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A point to ponder

23 September 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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here’s a lot between-the-lines of the UNHRC Report on Sri Lanka, interestingly titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’.  Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has correctly pointed out that this is one of several reports on matters that may amount to human rights violations during the last phase of Sri Lanka’s battle against terrorism.  However as a document that proceeds from a UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka, however problematic that resolution may have been, this report cannot be ignored by the Government of Sri Lanka.  Perhaps this is why Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has referred to it in warm and affirming tones which, according to some, indicated misplaced faith in the authors of this document.
Some of the recommendations, admittedly, are welcome.  These include recommendations which if implemented would strengthen the entire judicial process for the betterment of the citizenry.  There are others that clearly amount to unabashed attempts at undermining the country’s sovereignty and worse could impact the entire international community simply because if accepted and implemented would create a bad and dangerous precedent facilitating close to arbitrary interference.  

At present, according to the Government, the document is treated as a basis for engagement with the UNHRC. However, it won’t hurt to analyze and critique.  The focus so far has been on the implications for sovereignty.  A neglected aspect has been the implications for the Tamil community and in particular the Tamil National Alliance.  
The first major recommendation focuses on accountability and touches on prosecution.  The report, just like its precursor the horrendously flawed ‘Darusman Report’, mentions the LTTE by way of tokenism ignoring context, reliability of sources and most pernicious, locks up ‘evidence’ to create conditions for convictions by accusation.  However, in that very act of tokenism, the compilers have created a considerable dilemma for the TNA.  It urges ‘holding to account surviving members of the LTTE’.  

By the time the LTTE was militarily defeated, over 10,000 identified LTTE cadres had been taken into custody.  The then Government did what the United States of America (the country that is behind all moves to censure Sri Lanka over the past six years) would never do: it released over 95% of those arrested.  This was not because there was a lack of evidence to prosecute.  Most of these cadres, all trained and equipped to carry out acts of terrorism, were either provided opportunities to pursue studies or given skills that could lead to gainful employment.  It was close to ‘general amnesty’.  

The UNHRC recommendations, if accepted and implemented, would require the implementing agency to take each and every one of these ex-terrorists into custody.  By and large, the State of Sri Lanka, despite documentation and probably ample evidence to prosecute at some level, has treated these ex-combatants as citizens whose past has been forgiven and forgotten.  Prosecuting them for past crimes will compromise basic tenets of the judicial process. If that chapter is taken to be closed, the dictum ‘equality before the law’ will be questioned, since one cannot prosecute one of the named parties and not the other.  
There is no way that any of this can help ‘reconciliation’.  It will cause a serious headache for the main representative of the Tamil community, the TNA, some of whose members have been quite vociferous in calling for such prosecution.  The constituency was never told, for example, ‘some of you might be hanged,’ to put it bluntly.  

That’s not all.  The TNA’s political manifestos at one time not only endorsed the LTTE but consciously operated as the outfit’s political arm. There’s culpability and therefore the principle of accountability cannot bypass the TNA leadership.
The ignorance and incompetence of the authors can be understood and part of it can even be blamed on the arrogance of the previous regime. Regardless, when things start to move, the guilt or otherwise of key individuals in the previous regime will be incidental to the issue of national reconciliation.  Accountability is important.  The ‘prosecution’ part of it could prove to be a political explosive that a country struggling to achieve inter-community resolve can ill afford. 
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