th Amendment that put maximum power in the Executive Presidency annulling the checks and balances introduced by the 17th Amendment : i.The President has just sacked the Chief Justice mainly because she questioned the Divineguma Bill that was recently passed by the Parliament and that would remove the devolutionary power given to the Provincial Councils. ii.‘’The umpteenth Indian delegation (Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, National Security Advisor Shiva Shankar Menon and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar) went back empty handed: President Rajapakse handed them a flat ‘Nyet’ and for once in a lifetime he spoke the truth. “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, 13A Plus, Minus, Divided or Subtracted, it will be curtains for me” - Sri Lanka: Indian Delegates go Home Empty Handed, Kumar David, 15 June 2011, http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers46%5Cpaper4558.html 9. Dear Lord Bates, we would like to see the ‘’outstanding brief prepared by the House of Lords Library. It seems to have ignored reports by national, regional and international organisations including the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: ‘’We conclude that continuing evidence of serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka shows that the Commonwealth's decision to hold the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo was wrong. We are impressed by the clear and forthright stance taken by the Canadian Prime Minister, who has said he would attend the Meeting only if human rights were improved. The UK Prime Minister should publicly state his unwillingness to attend the meeting unless he receives convincing and independentlyverified evidence of substantial and sustainable improvements in human and political rights in Sri Lanka. …. Sir Malcolm Rifkind was among those who expressed concern at the actions of a number of countries that had opposed the idea of a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights. He said that Sri Lanka was "the obvious case in point’’ – Foreign Affairs Committee - Fourth Report: The role and future of the Commonwealth, 1 November 2012 10.Please note: ‘’My own set of immediate demands as a citizen are as follows—roll back the Eighteenth Amendment; restore the Seventeenth Amendment and the Constitutional Council with improvements; guarantee judicial
independence and independence of all oversight bodies; stop political interference in and politicization of public institutions; take strong measures to prevent discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, language and religion; let law enforcement (meaning the ordinary law–not exceptional laws) take its own course, do not provide protection to erring political favourites; respect and protect free expression, association and assembly– adopt a policy of ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’; adopt a zero tolerance policy on torture, abductions and involuntary disappearances; permit free and fair elections and respect the people’s will’’ - An Ideology of Reconciliation Cannot be Built Without Basic Ingredients of Democracy and Rule of Law, Dr. Deepika Udagama (Head, Department of Law, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka), 15 August 2012, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/9627#more-9627 ‘’…. I, however, see a silver lining at the end of all this. If the powers that be feel threatened by the Annual Conference of the Judges, surely that is a sign of fear. That is a sign of weakness. That is a sign that what you do and say matters. That is a sign that together you are strong. That is a sign that the tide has turned, that a battle has been won and that intrinsic independence shines strong amongst you – the younger members of the Judiciary. You must continue performing your duties however challenging they are, bearing in mind the need to be balanced. You must continue to remain together, for you can be certain that there will be moves to split asunder the unity. You must continue this historic struggle for extrinsic independence. Not just for the judiciary but for democracy. Thank you’’ - Annual General Meeting of the Judicial Services Association, Justice C.V.Wigneswaran, 22 December 2012, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/you-must-continue-this-historic-struggle-for-extrinsicindependence-not-just-for-the-judiciary-but-for-democracy/
*Lord Bates: My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Naseby for securing this important debate. My interest is around the issue of conflict. I have never visited Sri Lanka and were it not for the opportunity provided by this debate and the outstanding brief prepared by the House of Lords Library for it, I would have known a great deal less about the tragedy that has hit that country. However, I have followed and witnessed what has happened in a number of areas of the world which have been recovering from conflict and the hallmarks of that difficult path are all too evident in what is happening in Sri Lanka at present. The question is: what are the solutions? We have learnt lessons from other areas-I am thinking in particular of our own issues in the Balkans and in Northern Ireland-and we know how difficult it is. In debates on foreign affairs in this House there is sometimes a level of arrogance where we pretend that we have got it all sorted and that we can lecture the rest of the world on how to get it right. However, the fact that a country like ours-with our wealth and our history of parliamentary democracy and justice-is still wrestling to achieve a settlement and peace in Northern Ireland should make us tread carefully and humbly into other people's conflicts. The first thing we learn from these kinds of conflicts is that, in the long term, violence never succeeds. The second thing we learn is that freezing-out never works: people need thawing out in conflict situations. In that sense, peace needs to be given a chance to take hold. In this circumstance, the conflict went on for 26 years and the peace treaty was signed two or three years ago. I guarantee as a fact that the people of Sri Lanka will still be wrestling with this issue in not five years' time but in 50 or 100 years' time. We know from our own experience that that is the kind of timescale that people need. History and the facts presented show
that what we have now is a moment of opportunity for the international community to involve the parties to the conflict because, inevitably, they must be the parties to the peace. I refer briefly to the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. I have read the entire report and it seems to me that the Sri Lankan Government are self-critical, which is an encouraging sign. I am disappointed that all other parties did not take part in it because ultimately, somewhere along the line, there will have to be another try at this and outside bodies will have to give their advice. I know that the Indian Government are trying to help. Potentially, South Africa would be much better placed to offer insight and help to people in this process. I refer particularly to page 382, paragraph 9.255, of the report which contains a series of interesting recommendations. I say again that this conflict is no different from any other: we are very familiar with it; we know what needs to happen; we know that it is a long-term process; and we know that we have a moment of opportunity before us which we should seize. However, one hallmark of this Government, of which I am most proud, is the way in which they have been working at conflict prevention rather than intervention, and the Conflict Pool is an essential part of that. There is one part of the report where it seems to me that we could make a big difference. The report identifies that a lot of work needs to be done in the area of peace education. It talks about a trilingual policy and the need to ensure a much broader ethnic mix of student populations, with a choice of courses offered in all three languages. The commission is also of the view that sport builds up interpersonal contacts among people of different communities, which is essential for the process of reconciliation. Perhaps I may refer the Minister, who I know will take these matters seriously, to that particular section. I know that there has already been a tremendous amount of work on clearing landmines-my noble friends have referred to it-but in the specific area of peace education and bringing international students together, I wonder whether the sporting legacy of the Olympics and the legacy of the Olympic Truce are things that we might be able to seize and build upon. If all the countries simply look at ways in which they can offer practical help and provide support for all the different parties in working through this tremendous difficulty, I think that there will be a chance of longterm stability. The prize for that will come through economic growth. The worst catastrophe that comes from all conflict is that it impoverishes people not only morally but financially. We see from the briefing note that the cost of the war in Sri Lanka over 26 years ran to some $200 billion, which is five times its annual output. It is an enormous cost. Therefore, it is very encouraging that since the conflict has ended there has been significant progress and growth. The proportion of people living below the national poverty line has declined from 26.1% at the height of the conflict to 8.9%. With annualised growth in the region of 6%, 7% or 8%, getting into tourism, getting the economy going and giving people jobs and hope, as well as a future, and allowing them to move forward are things that we ought to be encouraging. Anything that Her Majesty's Government can do to support and encourage the Sri Lankan Government in that way would seem wise.
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