UNSG Panel Report on Sri Lanka: Revisiting ‘Accountability’

Original photo from JDS

Ensuring ‘accountability’ is important, but doing so is a complex task. Who is to ensure accountability, when, where, how? – are questions which have always aroused serious debate, and will do, in the future. While there may be no ‘independent/internal’ investigations, one need not be starry-eyed about ‘independent/international’ investigations. For example, ‘Nuremburg’ was an important start, but was never a suitable model. What, for instance, is ‘international’ and who decides the form and nature of this mechanism? Can we go with Chinese/Russian investigators, and if so, would they be independent? Can we go with US/UK investigators, and would they be independent? Also, can we simply investigate the ‘last stages’ of the armed conflict? What about India’s role in the conflict, and are we to forget the manner in which India nurtured armed groups hostile to Sri Lanka? Are we to investigate only the leaders (of the present regime) who defeated the LTTE, but not those of previous regimes who may have contributed to the prolongation of the armed conflict for so long?

‘Accountability’, yes: but when and why? When ‘peace-talks’ took place, wasn’t ‘accountability’ necessary? Were we not asked to forget ‘accountability’ in the name of peace? Had there been a serious ‘accountability’ process which prosecuted those alleged to have committed serious crimes, would the LTTE’s top leaders been able to discuss ‘peace’, unless negotiations were to be held inside prison? Wasn’t that why peace-facilitators ignored the importance of ‘accountability’? But suddenly, when one party is eliminated, there emerges the need for ‘accountability’. And then, the government states what the peace-facilitators stated then: forget ‘accountability’, let’s move on.

The manner in which this ‘accountability’ issue was approached by past regimes and the peace-facilitators has been disturbing. The true intentions of all these actors are questionable. Yet, ‘ground realities’ need to be acknowledged – but, not to the extent of saying that ‘accountability’ is totally unnecessary.

In short: a serious internal or international accountability mechanism will not succeed in the present context, and that needs to be accepted and acknowledged. The more suitable (and under current circumstances, the most practical) option available is the establishment of a credible truth and reconciliation process, with maximum legal protection afforded to those who are willing to come before such a commission (i.e. victim/witness protection), with the so established commission having no powers to prosecute. Opportunity should be provided to all those affected by the armed conflict, especially the Tamil people in the North and the East, as well as the Sinhala and Muslim people in those areas and elsewhere, to come before such a commission, without fear, and point out to all in the country the immense suffering they underwent due to a bloody conflict for nearly 30 long years. This seems to be the least divisive compromise that many people within the country would wish to arrive at, given recent developments.

What then of the report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts? How has the Government reacted, how has the UNP responded? What now: will everything end up at the International Criminal Court (ICC), or the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)?

UNSG and the Panel Report

The role of the UNSG Ban Ki-Moon has been a truly unfortunate one. Prodded, pushed and pressured by certain Western powers, and with hopes of being re-elected for another term, UNSG Moon established a Panel of Experts, thereby setting a serious precedent. The Panel was supposed to “advice him [the UNSG] on the issue of accountability” and to “look into modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka” (as per the Statement attributable to the UNSG’s spokesperson, 22 June, 2010).

But, of course, didn’t the Secretary General of the UN really know what had to be done? Did he really need a Panel of Experts to tell him what he [the UNSG] should do about accountability, and that too, only in Sri Lanka? No. And if the intention was not to ‘investigate’, then why another Panel which only corroborates what is already stated by other organizations?

Therefore, it seems that the sole intention of establishing the Panel was not simply to receive ‘advice’, but to open up space for a more detailed report to be prepared which, in the eyes of certain influential members of the ‘international’ community, would have some persuasive authority since the report comes now in the form of ‘advice’ given to the UNSG. So, while the UNSG’s spokesperson stated that the panel’s advice (report) “will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing its commitment” and while many argued that the Panel’s report will complement the work of the LLRC for example, the UNSG-Panel’s Report complements more the work of the human rights organizations.

The Panel consisted of eminent persons. The only concern about the composition was that there still was that ‘appearance of bias’, given the inclusion of Mr. M. Darusman (even though he is undoubtedly a respected and eminent individual). And it needs to be noted here that this ‘appearance of bias’ taints even the LLRC. Critics of the Panel conveniently ignore this fact.

