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Friday, January 13, 2012 - 8.39 GMT

The will to succeed can lead to fulfillment of LLRC recommendations Prof. Wijesinghe


The will to succeed along with initiative and imagination can lead to the fulfillment of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), according to Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka on Reconciliation.

Speaking on 'Reconciliation, Sri Lanka and the World' at Observer Research Foundation on January 10, 2012, Prof. Wijesinha, who is also a Member of Parliament, said that the efforts to present Sri Lanka as a bone of contention between India and China were largely self-serving for the West, though they may not be entirely hypocritical, given the tendency of the West to function in terms of binary opposites.

"This was also understandable given the manner in which they fought the Cold War, but China had made it clear that the primacy of Sri Lanka's relationship with India was understandable," he said.

Prof. Wijesinha spoke at length about the LLRC report, which he said had been well received. The exceptions that prove the rule, he said, was in the distinction between those who seek reconciliation and those who have other motives in the extraordinary campaign that has been conducted against Sri Lanka over the last two years. He also said that there were inadequacies that were illustrated by the failure to work coherently enough on the interim recommendations submitted by the Commission. Though a committee was set up to ensure implementation, the lack of transparency in this regard led to the feeling that the government was not really serious.

Prof. Wijesinha said the more vociferous members of the international community, who now criticise the LLRC Report, were not really concerned with reconciliation, as opposed to their own agendas. He said that it was ignorance of history with exemplars such as South Africa and Chile where the countries moved forward without bruising animosities, they confused reconciliation with retribution. The reason he cited was that countries such as Britain and other European states were worried about the electoral power of the Tamil Diaspora, and assumed that its more vociferous members were decisive factors but he also said that new positive developments were being observed.

Prof. Wijesinha said that he believed that the TNA leadership was sincere about seeking a solution within the framework of a unified Sri Lanka, but their unremitting persecution of the government with regard to what they suggest were war crimes did not help to create the confidence that was needed if power was to be shared further. And particularly the adoption of Sarath Fonseka as the preferred candidate for the Presidency by the West was strange. And instead of recognizing that the President had to repudiate the Fonseka philosophy of post-war-arrangements so as to be able to move on with reconciliation, many decided to espouse the Fonseka cause. He pointed that this attitude has done untold damage to one of the main areas in which action is needed to achieve reconciliation, namely constitutional reforms to promote the empowerment of the Tamil people. He said that the argument that applying pressure on the grounds of war crimes could lead to a political solution was a pernicious one, and counter-productive.

He said that he believed that it was not the views of the Indian government, and also said that India, whilst anxious for a political solution, would work towards this in a manner that develops confidence, as it has done in the past, except of course when the adventurism of the Jayewardene government during the Cold War was seen as irritating, if not quite threatening.

The District Reconciliation Committees has made suggestions for remedial action that the Commission had now highlighted. Some of the measures he mentioned were a need for practical measures to protect the vulnerable in conflict affected areas, in particular women and children (as to whom more effective measures are needed in the rest of the country too); a need to ensure better training and support for productive employment, in the North, with effective micro-credit facilities and incentives for small and medium size business enterprises (which should also be done elsewhere in the country); a need to modernize the education system, he said.

He also said that police reforms were much needed though it's extremely difficult to implement it. The police were neglected in the concentration on defending ourselves against terrorism of the last couple of decades, which led us to modernise the security forces and ensure they functioned as skilled and disciplined professionals. As senior police officers indicated, their training programmes had meanwhile been cut, while recruitment of minorities into the force, despite efforts to promote this, had suffered. Combined with increasing politicisation of the police, the result was inefficiency, compounded by a lack of confidence that particularly affected the minorities.

Prof. Wijesinha said that there should be a Ministry for Reconciliation, charged with fulfilling the recommendations of the Commission as best as possible and be given a limited life span, of two years perhaps, after which it should be made redundant. He also said that the current lethargy, as exemplified for instance by the failure of the Ministry of Education to even think of mechanisms for increasing the supply of competent language teachers - despite the clear commitment of the President to building up a trilingual society - makes it clear that innovative ideas and ensuring their implementation would have to come from a dedicated agency.

Similarly, though in theory, there were special desks for women and children in all police stations, little thought has gone into institutionalising procedures, liaison with community workers, whether those in government service or from social service organizations, and there were no clear work plans and goals that can be measured. Certainly individuals can sometimes be effective, but it must build up systems, so that the coverage would be comprehensive and supportive rather than reactive, Prof. Wijesinha said.







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Last modified: January 13, 2012.

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