Island, 29 March 2012
The Friday Forum is an informal gathering of public spirited persons wishing to contribute to the future development of Sri Lanka within a framework of democracy, social justice and pluralism. It is in that spirit that we wish to share some of our concerns with the wider public.
The Friday Forum welcomed the setting up of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and co-operated constructively by making representations before it. In November 2011, the Commission produced its final report which, though not meeting all our expectations, could form the basis for building national reconciliation in our country. We now wish to stress the importance of the early implementation of the recommendations, especially those flagged by the Commission for immediate and short-term implementation.
In his National Day speech on 4th February 2012, President Rajapakse endorsed the Commission’s view that all citizens were responsible for ensuring the success of reconciliation. He also confirmed that the implementation process of the Commission’s recommendations had already commenced. The Friday Forum welcomes this and, in furtherance of this process, urges immediate action to:
a. have the LLRC report translated and published in Sinhala and Tamil,
b. request the Speaker to arrange for a comprehensive debate in Parliament on the Report, and
c. encourage all print and electronic media to give the widest publicity to the report, and to create public awareness and dialogue over the report and its recommendations.
We earnestly appeal to the government to proceed with the implementation of the key recommendations of the LLRC. This will serve to strengthen the credibility of the government in fulfilling its commitment to create an environment of trust and reconciliation within our country and among all people. Some matters in the LLRC report that need immediate attention are:
1. releasing the report of the Udalagama Commission of Inquiry into killings, including that of the five students in Trincomalee and the seventeen aid workers in Mutur,
2. making available names of detainees and missing persons in regard to whom there is documented information of death, and
3. taking measures to prevent abductions and investigating such allegations as a matter of urgency and prosecuting offenders.
These are measures within the immediate competence of the government, given the intelligence and security apparatus that exists.
In September 2010, the LLRC made some interim recommendations and the Cabinet appointed an Inter-Agency Advisory Committee for the implementation of those recommendations. The IAAC has produced a ‘progress report’ that we find totally inadequate as it fails to detail any concrete action taken by it after it was set up seventeen months ago.
We understand that the cabinet approved a National Human Rights Action Plan in September 2011 and a ministerial sub-committee was appointed to implement it. We urge the release of this Action Plan in all three languages for discussion and for creating public confidence in the Plan.
It is also now necessary for the Government to draw up and present to the public an action plan or road map for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. It is also important that this should be done in a transparent and non-partisan manner. For effective implementation, we would urge the setting up of an independent and credible mechanism, preferably by an Act of Parliament. Such a statutory body should be free of direct political control and be provided with adequate financial and human resources to effectively carry out their functions.
After decades of internecine conflict, almost from the time of our independence from colonial rule, our country now faces many challenges, particularly in the areas of promoting reconciliation among communities, reducing economic hardships and eliminating lawlessness. The Friday Forum urges that the present opportunity be seized to rebuild trust and partnership among all our people so that we can move forward with our common agenda for peace in our country.
Prof. Savitri Goonesekere
for and on behalf of Friday Forum
Other co-signatories: The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Prof Arjuna Auwihare, Prof Gananath Obeyesekere. Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr A C Visvalingam, Dr G Usvatte-Aratchi, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Dr Deepika Udugama, Sithie Tiruchelvam, Anne Abayasekera, Damaris Wickremasekera, Jayampathy Wickremaratne, Camena Guneratne, Ranjini Obeyesekere, Ahilan Kadirgamar, J C Weliamuna, Tissa Jayatilaka, Mahen Dayananda, H D Wijenandana, Danesh Casie Chetty, Chandra Jayaratne and Lanka Nesiah.