COLOMBO: The US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that Sri Lanka is still in the early stages of regaining its rightful position in the region and the international community even as he acknowledges that there is no fast route to the goal.
“There is still much work to be done in order to redress the wrongs of the past and to restore the legitimacy and accountability of key institutions, particularly the judiciary and the security services. More can and should be done to address the legacy of the past and acknowledge the voices of the victims. Sri Lanka is still in the early stages of regaining its rightful position in the region and the international community,” the UN chief said here on Friday, while speaking on “SDG16: Sustaining Peace and Achieving Sustainable Development Goals.”
“To recover from the cataclysms of the past, Sri Lankans will need all four elements of post-conflict resolution: truth-telling, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is no fast route to achieving this. It will take many years of political courage and determination,” he said
Ban urged the Sri Lankan government to speed up the return of land so that the remaining communities of displaced people can return home. In parallel, the size of the military force in the North and East could be reduced, helping to build trust and reduce tensions.
UN’s Failure During War
Acknowledging that the UN had failed to see that human rights were protected in the final brutal stages of Eelam War IV, Ban said: “ In Sri Lanka the world’s work for human rights faced one of its most difficult tests. The decades-long civil war saw terrible violence, terrorism, the use of human shields and other grievous violations of human rights and humanitarian law. In the conflict’s decisive final stages, tens of thousands of civilians perished. The war was ended — an unquestionable good for Sri Lanka, the region and the world. But we also know that even in its ending, the price was high.”
“The United Nations has also engaged in self-scrutiny. Reports by expert, independent panels that I appointed found serious systemic problems on the part of Member States and Secretariat alike. It seemed clear that the fog of war had obscured the centrality of human rights.”
Sri Lanka Registers Progress
The Secretary General said that the shortcomings notwithstanding, Sri Lanka has registered progress in many areas relating to governance and reconciliation.
“I congratulate the Government and people of Sri Lanka on passing the 19th Constitutional Amendment and the recent Right to Information Act. I commend your efforts to move forward on a comprehensive transitional justice agenda, and on a constitutional reform process. These steps have built confidence and trust, and strengthened transparency and accountability.”
“I commend the Government’s moves to restore the credibility and independence of the Human Rights Commission. Now it is important that the Commission receives the respect and resources it needs to carry out its work effectively. This is critical for reconciliation, and for ensuring respect for the human rights of all Sri Lankans, without regard for ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or any other factors.
I assure you that the United Nations will be your partner on every step of this journey,” Ban said.
Human Rights Based Development
The Secretary General said that a human rights-based approach is fundamental both to post-conflict reconciliation, and to global peace and prosperity as people are the greatest and most precious natural resource.
“As for Sri Lanka, the watchwords for the path you have chosen are inclusivity, transparency and accountability. All sectors of society must be involved in planning for peace and sustainable development, and the results must benefit all,” he said.
“There must be robust participation mechanisms to secure the broadest possible ownership of the post-conflict reconciliation and sustainable development agendas. There is a place for representatives of people who suffered from human rights abuses, as well as international actors. I call on international partners to come forward with coordinated support for the framework the Government has put in place,” Ban said.