Groundviews

A slumbering LLRC: The image of reconciliation in Sri Lanka?

The Editors of Groundviews were emailed the following story on a website called Athirvu.com.

The photo is self-explanatory, and shows a commissioner of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) falling asleep during the Commission’s recent sittings in Mannar. A reader of Groundviews provided a translation of the Tamil article,

Have you ever seen a Commission like this?
Yesterday, the LLRC travelled to Mannar. Women who had lost their husbands and children and the families of those who had disappeared gathered in large numbers at the venue to make representations to the LLRC. The people were in tears as they narrated their problems and concerns to the Commission. They made representations to the LLRC in the belief the Commission would address their concerns. But…Do you see what is happening…

The person who should be recording the representations is asleep. Do you see he is sleeping as if he is exhausted after engaging in hard work? Will these people ever understand/know the difficulties faced by the Tamils. Sinhalese are not even willing to listen to the people who approached the Presidential Commission in the belief they would obtain relief. The other members of the Commission are not prepared to wake the sleeping Commissioner for fear of disturbing his slumber.

The Sinhalese have no respect for the Tamils. This illustrates the sad plight of the Tamils who believe in the government only to be repeatedly let down/cheated.

Just as the symbolic violence of the outrageously wasteful and meaningless production of a mega-size milk rice (kiri bath) to celebrate the President’s second term in office went unacknowledged by the majority in the South, the optics of a commissioner sleeping on the job extends well beyond professional negligence.

What this suggests to those who came to give testimony to the commission is a prima facie dismissal and disrespect of their concerns, the complete opposite of the raison d’être of the LLRC. Travel and the pace of work may well push the commissioners – who are by no means sprightly and have had to listen to hundreds of hours of testimony – to the brink of physical exhaustion. This argues for a process of rotation, or other processual ways commissioners can keep up with the hundreds of Tamil people who see the LLRC, warts and all, as a platform to air their grievances by choosing to appear in front of it. To fall asleep during testimony is simply not an option.

As with this article in Tamil, the sentiments aroused by the optics of a sleeping commissioner run deeply against any reconciliation. Played out in local and international media, these images risk appropriation by more extremist elements in the Tamil diaspora as well, which only goes to make the work of the LLRC, the government and civil society on post-war reconciliation that much more difficult.