SRI LANKA: The Asian Human Rights Commission cautiously welcomes the move for the appointment of a commission for truth and reconciliation
The AHRC cautiously welcomes the announcement of the appointment of a commission to probe violations of internationally accepted norms of conduct during the final stages of the conflict and the circumstances that may have led to such actions and identify any persons or groups responsible for such acts.
Despite of the fact that the obvious reasons for the announcement of an appointment of such a commission is the GSP+ issue, at a critical moment the very announcement of the possibility of the appointment of such a commission by a government that has always insisted on the contrary up to this point needs to be recognised. Though it is impossible yet to predict what such a commission would be until the mandate and the terms of reference of the commission is announced the very publication of the intention to take action in this direction needs to be seen in a positive light. The announcement from the President's Media Unit also states that:
"This inquiry stems from the Presidents overriding interest in the need for restorative justice by the Sri Lankan people. Its findings will seek to take the Sri Lankan nation towards the common goals of a multi-ethnic polity, in a spirit of cooperation, partnership and friendship, learning the lessons from recent history to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such tragic conflict in the future."
The announcement states that the commission will assess the lessons learned from the recent conflict in searching into the violations of international norms of conduct in such conflict situations and the circumstances that may have led to such actions and identify any persons or groups responsible for such acts. It further states that the recommendations will be sought on the nature of compensation to be granted to the victims and their dependents who suffered from the conflict situation. The commission will also look for institutional, administrative and welfare measures relating to the post conflict phase and would look into the issues of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.
The commission is also expected to make recommendations on legislative and administrative measures necessary in order to prevent such situations in the future and to promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities.
The commission will comprise of seven eminent Sri Lankans from here and abroad and the terms of reference are to be gazetted in the next few days.
The very mention of the themes of reconciliation is new to the vocabulary of this government. The entering of such words into the political vocabulary of the government and the Sri Lankan discourse in general is something to be welcomed for its own value.
While under the present circumstances there does not appear to be any reasons to be too optimistic about this move and its outcome we anyway welcome this move as a small step on an issue of enormous importance to all the people of Sri Lanka.
The theme of truth and reconciliation is of great relevance to the wounded society of the country. It is of the greatest importance to the direct victims of this conflict more than anyone else. To those families who have lost their loved ones irrespective of which side of the political divide they may belong to this announcement will provide the possibility of an opportunity to air their grievances and deal with their own traumatised lives.