Groundviews

Petition against UN Panel’s report on accountability: Opposing what exactly?

The report on accountability produced by the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General hasn’t yet officially released it to the public domain. What little is known of its contents comes from leaks published in the mainstream media. Sinhala mainstream media have not translated and published in full the leaked version of the executive summary. Commentary in the mainstream media, including in the newspaper the leaks are published in, is vituperatively dismissive. Even senior members of government haven’t been shared copies of the report. Scanned copies of what appears to be the original executive summary have started to appear online on individual blogs. The UN Country office says it has not seen a copy of the report. Mainstream media reportage has focussed on vehement government denials. In sum, there is little or no information on the UN Panel’s report and its official contents with a lot of spin and misinformation.

This however didn’t stop Private Transport Minister C.B. Ratnayake launching a campaign to collect a million signatures against the UN Panel’s report. With the UN to date uncertain as to when the official report will be released, it is entirely unclear how the people who signed up got their information to oppose the report’s findings after critical reflection over its content. If Mr. Rajiva Wijesinha, a soi disant voice of government unleashed on the international community is himself in the dark about the contents of the official report, it is very suspect whether Mr. Ratnayake actually knows what he is so publicly opposing.

This petition, and others that will invariably follow after the report’s official publication, is emblematic of Sri Lanka’s peculiar democracy, where highly emotive issues ratcheted up by expedient politicians with little or no grounding in actual fact are actually able to whip up mass appeal and support. Whether this is true over the long-term remains to be seen, but in the short-term, the mere fact that if successful, this petition will generate a million signatures of Sri Lankans who know little or nothing of what they oppose reflects the significant challenge of reconciliation and accountability, post-war.

All photos courtesy Vikalpa.