Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
Much has been written about the panel, its appointment in the context of resounding defeats at the UN of attempts to censure Sri Lanka and an approval vote of effectively defeating terrorism, the mal-intent of the UN Secretary General, the lack of adequate substantiation of allegation and the politically motivated nature and therefore unreliability of sources. Need one talk about double standards? Nalin De Silva is in a sense correct when he says that there isn’t a trashcan in Sri Lanka that will not be disrespected by having to accommodate the panel report. Equally vociferous has been the voices of support.
Kumar David has stated that the meat of the report was already known to him. I doubt if Kumar was anywhere near the final battle but he possibly prayed. This was not out of a love for the LTTE but a manifest opposition to the regime and paranoia about imagined notions about what is Sinhala and what is Buddhist. His salutations, which conspicuously are devoid of any decent Marxist caveats regarding global political economy and machinations therein, are therefore framed by chagrin at eventual outcome.
Among the many comments, I was particularly struck by two: a) Kalana Senaratne’s in www.groundviews.org (‘Revisiting accountability’) and b) Gomin Dayasri’s in the Daily Mirror (‘Constructing the moat to prevent a foreign crossing into Sri Lanka). Both have excellent credentials of holding balanced views and for submitting well-argued, no-nonsense views. Their brand of nationalism, in my opinion, is not discoloured by regime-loyalty but are motivated by concerns about democracy, accountability, transparency, sovereignty and the overall health of institutions, meaningful citizenship and societal well-being.
Kalana argues that ‘a serious internal or international accountability mechanism will not succeed in the present context, and that needs to be accepted and acknowledged’. He points out, also, the danger of acknowledging and even endorsing “the precedent set by the UNSG in convening a Panel, getting its ‘advice’, and making the ensuing report a tool which allows Western powers to exert pressure on small and less-powerful States”. This point will not be lost on Russia and China and it is incumbent on the Government, in its response to underline it and moreover convince the UN membership of the long-term implications, which include the establishment of yet another avenue to undermine the integrity and indeed the mandate of the UN.
While stressing the need for a credible truth and reconciliation commission with adequate safeguards, Kalana points out that just as the Ki-moon panel’s ‘independence’ is suspect, so too is that of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). If Ki-moon’s initiative is fraught with malice, then it can be argued that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s intentions weren’t benign either. On the other hand, the point cannot be stressed enough that the integrity of all such bodies can be similarly questioned. There is always an appointing authority and no one, after all, can be called absolutely apolitical.
Absolute independence and absolute integrity are obtained, I believe, not by label but in the process, the transparency, the rigor exercised in questions posed and in the analysis and the cogency of deliberation-outcome. For example, when President Ranasinghe Premadasa appointed a commission to look into the activities of NGOs, it was widely argued that the purpose was to target possible political opponents, a charge buttressed by the fact that among the commissioners was a strong Premadasa loyalist. One of the other commissioners, former Supreme Court judge, Rajah Wanasundara himself is supposed to have had doubts about this person’s integrity but later expressed surprise at how his fellow commissioner conducted himself.
Gomin Dayasri concurs with Kalana with respect to the mal-intent of the Ki-moon initiative and the scandalously anti-intellectual character of the report. He agrees that the Government has erred in approaching the entire issue. He adds, moreover, that the conclusions of the panel were expected, not on account of their validity but the pernicious nature of the entire process. Most importantly, however, Gomin is in agreement with Kalana about the need for a credible and effective domestic mechanism to investigate allegation, ascertain truth, recommend corrective measures should such be deemed necessary and a bringing to book of wrongdoers where guilt is established. ‘The road show must be in Sri Lanka according to our laws by our judges so that we do not barter our sovereignty,’ he insists, just as Kalana implies.
Sri Lanka needs to recognize the realities surrounding UN politics and be mindful of location in the grand structures pertaining to political economy. The Ki-moon panel has clearly erred in favour of emotion and happily gone along with the crass political machinations of anti-Sri Lanka elements in the international community. All the more reason, I believe, that Sri Lanka opts for reason. Reasonable assessment and relevant refutation alone will not win the day of course. Even if, as Gomin points out, Sri Lanka missed a trick by appointing the LLRC after it became known that there were pernicious international moves to exact revenge for effectively preventing the preferred outcome of such movers, it is never too late to set things right. Not because some outsider wants it but we need it, even if not to deal with today’s issues, but the problems that may arise in the tomorrows that our children will have to inhabit.
The malice of Ki-moon and his backers probably comes from a need to effect regime change. It has, sadly for these people, only served to strengthen the regime further. This is where Mahinda Rajapaksa can once again shed ‘politician’ and emerge as ‘statesman’. This is why the LLRC must exercise its mandate to the maximum and if they do, why the President should implement to the last letter the recommendations made.
A thoughtful response to the Ki-moon report replete with substantiation will probably be issued in the days to come, but that would be half-victory in the struggle to regain lost ground. Capturing the moral high ground requires the Government to do justice by the citizenry. International thug nations care little about legal niceties and this we all know. We will not fight them off by refuting argument. We can hold our ground, though, as we did during the last phase of the war. It requires the unity of the people, the kind of solidarity that goes beyond ‘being better and more popular than the UNP’.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who
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