But of course, the most unfortunate aspect of the Panel is that it seems to have engaged in an exercise of simply re-writing the material they may have received from different sources, known and unknown. If the sources were the already known sources (e.g. AI, HRW, etc.), then why a new, detailed, report? If there are other additional sources, what are those sources? And were these latter sources the sources which helped the Panel determine “a very different version of the final stages of the war”? But then again, wasn’t that the version of other human rights groups as well? So we return to the question of ‘intention’ (not of the Panel, but rather of the UNSG): what was the real intention of establishing this Panel? The answer seems to be all too clear.  

The Government

From the very beginning, the manner in which the government approached the issue of ‘accountability’ was deeply disappointing. One main argument raised by the government is: ‘accountability’ is unnecessary as no civilians were killed during the final stages of the war. An absurd assertion, given the fact that the group which the Armed Forces had to confront was a most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, which, during the course of its terror campaign, did its utmost, intentionally and deliberately, to blur the distinction between LTTE combatants and ordinary civilians. So it doesn’t make any sense, and is indeed illogical, if the government still states that however difficult the task was, not a single civilian was harmed. This argument raises serious questions about the true intentions of the government, and if any truth and reconciliation process is to succeed, the government needs to stop making such unbelievable, incredulous and absurd statements.

Also, the government has been unable to respond effectively and comprehensively to the numerous allegations leveled against the Armed Forces. It had enough time, since May 2009, to issue a detailed report on the allegations leveled against it (note, for instance, that even Israel issued a somewhat detailed report titled Gaza Operation Investigations: An Update, in January 2010 in response to the Goldstone-Report, highlighting, inter alia, that 150 investigations had been launched by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), pointing out that by the time the Goldstone Report was published, Israel was already investigating 22 of the 34 incidents contained therein.

Yet, the manner in which the government has handled many of the issues concerning ‘accountability’ and especially foreign policy has ceased to cause alarm. That is perhaps all that needs to be said, since much of this is stale news to any observer or follower of Sri Lankan politics.

ICC and the UNP

With the release of the UNSG-Panel report, debate on Sri Lanka and the ICC seems to be intensifying in certain quarters. The report does have, in the eyes of the Western powers, some persuasive authority, but whether Russia and China would think so is still very questionable (going by the statements already made by Russia, in particular). One reason why these two veto powers might not yet be ready to do a Sudan or Libya may be due to the fact that doing so would be an implicit acknowledgment, even endorsement, of the precedent set by the UNSG in convening a Panel, getting its ‘advice’, and making the ensuing report a tool which allows Western powers to exert pressure on small and less-powerful States.

Since Sri Lanka is not a Party to the Rome Statute, it cannot be brought before the ICC. Sri Lanka should either be a State Party, or the situation in Sri Lanka should be referred to the ICC by the Security Council. Even the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC cannot successfully launch an investigation proprio motu (as per Article 15 of the Statute), since Sri Lanka is not a State Party, and therefore does not fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC. It was the Chief prosecutor himself, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, who stated somewhere in 2009 that he cannot do anything since Sri Lanka is not a State Party, and that one would have to convince the UNSC (see, video on YouTube, titled: ‘prosecutor for the International Criminal Court discusses the situation in Sri Lanka’).

Here, then, comes the United National Party (UNP), which has been quite fascinated by the Rome Statute. For quite some time, ever since 2009, the UNP (especially MP Mangala Samaraweera) has been tossing around an interesting claim. The recent version is contained in the UNP’s statement (The Island, 20 April 2011): “The people of a country can be subjected to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court only if the said country is a signatory to the Rome Convention … During the tenure of Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe’s premiership in 2002, there was international pressure for Sri Lanka to be a signatory to this convention. However Mr. Wickremasinghe steadfastly refused” to sign.

The flaws contained in the statement above are obvious to anyone familiar with the fundamentals of treaty law, and the Rome Statute. For instance, a signatory is not a Party (a State becomes a Party only upon ratification or accession), and cannot be strictly bound by the provisions of the Statute. Also, this does not say anything about the power of the Executive President. Moreover, Mr. Wickremasinghe’s signature would have been immaterial had the UNSC decided to refer the matter to the ICC. Also, in any case, the crimes that the ICC could investigate are crimes committed after the Statute enters into force, i.e. 1 July, 2002, so obviously, the situation in 2002 was not so serious as to move the ICC (or the UNSC) to initiate an investigation in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the UNP does not state the following: that like in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, any government could, through a Declaration, accept the jurisdiction of the ICC (as per Article 12(3) of the Statute). Would, for instance, ‘President Ranil Wickremasinghe’ (note: this is a purely hypothetical case), under pressure from Western or other powers, accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, and enable the ICC to investigate the situation during the last stages of the armed conflict? If the intention of the UNP is to show that it is truly ‘patriotic’, or that its current leader is the great saviour of Sri Lanka, then it might be necessary for the UNP to state clearly that under no circumstances will it accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, anytime in the future too, through signature, ratification, accession or declaration.

