Seven years on: Fresh challenges ahead

By Easwaran Rutnam

As the country, this week, celebrates seven years since the end of the war the government has fresh challenges ahead.

One key challenge is convincing the UN Human Rights Council that the accountability process is moving forward.

 The Human Rights Council will meet next month for its 32nd session and Sri Lanka will be on the agenda.

The council will be briefed on the state of the progress made so far by the government to meet its commitments to the resolution on Sri Lanka adopted by the council last year.

Convincing the council, will however not be that easy. The diaspora and civil society will put pressure on the council to ensure the government does not play the “buying more time” game.

The London based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a powerful lobby group which had supported the efforts of the new government is not very happy now.

GTF President, father S.J Emmanuel told The Sunday Leader, the government will most probably play and plead for more time beyond June to show concrete progress on the accountability issue and the victim’s agony will be prolonged.

Father Emmanuel noted that while President Maithripala Sirisena has good intentions and he is sincere, he is trying to move a corrupt and unwilling bureaucracy left by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to achieve accountability and reconciliation, which is almost impossible.

The GTF President also said it is virtually impossible to expect a credible mechanism for accountability through Sri Lanka’s judiciary.

Another diaspora group, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is also pushing for pressure to be exerted on the government on the accountability process.

TGTE organized a conference in New York yesterday with the participation of several internationally renowned experts from Kosovo, South Sudan, East-Timor, Quebec and other countries to discuss whether holding a Referendum is the best solution to the protracted Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka.

The participants shared their experiences in holding referendums in their countries as a means to find political solution and whether it will be a viable initiative to bring permanent and lasting solution in Sri Lanka.

“The Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka is dragging on for over sixty years despite several agreements between the Government and the Tamil leaders and several rounds of peace talks with active international mediation. The Tamils resisted the Sri Lankan government’s oppression for the first thirty five years through peaceful non- violent means and the final thirty years with active armed struggle. Even though the government was able to defeat Tamils militarily about six years ago, the conflict is still going on,” the TGTE said.

Meanwhile Northern Province chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran warned that there can never be reconciliation for as long as the military continues to occupy civilian land in the North.

He said efforts must also be taken to recognize all communities in Sri Lanka and not just one community or one religion.

Wigneswaran said having the army in the North at a time there are hundreds of war widows will also not help.

He warned that there is a threat of another war breaking out in the North if the army continues to occupy civilian land in the area.

Wigneswaran said that of the army had been withdrawn earlier, soon after the war, then the reconciliation process would have seen more progress by now.

The government, on its part, is to appoint an inter-ministerial committee to consider all facts related to human rights for the preparation of a National Action Plan on Human Rights for the period 2017-2021.

Cabinet last week approved the proposal made by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to form the committee.

The government says its policy is to uphold, promote and protect the human rights of Sri Lankan people and so it must strengthen the national reconciliation process, freedom and democracy and also create the background for the economic development of the country.

As the five year human rights action plan implemented from 2012-2016 expires this year the proposal made by Samaraweera to appoint an inter-ministerial Committee to consider all facts related to human rights for the preparation of a National Action Plan on Human Rights for the period 2017-2021, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.