– For truth seeking, the establishment by statute, of two mechanisms:
(i) a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence to be evolved in consultation with the relevant authorities of South Africa.
This mechanism is envisaged as having a dual structure: a ‘Compassionate Council’ composed of religious dignitaries from all major religions in the country and a structure composed of Commissioners… This Commission will allow them to discover the truth, understand what happened and help remedy any sense of injustice.
(ii) an Office on Missing Persons based on the principle of the families’ right to know, to be set up by Statute with expertise from the ICRC, and in line with internationally accepted standards.
–On the Right to Justice, what is being proposed is for a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to be set up by Statute. This takes into account the right of victims to a fair remedy and aims to address the problem of impunity for human rights violations suffered by all communities.
–On the Right to Reparations,, an Office for Reparations to be set up by Statute to facilitate the implementation of recommendations relating to reparations made by the proposed Commission on Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, the Office of the Missing Persons, the LLRC and any other entity;
In order to guarantee non-recurrence, it is proposed that a series of measures would be undertaken including administrative and judicial reform, and the adoption of a new Constitution. A series of measures including amending the penal code to criminalise hate speech and enforced disappearances are also in process. The best guarantee for non-recurrence is of course a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people. We hope that we can achieve this through the adoption of a new Constitution. A Constituent Assembly of Parliament will be set up for this purpose shortly.
In his speech he also discusses strengthening the National Human Rights Commission, signing the convention against enforced disappearances, reviewing and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, reviewing the Witness Protection Act and extending psycho-social support to people effected.
tl;dr – this government gives a shit and it’s setting up institutions to support the process of reconciliation.
Basically, the Sri Lankan government is committing to a lot. This is way more than was done to heal the wounds of the JVP insurrections.
If your goal is addressing human rights violations and using the process to create a better Sri Lanka where these situations won’t recur, this should be a welcome speech. If your goal is punishment of Sri Lanka and creating a Tamil-only Eelam by other means, it will of course disappoint.
Mangala doesn’t detract from the necessity of ending the terrorism that had crippled Sri Lanka, nor does he take away from the overall bravery and discipline of the troops. What he does do is talk about a Sri Lanka which incorporates and cares for the victims of war as well.
This seems to be in line with what the UNHRC wants for the country. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Hussein said:
I welcome the vision shown by President Sirisena since his election in January 2015, and the commitments made by the new Government under his leadership. But this Council owes it to Sri Lankans – and to its own credibility – to ensure an accountability process that produces results, decisively moves beyond the failures of the past, and brings the deep institutional changes needed to guarantee non-recurrence,” he said. (via Ada Derana)
Personally, I think this government is committing a lot towards addressing the social wounds of war and healing as a better, stronger nation. Which is the most important thing. War is awful and always will be, there is no clean war almost by definition. Sri Lanka’s war was decades in the making and human rights violations were by no means limited to the end. What does matter is whether the country papers over problems that re-emerge, or if it makes and effort to prevent something like this from happening ever again.
Mangala has to strike a balance between the strong domestic support for ending the war and international pressure against it. From between that he has to weave a thread of humanity that – while it may make no particular group ecstatic – can hopefully bind the country together stronger.
Being a Sri Lankan, I’m thankful to the troops and the civilian leadership for ending the war. I was, however, disgusted at the attitude the last government had towards victims, which was denial at best. Hence I think this speech and the stance of the new government is very welcome. It calls for an honest accounting within Sri Lanka, not an international prosecution that punishes us from without. But that’s just me. Let’s see how it goes when the report comes out this Wednesday.