Revisiting UNHRC?

Are we to return, then, to the UNHRC? Recommendation 4A of the UNSG-Panel Report is explicit: “the Human Rights Council should be invited to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session Resolution (A/HRC/S-11/1.1/Rev.2) regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.”

It seems that the UNHRC will be the forum that decides the true impact of the UNSG-Panel Report, at the geopolitical level. The recommendation shows how critical Sri Lanka’s ‘victory’ in May 2009 was, how strong an impact it had on the direction in which the debate on ‘accountability’ went. Is Sri Lanka ready to re-open, to revisit, the old debate? How confident is Sri Lanka of securing a ‘victory’, as she did in May 2009? What, for instance, does this tell us about the importance of the UNHRC, about the manner in which the Government of Sri Lanka acted soon after the ‘victory’ in 2009? In any case, if the UNHRC decides to revisit the matter, it will emerge as one of the most significant foreign policy challenges for the Government.

Conclusion

At present, the problem of ‘accountability’ seems to be set to be ‘resolved’, temporarily, at the UNHRC. It ought to have been ideally resolved in Sri Lanka, through a proper inquiry, through domestic mechanisms.

However, what remains to be done, at best, given the nature of the domestic situation, is the establishment of a credible truth and reconciliation process. Furthermore, serious measures need to be taken to ‘advance accountability’ in the short term. In this regard, the government would do well to implement the measures referred to in ‘Recommendation 2’ of the Executive Summary of the UNSG-Panel report. The short-term measures contained in ‘Recommendation 2’ are measures that can and should be adopted, irrespective of the serious concerns one may have with regard to the veracity of some of the accusations contained therein.

  • Pottupillai

    The accountability is important to stifle the prevailing impunity on horrendous human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

    We all know that Rajapaksa government controlled war and it barred journalists and any independent or foreign observers from being present in the war zone

  • Vidivu

    Kalana Senaratne wrote

    “The manner in which the Sri Lanka government approached the issue of ‘accountability’ was deeply disappointing. One main argument raised by the government is: ‘accountability’ is unnecessary as no civilians were killed during the final stages of the war. An absurd assertion..”

    I agree with totally . :)

    The statement is not just absurd but dishonest too.

    This is not the first time Sri Lanka Government engaged in deceitful activities

    Recently , Mahinda Rajapaksa Government tried to deceive the famed Time magazine poll

    —————–
    Time magazine removes Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name after tip off
    http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2011_04_22_005.html

    The world reputed Time magazine has removed Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name from the world’s most influential leaders list after it found serious malpractices in voting M. Rajapaksa as one of the most influential world leaders.

    The Sri Lanka government media and other websites recently boasted about the President’s continuous rise from 28th place to fourth place in the reputed magazine’s annual poll on world’s top leaders.

    But the LankaNewsWeb understands that an investigation by theTime magazine has found that Sri Lankan government has paid millions of dollars to a public relations company to generate votes for Mr. Rajapaksa.

    It has then removed Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name from the list.

    Political analysts say it shows that Mr. Rajapaksa, having successfully fooled Sri Lankan voting public at the presidential and general elections, has once again failed to fool the international community.

  • Krishanth

    Why Rajapaksa and CO don’t want the UN to publish the report ?

    Why they want to prevent this report reaching mass media ?

    Why they don’t let others know the truth ?

  • luxmy

    What about the accountability for the 63 years of oppression up to today?

    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/08/outline_of_submission_made_to.html
    Jayantha Dhanapala’s written submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, 30 August 2010: ‘’Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality.”

  • Rasika Jayasuriya

    Reading the above article, and the comments, As a Sri Lankan Citizen, who lives and breathes inside the country, and didn’t fly over to another country, I have lived through the times when all this happened, I have a few un-answerable questions.

    With all this noise around the so called War Crimes, which I believe is very probable that would have happened! Not for the need or want of the Govt, but as a direct result of the Terrorist (LTTE) keeping and maintaining, a human shield around their so called Tamil Liberation Leaders, who didn’t care for their own people. Where was the UN report on that, then? In fact, where was the UN on this whole time for more than two decades? Busy May be?

    When all the massacres the LTTE, so openly have carried out on innocent civilians,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_attacks_attributed_to_the_LTTE
    where was the UN on this whole time for more than two decades? Busy May be?

