Reevaluating Sri Lanka’s LLRC Progress: Part I

Introduction Last March, The Social Architects (TSA) released its third report, “The Numbers Never Lie.”1 The report provided extensive information about the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GoSL) progress in implementing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations. Again, TSA’s partners undertook a similar survey this year. Using the data obtained last year as a baseline, TSA will be releasing two companion reports reevaluating Sri Lanka’s LLRC progress. This is the first. Methodology Last year, TSA’s survey questionnaire focused on nearly three-dozen LLRC recommendations, which are important to community members residing in the North, East and Hill Country. Last year’s survey used snowball sampling; 1,576 households participated in the survey. This year’s survey was only conducted in the Northern and Eastern provinces; this was done during January 2014. TSA’s partners surveyed 1,200 people this year, but 157 survey respondents2 were subsequently disqualified.3 376 other people who participated last year did not participate in this year’s survey. This figure includes people who have moved elsewhere or have been resettled. It also includes community members who decided not to participate this year due to fear.4 Hence, all 1,043 people that were surveyed this year also participated in last year’s survey. In order to accurately measure progress, TSA removed 533 people (those who did not participate in the 2014 survey) from last year’s survey results. TSA’s sample covers 8 districts, 36 Divisional Secretariat (DS) divisions, 108 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions and 264 villages. 368 survey participants are WomanHeaded Households (WHH).

The Numbers Never Lie: This includes 93 people from the Northern province and 64 people from the Eastern province. 3 This figure of 157 is comprised of people who lived in a household which participated in last year’s survey, but these individuals did not participate at that time. Another family member did. (There is no baseline data for these individuals). 4 This includes many people currently residing in Trincomalee and Valikamam North (Jaffna).
1 2

!" "

Map of Survey Implementation Area by GN Division

" " """" " " " "" " "

TSA’s questionnaire5 (224 questions) has been designed to capture different types of information. This includes factual data – such as information about arbitrary detention, disappearance, death, injury and compensation. Some parts – including """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

One section from last year’s questionnaire was removed.

#" "

questions on militarization and sections dealing with political rights and language rights – capture both factual data and perception data. At the outset, it is important to mention that there were an inordinately high number of “Did not answer” responses this year. In its survey categories, TSA had provided options of “Did not want to answer,” “Did not answer,” “Don’t know,” and “Not applicable.” The “Did not want to answer” and “Did not answer” categories are similar. Additionally, throughout the course of the survey, TSA received a lot of feedback from the data collectors. Data collectors consistently mentioned that choosing between these two responses (“Did not want to answer” and “Did not answer”) was a struggle and, at times, even confusing. Data collectors frequently stated that, when a community member felt uncomfortable answering or engaging with a particular question, s/he usually selected “Did not answer” which is perceived to be a more culturally acceptable response. Particularly with sensitive topics, community members may be fearful of coming forward in a straightforward fashion. Indeed, many of these responses could have been negative answers so it’s important to pay attention to this aspect of the data. As noted, TSA is coming to this conclusion because a significant number of people who participated in the survey last year chose not to participate this time around. Some of the reasons given included high levels of militarization and the proliferation of government informants. (A similar rationale would also encourage “Did not know” responses in 2014). Managing the Climate of Fear Other community members who participated in the 2014 survey also alluded to the fear of government reprisal. One man from Vavuniya told a data collector, “I assisted some people in sending communication to the Commission on Disappearances and I was beaten severely by the intelligence people who openly said they were from the Army Intelligence Unit. I complained to the police and no action was taken. You all are going around taking data like this…aren’t you scared? What happened to me will definitely happen to you. So be careful.” For many survey respondents, it is clear that profound senses of despair and frustration are a part of daily life. Some of these feelings came out during the implementation of the survey. A woman residing in Kannapuram (Vakkiyala) in Batticaloa district asked a data collector, “What is the benefit of filling out forms frequently? Will you able find my disappeared son?” It is important to emphasize that the answers and identity of those who have participated in the survey will remain strictly confidential. Nonetheless, it is clear that fear and the possibility of retaliation by certain actors influenced this survey.

