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LLRC sessions:  A Glamorous show in Colombo Vs bitter truth in outstations

LLRC sessions: A Glamorous show in Colombo Vs bitter truth in outstations

2011 Feb 01

The outstation sessions of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) are a stark contrast to those held in Colombo. In an effort to learn lessons from the past, most important aspects of such a process is how to blend the truth and justice together in a lessons learnt process. In truth gathering process, expected policy outcomes would be reconciliation, institutional decision making and as well as implementation of process changes. Justice could be established through reparations, amnesties and apologies.

While policy issues dominated the Colombo sessions, it is not sure how much these policy suggestions have come out during the testimonies heard, in order to establish much needed truth and justice, which is an essential requirement to establish, stable common future for Sri Lankan communities.

Nevertheless, amongst the several testimonies it was established about the importance of tri-lingual education, for better understanding, devolution of power and best governing structure…etc, which have been suggested by various personalities who have came before the LLRC. This is in contrast to what transpired in outstations which are empirical and responses to their immediate problems.

Those who appear before the commission in Colombo comprise leaders from political, religious and various civil societies. Further their submissions as noted above, mainly dealt with policy issues which looked at long term development and reconciliation. The testimonies submitted received high media coverage and a large number of representatives from the civil society and foreign missions observed the sessions.

Although, the media exposure is essential for this kind of lessons learning process, such an exposure should be able to address and raise the social conscience in relation to guilt and accountability as well as introversion, openness and togetherness. Such an infusion of information to the society will enable reconciliation to take place at an individual and community level. It is imperative to stress that mere reporting will not help to achieve the desired goals. Hence, it is doubtful how much impact that has brought to the society though these high media coverage's.

However, this does not mean that their submissions, plans and ideas are not politically biased. At times we find high ranking state officials' trying to influence the LLRC by requesting the commissioner's to look into issues which they should have addressed at their official capacities and are not directly the purview of the Commission. For example, "The Island" newspaper of January 26 reported as below:

‘Testifying before the LLRC at the Kadirgamar Institute, Presidential Advisor Sunimal Fernando proposed a series of measures to strengthen the presidential initiative for a trilingual Sri Lanka… Fernando, in a well presented testimony, highlighted the existing shortcomings caused by lack of funds, negligence and indifference on the part of the officialdom, while detailing an institutional structure, which could help achieve a trilingual society in a decade.”

We feel that it is the duty of the government to take necessary action to rectify matters if the ‘Ministry of National Languages, Social Integration, Public Administration and Education had been largely inefficient, ineffective and lag behind. Hence, it is grossly disappointing to note their contribution to the country and the people do not harness consistency for coexistence.’ This is especially in view of the self evidence expressed by the above state official, who has identified key issues as shortcomings, which could easily be corrected by implementing necessary funding and political will. 

However, the concerns of thousands of men and women who testified before the Commission in the North and the East have been practical especially as they were connected directly to their day to day activities. Such as complaints on detention, abductions, land issues and requests for assistance, dominated these sessions.

Media quoted LLRC officials as stated: that the Commissioners understood the gravity of the situation and the immediate needs of the people, only during the outstation sessions in the North and the East, while the report is suppose to focus strongly on addressing these immediate issues.

The LLRC completed individual submissions on January 31, 2010 and will focus on preparing the final report to be presented to the President in February 2011. Furthermore, it has been reported that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) final report will focus on land issues, releasing the names of all detainees in camps, language rights and restitution. LLRC sources further confirmed that the defense establishment is not ready to meet several demands of the LLRC, including the release of a detainee names list, by and large.


Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon

Executive Director/CHR Sri Lanka                                                                  February 1st, 2011

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