    In a country, where more than 80% of population is from another race ( Sihala + Muslim + Burgher), How is that it is democratic to ask for a different country based on ground on race? Where was the UN, when the peace talks was around? Where was the UN report or action?

    Where was the help of Tamil people in other countries, if they are so caring for each other. There are children, who haven’t heard of ice cream from the day they are born, Tamil people paid 100 rupees for a box of matches in the LTTE Era, when the normal price is 2 rupees. The LTTE was living off those innocent souls, and bought air planes and submarines with their money & gold.Is it the Govt fault?

    So called irregularities in IDP camps, and the offenses done inside those camps, are probably mentioned in the report, Will the good gestures , the pictures SL army personnel carrying old/disabled civilians, sharing their canteen’s with the Tamils people also recorded? & what about the LTTE Carders disguised as civilians, blasting suicide bombs in groups? killing their own people? is all this recorded?

    Are the steps taken by a govt to safe guard the innocent, so wrong.
    Isn’t it like taking your shoes & belt off, or even body search in airports. The War was more than 20 years old? The LTTE doesn’t have labels on them? and the tactics they use toward war doesnt help, now does it? All these missing persons from Camps, is it probable that they are living in Colombo (walawatte/Kotahena) after escaping from the camps? is that recorded in the report?

    The Govt has its faults, But it has done the write thing, otherwise I will have to go tomorrow to work in the bus, fearing I will never come back to my home in the evening! and thats more than 80% of this country!
    Will that be covered in the UN report!

    • Saro

      Rasika Jayasooriya,
      UN Panel report does list the charges against LTTE, one of which is that pointed out by you,namely holding civilians as a shield and shooting at them when tried to escape. In fact there are 6 charges against LTTE and only 5 against the SLG.

      There have been peace talks and agreements between the leaders of both linguistic leaders ever since the imposition of Sinhala Only Act of 1956. You may remember, Bandaranayake-Chelvanayagam Pact, SEnanayake-Chelvanayagam Pact, 13th Amendment, P-TOMS and CFA. Everyone of them was wrecked by the ultra-nationalists, no need to mention which side they were from.

      Even after the war ended and the LTTE crushed, look at the way the tormented civilians were interned behind barbed wires be separating the children, husbands and wives. Those kept in camps were tortured, women raped and killed without any independent observer in sight.

      Even today, the military intelligence and paramilitaries beat, abduct and rape civilians and the reporters and foreigners are barred from entering the north of the country.

      The government must know that HR violations are serious and the culture of impunity to the violators such as killers of people like Lasantha Wickrematunge, Tamil MPs and Muslim workers must be stopped.

      Only way one can make this government that insists of ‘zero civilian casualty’ realise that Tamils and political opponents are also Sri Lankans and entitled to fair treatment is to institute an independent probe of allegations of war crimes and violations of HR and international laws, otherwise it will go on buying times with APRC, IIGEP and LLRC.

      • Thambi

        Saro, you were doing good until you fell into the usual spiel about “rape and torture” in the IDP camps. These are ridiculous unsubstantiated claims and if they did happen it was only in isolated incidents. Prostitution is also not rape — per: food for favors. The IDP were obviously not tortured in any case if they were civilians.

        And per the paramilitaries — they are composed of Tamils and are a byproduct of the LTTE. An issue that must be tackled but cannot be blamed on the Sinhalese alone.

  • Saro

    This government will not do justice to minorities or anything rational. Even today the military intelligence and paramilitaries beat, abduct or kill people who disagree with them. Gotabaya Rajapakse gave orders to the senior police officers to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to the crimes committed by the paramilitaries. When the world media and some countries highlight the excesses committed in Tamil areas military keep a low profile and urge the paramilitaries to do the same. But when things are forgotten they come to hunt down the public. The SLG will not address the accountability issues or restrain one-time anti-LTTErs on its own. If any rationality or justice is to be ensured the initiate must come from outside the country. This is where the UNSG-Panel becomes the starter.

  • TT

    This report has no legal force. If presented at the UN or the UNSC it will be defeated.

    The only thing it achieves is the breakdown of little reconciliation SL has achieved so far.

    Stopping the publication of the report is an unwise thing. Let it be published. As a result the hearts and minds campaign will totally collapse. It cannot be helped. Billions of investments in the north and the east will not yield the political returns expected.

