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Sunday, August 05 , 2012 - 7.34 GMT
Timely Planning & Good Action for Reconciliation

By: Lucien Rajakarunanayake


Delay and procrastination are not strangers to governance and administration in Sri Lanka. Many of the issues faced by successive governments have been caused by the failure to act in time on issues of importance. Some of these delays have caused major crises for the nation, while others have led to re-thinking of policy causing further delay.

Yet, in an important aspect of national policy, which has everything to do with the pressing need for success in post-conflict development and reconciliation with far reaching political consequences, there are good signs that action is being taken in time, with a carefully worked out schedule of implementation.

This welcome departure, from what has become a malaise of administrative delay in many spheres of activity, is clearly seen in the National Action Plan on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was approved by Cabinet last week. The Committee headed by Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, that worked on the plan to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, have shown a remarkable appreciation of the need for the most careful study of the recommendations, which are of a far reaching nature, and the need for the most practical way of implementing the more important recommendations.

In a good departure from the attraction to secrecy that is often seen in matters of administration, one saw a policy of sharing relevant information with the public and the media, which can produce the best results. The National Action Plan on the LLRC was quickly placed before the public and all those genuinely interested, through both the local and international media, no sooner it received Cabinet approval. This was done with an invitation to the public as well as experts or those with experience in the related fields of activity for their inputs to make the implementation more realistic and effective.

Less than a week after the Action Plan was presented to the public, it was also explained in detail to the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka, with the opportunity for extensive discussions on the priorities and strategies of implementation. At the meeting with the diplomat community held at the Ministry of External Affairs, both External Affairs Minister Prof. GL Peiris and Lalith Weeratunga, the hands-on head of the implementation committee, had an informative and fruitful interaction with diplomats, who had considerable interest in the LLRC and its implementation.

The background to the implementation had already been clearly explained by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he met key representative of the local print and electronic media earlier this week. He said that Sri Lanka had begun the process of implementing the LLRC’s recommendations much before those from abroad called for it to be done, and a considerable amount of work was already under way.

As explained by Mr. Weeratunga, the National Action Plan lists out implementation of recommendations according to Activity, Key Responsible Agency, Key Performance Indicator and Timeframe.

It covers International Humanitarian Issues, Human Rights, Land Return and Resettlement, Restitution/ Compensatory Relief and Reconciliation.

He was clear in stating that "We take LLRC recommendations very seriously," when addressing media, and that the Action Plan was not sacrosanct, stating that any fruitful suggestions were always welcome. He said the committee has categorized 285 recommendations made by the LLRC and many have already been implemented.

Addressing the concerns about the time-frame for implementation that had been raised earlier in some quarters, Mr. Weeratunga told the Media and later to the diplomats that some of the recommendations will be implemented this year while the others may be implemented next year after the budget for 2013 is prepared, as the 2012 budget allocations to the ministries had been done before the release of the LLRC report last year.

At the meeting with diplomats Mr. Lalith Weeratunga explained in detail the approach which his Committee adopted to the work they had undertaken. He said the recommendations, capable of short term implementation, had already been given effect, while work had begun in a structured manner with regard to the longer term proposals.
Both Prof. Peiris and Mr. Weeratunga emphasized the importance of acknowledging the substantial results already achieved on the ground within a far shorter time span than had been necessary in post-conflict situations in other parts of the world. This is of particular relevance in the context of the significance consistently accorded by international law and practice to domestic remedies and procedures, they said.

While the National Action Plan has now been revealed it is significant to note that around 98% of the resettlement work had already been completed while 90% of the rehabilitation had been done. The demining process was also largely complete while only small pockets remained.
Many, who were charging that the government had no interest in implementing the LLRC recommendations or was deliberately delaying this work, have been well answered by the detailed schedule of action that the National Action Plan has presented, clearly laying down the Key Responsible Agency, Key Performance Indicator and Timeframe for implementation of each key recommendation. This approach goes beyond many a government report, both in its practical approach to difficult issues, and a determination to be bound by the necessity for effective implementation within a given time frame.

This has special significance when the recommendations include matters such as the right of any citizen of Sri Lanka to acquire land in any part of the country, in accordance with its laws and regulations, and reside in any area of his/her choice without any restrictions or limitations; assure people through a publicity effort that the Programme on land policy seeks to make available land to all returning IDPs as expeditiously as possible; is not a substitute for recourse to the Courts of Law where people are in possession of valid legal proof of their claim to the land in question; provide the needed human and financial resources, supervise civil administration officers tasked with the implementation of the Programme by respective Government Agents and monitor implementation quality at the national level by the Land Commissioner General.

Similarly, the challenges of the LLRC recommendations on aspects of International Humanitarian Law includes – to ascertain more fully the circumstances under which specific instances of death or injury to civilians could have occurred, and if such investigations disclose wrongful conduct, prosecute and punish the wrongdoers; complete ongoing disciplinary process being conducted in terms of Armed Forces statutes, and upon conclusion follow up action to prosecute where relevant, and conduct a professionally designed household survey covering all affected families in all parts of the island to ascertain firsthand the scale and circumstances of death and injury to civilians, as well as damage to property during the period of the conflict.

That the policy of openness followed in presenting the National Action Plan before the public and its discussion with the diplomatic community, has shown good results, is seen in the public debate it has engendered on the key issues involved, and the statement from the United States welcoming the release of the Action Plan, and stating its belief that full implementation of the National Action Plan will benefit all citizens of Sri Lanka by furthering long-term reconciliation and lasting peace, which remains the key policy of the Sri Lanka Government on the LLRC.






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Last modified: August 07, 2012.

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