$" "

Survey Results Language Rights The LLRC’s final report included numerous recommendations on language rights. For example: • 9.241 – The official bodies for executing the language policies and monitoring performance should have representation of the Tamil speaking people…full implementation of the language policy should include action plans broken down to the community level… 9.247 – It should be made compulsory that all Government offices have Tamilspeaking police officers at all times. In the case of Police Stations they should have bi-lingual officers on a 24-hour basis. A complainant should have the right to have his/her statement taken down in the language of their choice.

When you approach government departments, are you able to receive help in your native language?

77 percent of survey respondents said that they are able to receive help in their native language at government departments. The fact that 17 percent of survey respondents responded negatively leaves room for improvement. Looking at the data, it appears that limited progress has been made over the past twelve months. However, many respondents either said that they did not know, did not like to answer or did not respond. This year, 42 respondents did not answer. Last year only 24 respondents did not answer. It is important to note that all of TSA’s 1,043 survey respondents have identified themselves as Tamils yet nearly 20 percent say they are unable to get services in the official administrative language of their area.

%" "

Is correspondence (oral and written) of government departments done in your native language?

Nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said that the correspondence of government departments isn’t conducted in their mother tongue. It appears that the GoSL has made some limited progress over the past twelve months. Nonetheless, the significant number of “Did not answer” responses suggests that some respondents were reluctant to fully address this question. In this year, 45 respondents did not answer. Last year only 33 respondents did not answer. As noted, according to Sri Lanka’s constitution, the administrative language in the Northern and Eastern provinces is Tamil. Hence, in all eight districts where TSA’s partners implemented this survey, official government business6 should be conducted in Tamil.


In Sri Lanka, 41 DS divisions have been gazetted as bilingual, but none were included in the survey.

&" "

At which government departments are you not able to get help in your native language?

At most government departments, the majority of community members do not have trouble getting help in their native language. And, at police stations, some progress has been made during the past twelve months. However, language problems are still prevalent in police stations. A sixty-seven-year-old man's grandson disappeared in September of 2009. He told a data collector that he had gone to CID, TID, police stations and numerous camps. He said, “Every time I complained they took down information and asked me to sign on a paper where everything was written in Sinhalese. But I signed because I want to somehow find my grandson.” In its recent progress update,7 the GoSL has outlined many achievements regarding language policy, including the following: • “Ten Language Association Main Operation Centres (Clusters) to conduct activities to promote bilingualism have been proposed and 09 have been established.” (9.241) GoSL cites Trilingual policy, says 2,326 Tamil-speaking police are at work with talk of recruiting Tamil-speaking women and mentions that a Trilingual Call Center has been established. (9.246, 9.247, 9.249) “Staff has been strengthened to expedite the work of the [Language] Commission.” (9.248)

7 National Plan of Action for the Implementation of the LLRC Recommendations: RC%20Recommendations%20-%20Jan%202014.pdf

'" "

With reference to Interim Recommendations on language (about police station interpreters), GoSL notes, “Language audits were conducted in 20 public institutions in Puttlam District.” (9.250) And Language Societies conducted 354 classes. (9.242)

The abovementioned developments are welcome. However, the GoSL must do more in order to ensure that the language rights of all Sri Lankans are fully protected. Political Rights and Inclusive Development Key LLRC recommendations hit on a political rights and inclusive development, such as: • • The GoSL should consult community members about development activities. (9.223) Consistent references to devolution and the need for a political solution. (9.231,9.235,9.236)

If you are not receiving projects directly from NGOs, what types of projects have been interfered with?

Evidently, a range of projects are still interfered with, including those dealing with house construction, road development, livelihood, agriculture and irrigation, and human rights. Out of the survey respondents who are unable to receive projects directly from NGOs, 252 people (67 percent of eligible respondents) said that house (" "

construction projects have been interfered with. 169 people (45 percent of eligible respondents) said that human rights projects have been interfered with.
Who has interfered with those projects?

Army personnel are still interfering with projects on a regular basis. The Government Agent (GA) was also mentioned frequently.

)" "

Are Tamil representative not aligned with the ruling party discriminated against by the security forces in your area?