    At least now the government should realize that there are 2 types of hearts and minds in SL – winnable and un-winnable. Win the winnable hearts and minds at the expense of un-winnable hearts and minds. Change the ethnic composition of the north to make the political views of un-winnable hearts insignificant. It cannot resolve Tamil aspirations, but it certainly can address SL aspirations.

    I can’t wait till the LG elections for the postponed councils in the north (and the NPC election if it will be held now). That should teach the government (especially Namal Rajapaksha) the absurdity of wasting money on un-winnable hearts and minds. Northern development has ONLY benefited Tamils and Tamils only. So when they fall out with GOSL, there is no political return. Instead had the government followed DS Senanayake’s approach, there is absolutely nothing to worry. In such a case the release of this report will actually help government win the northern election and the eastern election (except Batticaloa)!

    Ranil learnt this lesson in 2004 and 2005. Sirima learnt this lesson in 1977. JRJ in 1982. Premadasa in 1990. SWRDB in 1958. Dudly in 1966. CBK never learnt it. Will the Rajapakshas learn it in 2011? DS Senanayake learnt it early in 1948!

    • Burning_Issue

      “It cannot resolve Tamil aspirations, but it certainly can address SL aspirations.”

      Please enlighten this forum as to how the ethnic balance should be addressed throughout Sri Lanka rather than concentrating on N&E. Isn’t it fair that SL aspirations are better served by having a good ethnic mix throughout the country?

      I as a Tamil, what should I expect in terms of my Language and Culture? Am I allowed to expect, same as a Sinhala, to conduct my civil affairs in Tamil? What are my rights as a Tamil? Please enlighten me as I seem not cognizant about my rights.

      • TT

        BI,

        Agree that it should be done throughout SL. But it has already happened in the “south”.

        The ONLY mono-ethnic districts of SL are:
        1. Jaffna
        2. Kilinochchi
        3. Mulaitivu

        That’s why changing the ethnic composition of these must take priority.

        There is another reason. These districts have returned racist political parties making racist demands. The only democratic way to wipe them out is by changing the ethnic composition of these districts.

        The right to do your affairs in your language is NOT a fundamental right in MOST democratic countries.

        e.g. I can’t conduct my affairs in my language in USA and Canada despite being a citizen.

        SL should NOT be the exception.

      • Burning_Issue

        TT,

        A cat closes it’s eyes when drinking milk; the cat thinks that, by closing it’s eyes it becomes invisible to others. Similarly, you conduct yourself portraying you as a champion of democracy and ethnic diversity, but in reality, like in the case of the cat, people in these forums can see the real you through your writings!

        “Agree that it should be done throughout SL. But it has already happened in the “south”.”

        So you are saying that in proportion, the ethnic diversity is perfect in the South and not in the North, right?

        “There is another reason. These districts have returned racist political parties making racist demands. The only democratic way to wipe them out is by changing the ethnic composition of these districts.”

        The mainstream parties that have been in governments pandered to Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism; the history stands testament to this fact. The MR regime is no exception. The mainstream parties always been racial in nature but for their names! It is about time you grasp this fact!

        “The right to do your affairs in your language is NOT a fundamental right in MOST democratic countries.”

        Your statement is correct when you as a Sinhala living in the US but not correct when I a SRI LANKAN TAMIL living in SRI LANKA. You see I am not an English Tamil or US Tamil; I am a SRI LANKAN Tamil and my language and heritage evolved in Sri Lanka; thus, I have a RIGHT to conduct my civil affairs in my own language. Do you now get it?

        You see; I am not a separatist nor a racist but stand up for my rights. What does this make me?

      • TT

        BI,

        I’m pretty sure the proverb about the cat was first told by me here. It is a Tamil proverb.

        I don’t wish to entertain personal attacks. That shows the maker’s bankruptcy.

        “So you are saying that in proportion, the ethnic diversity is perfect in the South and not in the North, right?”

        Not perfect, but MUCH MUCH better than the north. It is a fact.

        “The mainstream parties always been racial in nature but for their names.”

        Absurd! It is not just the names of “T” parties that is racist, EVERYTHING.

        Look at their demands – TAMIL only homelands, TAMIL (only) right of self determination, etc., etc.

        Look at their grievences – TAMIL only once again

        Look at their make up – Tamil only.

        Look at the demographic of the districts they win the election – TAMIL ONLY.

        Mainstream parties don’t have these evils associated with them.

        “Your statement is correct when you as a Sinhala living in the US but not correct when I a SRI LANKAN TAMIL living in SRI LANKA. You see I am not an English Tamil or US Tamil; I am a SRI LANKAN Tamil and my language and heritage evolved in Sri Lanka; thus, I have a RIGHT to conduct my civil affairs in my own language.”

