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Higher Rationale for Commission on " Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation"

Oct 20, 2010 11:19:59 PM- transcurrents.com

by National Peace Council

The National Peace Council recently took the opportunity to make its submissions before the Presidential Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation. This Commission was appointed in May 2010 to look into the reasons why the Ceasefire Agreement and peace process failed, to prevent the recurrence of conflicts as had occurred and address issues of compensation to those who were victims. The Commission was appointed in the context of the international call for an independent international commission to investigate the allegations of human rights violations and war crimes committed in the closing stages of the war.

As a national organization that engages in awareness creation and advocacy regarding the need for a political solution to the ethnic conflict, we appreciate the opportunity we had to express our views and have them entered into an official record. We recognize that the Commission's mandate gives emphasis to the period of the Ceasefire Agreement and its breakdown and most of the media attention has been focused on issues surrounding that aspect of its mandate. From hindsight the wisdom of entering into the Ceasefire Agreement can be and is being questioned. But during that time the country was in the mood for peace and the then government entered into the Ceasefire Agreement no doubt in good faith.

We are also aware of the controversy surrounding the Commission's mandate and issues of independence due to their appointment by the President. Three international organizations, namely Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group which have taken a keen interest in Sri Lanka's conflict and human rights situation, have declined an invitation by the Commission to testify before it on those grounds. The concern has also been expressed that the Commission's findings regarding the Ceasefire Agreement and its breakdown will be used for narrow and partisan political purposes.

The Commission hearings in different parts of the country, and particularly in the North and East, have been a valuable source of information about the period under consideration with many people giving forthright testimony. The National Peace Council is of the view that findings pertaining to the breakdown of the ceasefire and peace process would be largely of academic interest as they concern problems that no longer exist. In our view the higher purpose and the more important issues to be addressed by the Commission would be to identify modes of just and speedy restitution to victims of the war and to foster the contours of a political solution that are conducive to inter-ethnic justice and reconciliation.