It appears that there has been some positive progress in terms of the interaction between Tamil politicians who are not aligned with the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and military personnel. The recent Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections may also account for this shift in perceptions. Nonetheless, the fact that 29 percent of survey respondents believe that discrimination continues is cause for concern. Significantly, this year, 113 respondents did not answer. Last year, 88 respondents did not answer.

*" "

Do you have permission to conduct political meetings where you live?

This year, 56 respondents chose not to answer this question. However, last year, only 42 respondents did not answer.
If Yes (to the question above), which political parties are able to conduct meetings freely?

When asked, 771 people (74 percent of respondents) said that they have the freedom to conduct political meetings where they live. However, in a follow-up question, 647 out of 771 people said that government-supported parties had the freedom to conduct political meetings where they live. Only 109 respondents said that opposition parties are allowed to do so. On political rights and inclusive !+" "

development, TSA’s initial findings suggest there’s much room for improvement. LLRC recommendation 9.223 has not been included in the GoSL’s most recent update. And, with a meaningful political solution nowhere in sight, the GoSL has either excluded the relevant recommendations from its update or cited them while failing to explain what progress has been made – as with recommendations 9.230, 9.236 and 9.237. Furthermore, the country’s continued militarization is impossible to avoid. Militarization Crucial LLRC recommendations deal with militarization, including the following: • 9.171 – […] Phasing out of the involvement of the Security Forces in civilian affairs and us of private lands by the Security Forces with reasonable time lines being given… 9.227 – It is important that the Northern Province reverts to civilian administration in matters relating to the day-to-day life of the people, and in particular with regard to matters pertaining to economic activities […]. The military presence must progressively recede to the background […].

Are you able to meet freely in public places?

One survey participant in Kilinochchi said, “The people I’m going to respond about as perpetrators are the people in power. How are we supposed to feel safe if we respond?” This year 63 respondents did not answer this question. During last year’s survey, 54 respondents did not answer.

!!" "

Are you able to meet freely in public places?

Freedom of movement and freedom of association remains a concern. When asked, 18-38 percent of respondents across eight districts in the North and East indicated that they are not able to meet freely in public places.
In the town where you live, do state security personnel participate in civilian cultural activities or other events?

This year, 86 people did not answer this question. Last year, only 49 people did not answer.

!#" "

In the town where you live, do state security personnel participate in civilian cultural activities or other events?

The military is still quite active in civilian affairs. 774 people (74 percent of respondents) indicated that state security personnel are involved in civilian cultural activities or other events. This figure is down only slightly from 82 percent a year ago.
Are any state security personnel residing close to your residential area?

!$" "

As noted, questions about militarization can be difficult for people to answer. The fact that more than 20 percent of survey respondents (251 people) chose not to answer the question above suggests that this is a particularly delicate issue. Last year 152 people did not answer this question. According to data collectors, in Parikarikandal (Vavuniya) and Sannar (Mannar), survey respondents had someone standing outside of their homes to watch if any military personnel would enter their compound while the data collectors were present. Community members in both locations reported to data collectors that military personnel usually came to their houses without any prior notice and that that is a frequent occurrence.
Are any state security personnel residing close to your residential area? (Woman-Headed Households by district)

While the survey was being conducted, a woman from Kalmunai Tamil Division (Ampara) expressed apprehension about her decision to participate in the survey. She told a data collector that, “The information you are collecting will go somewhere. I am scared. My husband was in the LTTE. If the information goes to the wrong people the CID will come here. We women live alone in the house.”

!%" "

Are any state security personnel residing close to your area?

This year, 3 women in Ampara did not answer the question above. 20 women in Mullaitivu chose not to answer it. The GoSL seems to think militarization is no longer an issue. In its progress update for recommendations 9.171 and 9.227, the GoSL says that “No further action required. Civilian administration is fully functional...” The GoSL goes on to assert that around 15,000 troops are stationed in the Jaffna peninsula and that the “Gradual reduction of security forces presence is continuing.” More recently, in response to the draft report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – which deals with the most recent Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on Sri Lanka – the GoSL has described8 its military as “a disciplined entity.” GoSL goes on to note that “It is not the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN to call for the demobilization and disarmament of the military of a sovereign State and set timelines…GoSL wishes to emphasize that it does not intend to disarm or demobilize its military.” In the following paragraph, the GoSL maintains that a troop reduction in the Northern and Eastern provinces has taken place. Further – in line with its most recent LLRC """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