        No you don’t. As I said before it is NOT a fundamental right anywhere in the democratic world. Governments may provide some concessions to SELECTED minorities. (e.g. Veddha language is not a national language but Tamil is.) Tamil language (a respectable language) didn’t evolve in SL. It evolved in Tamil Nadu, India. Even today almost 99% of all Tamil cultural productions are made in Tamil Nadu and nothing in SL. The uncle who was our neighbour in SL says he used to take a boat from Jafna and go to Tamil Nadu to watch Tamil films on the release date in the 1970s when he was a lad. Tamil film makers make Sinhala films in SL!!!

  • Chrissy Abeysekera

    Kalana,

    You seem to completely bypass the question of legal reforms which other opinion makers have been constantly referring to. What is the point of having a truth and reconciliation process if Sri Lanka’s judiciary kowtows to the President, if the President himself is constitutionally above the law, if the police continues to be under the jackboot of the Defence Secreary, etc etc. I am disappointed that you too seem to have fallen into this easy trap of ‘truth and reconcilation’. So are all communities to be ‘reconciled’ with ‘the truth’ in the absence of the rule of law?

    You question the term áccoutability’ but the terms ‘truth’and ‘reconciliation’can be questioned in exactly that same manner. Should we not press for credible changes in practice and the law in realtion to accountability at least for the future. I see today that the BBC has said that the Chief Justice has commented that it is better to return to a system where everything is not dependant on one person.

    The stress on truth and reconcilaiton should also look at accountability in a broader sense of not necesarrily indicting soldiers but putting into place a rule of law system that we can all believe in and trust surely?

    • Kalana Senaratne

      Chrissy,

      Thanks. No, I didn’t ‘completely bypass the question of legal reforms…’

      Firstly, because reference is made to Victim/Witness Protection, at para 4 (i.e. V/W Protection legislation: the Bill seems to be stuck in Parliament). So legal reforms are indeed necessary. Without such reforms, no TRC process will work out effectively and meaningfully. That’s obvious. For the truth to come out, people should have protection. If not, the ‘truth’ that comes out will not be the whole truth; and more seriously, will be a form of ‘truth’ that will not lead to any meaningful reconciliation. Consider also, in this regard, how important it is to ensure the independence of such a TRCommission (I believe any serious TRC process must be led by someone like Judge CG Weeramantry)

      Secondly, because I have highlighted issues pertaining to the rule of law, independence of the judiciary/human rights investigative mechanisms etc., etc., elsewhere. I didn’t want to repeat it here as well. And, yes, I totally agree: we should press for credible and meaningful changes in law and practice concerning accountability in the future, and it’s certainly hoped that those responsible would put into place a system that we can trust and believe in. I never argued that we shouldn’t. It’s just that I didn’t want to repeat what was already written, elsewhere. Thanks for raising the important point, anyway.

    • Velu Balendran

      The govt has all alone been best positioned to know the truth, which painstakingly others (UN experts) had to reveal. The urgent question is whether they ready to accept responsibility publicly (may be to their LLRC) and apologise? If they do (which seems highly unlikely from their negative reaction so far), then that will set the tone for everything else to happen within good framework and force all the extreme elements to fall in line.

      Fat chance that Fat chance that, given the hard work what looks like their paid servants assigned to monitor this site are doing in this comments column!

      • Velu Balendran

        Sorry about the obvious typos

      • Thambi

        Always the paranoia of paid government goons…

        Accountability will only come when Mahinda is deposed. We can only wait for that time to come in 5 more years or work within the legal framework of Sri Lanka to get him removed. This behind the scenes wrangling and UN reports don’t add up to much.

  • Chrissy Abeysekera

    Thanks for the response Kalana.

    I take your point about repetition. But sometimes, others may not have read what you have written elsewhere. nd in any case, I do feel that this is a point that should be stressed time and time again, even to the extent of being repetitive. The question is not merely a Witness protection law but a wide range of other legal reforms. I have just read the UN Panel report and notice that there is a seperate section altogether dealing with SL’s justice systems. I find nothing objectionable at all in what they have said in this section (whatever may be the contested nature of what is said elsewhere) and they have cited unimpeachable and soberly reasoned sources. Now we have even the Chief Justuce sayting that he prefers returning to a 17th Amendment status quo!

    It is only if public opinion comples the Government to do this that we can think of, at least, a tolerable future.