UN Human Rights Council:

!&" "

update – the GoSL contends that “The military has no involvement in civilian administration.” The reality is starkly different. Based on the date obtained from TSA’s survey – including the sharp increase in “Did not answer” responses – it is more likely that a culture of fear still permeates the North and East. Compensatory Relief Compensatory relief should be an essential element of Sri Lanka’s overarching reconciliation strategy. The subject featured prominently in the LLRC’s final report. This included: • 9.164 – Compensatory relief for those involved with the LTTE.

The Need for Compensatory Relief (% of survey respondents affected in orange)

!'" "

Was any compensation given for your family member? (2014)

A respondent from Gayathrigramam, Thirukkovil (Ampara) expressed great frustration in the search for her son. She told a data collector that, “I have filled out forms for you all three times. I have informed everyone…everywhere. I was taken to numerous protests and so on. The priests come, the NGOs came, the STF will come but at the end of the day…no use comes out of it. I don’t know what happened to my son and I will die not knowing what happened to my son.” For many community members, a lack of compensation is major problem, but it’s the search for truth that has proven far more burdensome.

!(" "

If a member of your family has disappeared, did you receive any financial assistance to help with income generation?

The data obtained from TSA’s survey suggests that many community members are still in need of compensatory relief. 163 people (61 percent of respondents who are missing at least one family member) still have not received financial assistance. Further, 88 people did not answer the question this year. Last year, only 25 people did not answer.
Have you been provide with adequate livelihood assistance?

!)" "

Regrettably, the livelihood assistance which has been provided to people has been coming up short as well. 120 people (47 percent of eligible respondents) said that they have not received adequate livelihood assistance for the arrest of a family member. 310 people (71 percent of eligible respondents) have not received adequate livelihood assistance for the death of at least one family member. 214 people (61 percent of eligible respondents) are still waiting for adequate livelihood assistance for the injury of a family member. 160 people (59 percent of eligible respondents) are in a similar situation regarding the disappearance of at least one family member. Another survey participant from Vilavettuwan, Manmunai South (Batticaloa) was recently released after having been arrested and tortured. He told a data collector, “I am unable to do any job due to the effects of torture. I haven’t received any assistance from the government. Many have come and collected information…no assistance was provided after that.”
Is the Army collecting family information to give livelihood assistance and housing projects?

This is another sensitive question which has elicited a significant number of “Did not answer” responses. This year, 168 people did not answer. Last year only 53 people did not answer.

!*" "

Is the Army collecting family information to give livelihood assistance and housing projects? (Women-Headed Households responses)

Again, it’s hard to ignore the inordinate number of “Did not answer” responses for this question.

#+" "

Is the Army collecting family information to give livelihood assistance and housing projects? (Women-Headed Household responses by district)

Unfortunately, it appears that the army is collecting information, but that assistance is not being provided. Many community members are not being provided with the assistance that they need. In its most recent progress update, the GoSL speaks very positively about the achievements that have been made regarding compensation. Many recommendations (9.155, 9.157, 9.158, 9.159, 9.160, 9.162) have been “completed.” The GoSL also mentions that the Rehabilitation Authority has provided loan and compensation schemes to “those involved with the LTTE” (9.164). This sort of government assistance is helpful, but more people are in need of compensation. During the survey, one ex-LTTE member lamented the lack of assistance that was being provided to ex-combatants. The leader of a Woman-Headed Household, she told a data collector that “Rehabilitated persons are getting little assistance. People like us…who were arrested, tortured on suspicion and released…just aren’t getting any help.” Conclusion TSA’s survey findings suggest that – while some very limited progress related to a few LLRC recommendations has been made over the past twelve months – there are still concerns about matters such as political rights, language rights, inclusive development and compensation, among other areas. The country’s continued militarization, the concomitant culture of fear which pervades the North and East, and the asymmetrical implementation of the LLRC recommendations are also concerns. TSA will delve more deeply into all of these topics in its next report. #!" "

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful