LLRC REPORT: REASON, REFORM, ROADMAP

Photo, courtesy JDS, is of Sri Lanka’s President reading the LLRC report on a ‘haansi putuwa‘ at his official residence.

Though not without flaws and lacuna, the long awaited LLRC report does not disappoint, and reaches high standards, ranking with the best reports emanating over the decades from official and semi-official/autonomous Sri Lankan commissions, reviews and probes. It is a serious, thoughtful, carefully written and constructed text, striking in its fair-mindedness and balance. It deserves constructive engagement with, by all concerned Sri Lankan citizens and those in the world community who are concerned about and with Sri Lanka.

Let us first dispense with the flaws and gaps, of which there are chiefly two. Firstly, the Report echoes the conventional wisdom, as does the Norwegian (NORAD) post-mortem, that the CFA was the result and in the context of the military weakness of the Sri Lankan state. This is factually incorrect since it ignores the chronology of events, in which the deadly LRP missions which were taking down the Tiger command structure, followed and not preceded the disastrous Agni Kheela operation and the devastating raid on Katunayake airport. Thus the lopsided character of the CFA which heavily favoured the LTTE did not reflect the real balance of forces and was not inevitable. Secondly, the LLRC Report draws a veil of silence over the even more lopsided post-tsunami relief mechanism, the PTOMS, which was negotiated at the tail end of the Chandrika presidency and was frozen in its dangerous middle tier, by the Supreme Court, responding to a petition by the JVP. These errors and omissions should not, however, detract from the essentials merit of the Report.

The Report is Janus-faced in the best, original sense of the term. It looks back at the war and the context of the conflict and provides a perspective of the kind of society we need. It constitutes the only road map so far, to a durable peace and a better future. It does not stop at a vision, sometimes more implicit than explicit, but pinpoints wrongs and shortcomings that require rectification while listing reforms that cry out for urgent implementation.

Responses to the LLRC report have been of two sorts.  One is that it is basically laudable and balanced, containing recommendations which should be promptly acted upon.  This response then subdivides between those who are hopeful of action and others who are pessimistic or cynical.  The second response is that the LLRC report is far from satisfactory, and is a whitewash or to change the metaphor, a sweeping under the carpet of war crimes and accountability issues.

To my mind the first response –with its optimistic and pessimistic subsets– constitutes a reasonable reaction, while the second does not.  I say this because those who dismiss the report as His Master’s Voice make the fundamental mistake of being teleological in their approach. Having concluded a priori, that the Sri Lankan state and armed forces were guilty of war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, they fault the LLRC Report for not having arrived at the same conclusion, and dismiss it out of hand, echoing calls for an international inquiry.

These critics overlook or fail to undertake at least five basic tasks. They fail to grapple or even make reference to the rigorous reconstruction and argumentation that leads the Report to conclude that despite episodic crimes, civilian casualties were not, for the most part, intentional. They ignore the fact that this finding is the same as that which was arrived at by at least two impeccably non-state, independent sources, the oldest civil society think tank in Sri Lanka, the Marga Institute and its respected founder and outstanding liberal thinker Godfrey Gunatilleke, as well as a joint commission of three private sector business confederations. They fail to examine and disprove the extensive and solid argument on international humanitarian law in the LLRC report.  They disregard the listing of specific cases, based on testimony, which require independent investigation. They ignore the chapter on Human rights, which, unlike that on international humanitarian law, is quite critical of the status quo.

The Report also cuts like a surgeon’s knife through the old questions as to what the grievances of the Tamil community are, which of them are genuine and legitimate and how they differ from the grievances of the Sinhala community. This is done in excellent segments entitled ‘Grievances of the Tamil Community’ ‘The Historical Background relating to Majority-Minority relationships in Sri Lanka’ and ‘The Different Phases in the Narrative of Tamil Grievances’ (pp291-294, 369-370).

Perhaps the single most important contribution of the LLRC Report is its clear and unambiguous identification of the causes of the Sri Lankan conflict and crisis, the resolution of which remains the central challenge before the country. The LLRC has, in short, undertaken a diagnosis and provided a prescription.

“The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people. The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance. A political solution is imperative to address the causes of the conflict…” (p 291, articles 8.150, 8.151)

The LLRC Report justifies its most ambitious claim, which is to provide a post-war programme and pathway.

“… To this end, the success of ending armed conflict must be invested in an all-inclusive political process of dialogue and accommodation so that the conflict by other means will not continue… However, if these expectations were to become a reality in the form of a multi-ethnic nation at peace with itself in a democratic Sri Lanka, the Government and all political leaders must manifest political will and sincerity of purpose to take the necessary decisions to ensure the good-faith implementation of the Commission’s recommendations... While not being an exhaustive agenda to address, let alone cure, all ills of post conflict Sri Lanka, the recommendations of the Commission could nevertheless constitute a framework for action by all stakeholders, in particular the Government, political parties and community leaders. This framework would go a long way in constructing a platform for consolidating post-conflict peace and security as well as amity and cooperation within and between the diverse communities in Sri Lanka.” (Preamble, pp.1-2)

Overall, perhaps the most vital contribution of the Report is its potential to re-balance the Sri Lankan policy (and political) discourse, re-constituting a tragically vacated middle ground or centre space. Indeed, the LLRC report is that rarity: a welcome example of an enlightened Middle Path, at a time of strident affirmations of dogmatic fundamental positions.

  • Kalanithy Kulamohan

    Every one of the commissions or investigations or inquiries established by the Sri Lankan government to examine human rights violations or establish what happened around particular incidents did not result in justice for any of the victims.

    LLRC is just another futile and farcical attempt at accountability in Sri Lanka !!

    LLRC encourages impunity and injustice.

  • Concerned

    While agreeing with Kalanithy Kulamohan that the LLRC’s report is dubious and farcical, I am interested in knowing whether Kalanithy Kulamohan –I have seen her fiercely defending the LTTE at an LTTE Martyr’s Day event last month in Canada — is interested in asking any international authority to investigate Pro-Tiger Tamil Diaspora groups that continued to defend the LTTE even the movement was using people as human shields. Kalanithy Kulamohan’s statement is valid, but being an LTTE supporter, she has no moral responsibility to speak on behalf of the people who have been victimized by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

    Please read this post to find out more about Kalanithy Kulamohan’s (Chairperson of Tamil Remembrance Organization) involvement in LTTE activities:

    http://www.tamilnewsnetwork.com/2011/11/29/record-turnout-at-canada-heroes-day-event-asserts-sovereignty/

    I am posting this comment for the readers to understand the politics of people like Kalanithy Kulamohan.

    • Gnanam Selvaratnam

      The LTTE loving diaspora need to keep themselves busy huh?

      what about us “normal” tamils who reside in the west, who are hard done by in srilanka but are eager to work towards building a cohesive and above all sense of srilankaness?

      people like me have often fought with ourselves as to whom we belong. i know for sure i dont identify with tamil nadu tamils bitter about the ltte loss and I for sure don’t want to be associated with the ‘eelam at any cost’ group of SL tamils, us srilanka loving tamils (outside of/apart from those suffering in SL) are the real losers, with no voice. i’m fed up of all this sh!t.

      the more i read drivel like gibson bateman’s (and the numerous other reports of the LLRC whitewashing the GOSL), the more i feel sick. if you push GOSL into a corner for sure they won’t take any positive action in reconciling.

      having said that i have little faith in the pakshas, ranil and the eelam-toting TNA… we need help in reconciling, not to have insult the srilankan state, and above all good leadership who can sort out this mess after all. we’re at the final mile stretch but no one has the balls to sort it out.

      • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

        @ Gnanam Selvaratnam

        Justice will be done. It will take time. See what is happening in Cambodia after more than 30 years.

        Only now is the country beginning to put the mechanism in place to bring those responsible for the “killing fields” to justice. Cambodia and the UN have agreed to set up a tribunal to try the surviving leaders of the genocide years.The tribunal held its first public hearing in November 2007…still ongoing…

        I feel that things will happen faster here, and LLRC reports (a waste of tax payers money) will not stop the march of justice.

        Its unfortunate though, that Saloth Sar (Po Pot) had to die in his sleep on 15th April 1998. Our ‘Potty’ leaders will not escape that easily.

    • not concerned

      On that basis readers should also understand the politics of people like Dayan, who has no apology for the killing innocent Tamils and universally acknowledged as an apologist for Rajapakses, by many including Kusal Perera.

  • kadphises

    What a great photograph this is.. His Excellency mugging up the Encyclopaedia Brittanica! [Edited out]

  • MV

    Actually if anything the LLRC report proves is the near impossibility of anything coming out of Sri Lanka unless there is a radical shift in the southern Sinhala polity or pressure from outside – something that many knew before.

  • Egamabaram Palaniraja

    The LLRC is biased , flawed at every level !!

    The mass killing of Innocent Tamil Civilians is a war crime-pure and simple !!!!

    LLRC did not address this but there was extensive praise the war criminals ….

  • Thiayagarajah Moothavan

    Amasing !!

    Dayan Jayatilleka arrogance and self-righteousness has to be read to be believed !!!

  • http://www.hotmail.co.uk cyril

    The root-cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka IS the successive governments failure to come up with a political framework within which NE Tamil and Muslim people could exercise a degree of autonomy which meets their political aspirations.

    You do not need the LLRC to repeat, in a diluted form, what Tamil political leaderships & other civil society organisations have been saying for decades! So many commissions, committees & other local and international ngos have produced volumes of more concrete proposals and road maps!

    The LLRC report demonstrates its inherent inability to rise above the SL state and hold it and its agencies accountable to the citizens in accordance with universal values, norms and the international humanitarian law.They have ducked the principle of accountability and come up with a white-wash in defence of the SL State.

  • http://www.tamilresearchandnews.net, A. S. Uthayakumar

    Dear Dr. Dayan Jayatileka,

    You have stated that:

    “Perhaps the single most important contribution of the LLRC Report is its clear and unambiguous identification of the causes of the Sri Lankan conflict and crisis, the resolution of which remains the central challenge before the country. The LLRC has, in short, undertaken a diagnosis and provided a prescription.”

    Here I would like emphasize that you have to re-examine your vague statement: “The LLRC has, in short, undertaken a diagnosis and provided a prescription” and make it precise! This will only make you a RELIABLE PERSON, AAPTA!

    You will agree with me that unless the diagnosis is correct, prescription will be wrong and cure will not be possible. And, some times, it could lead to a disaster also!

    Thus, here I would like to comment on the method of analysis and conclusion of the Commission and that of yours.

    The Paragraph 8.150 of the Commission says:

    “The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people. The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    First of all, the statement of the Commission that:”The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance” confirms that the “VIOLENT SEPARATIST AGENDA” agenda” was the outcome of the “failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.”

    I think our former President of our country Mme. Chandrika Kumaratungewas was the only Head of State who accepted and told this openly to the world! Thanks to her.

    In the Paragraph 8.150 the Commission says:“The Commission TAKES THE VIEW that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka …”

    So, the Commission accepts the fact that THERE COULD BE DIFFERENT VIEWS other than that of the Commission on the “root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka” !

    Therefore, first of all, it is very important for us to analyze and find out WHETHER THE VIEW TAKEN BY THE COMMISSION IS CORRECT OR NOT.

    The Commission says:”the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to ADDRESS THE GENUINE GRIEVANCES OF THE TAMIL PEOPLE.”

    When the Commission speaks about the”GENUINE GRIEVANCES OF THE TAMIL PEOPLE” it is understood it speaks about the genuine grievances in the independent Lanka.

    Therefore, the Commission should have analyzed and found the correct answer on WHAT MADE THE GOVERNMENTS OF SRI LANKA TO CAUSE genuine grievances to the Tamils and WHAT CAUSED the successive Governments of Sri Lanka to fail in addressing the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.

    But, the Commission failed to analyze this. Therefore, the VIEW of the Commission that “the ROOT CAUSE of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people” is WRONG!

    Therefore, the Commission has FAILED IN ITS DIAGNOSIS! Therefore, its prescription will be wrong.

    There is another very important matter that has to be studied in co-ordination with the one that we have already analyzed in assessing the correctness of the ‘diagnosis and prescription’ of the Commission.

    Under ‘The Different Phases in the Narrative of Tamil Grievances’ the Commission has highlighted in para.8.163 of its Report that:

    “The decisive rift in the inter-ethnic relationship came first with the riots of 1958, then in1977, and culminating in what is known as ‘Black July’ of 1983, and the heinous failure of the then Government to provide adequate protection to Tamil citizens. The problems pertaining to the Tamil Community and their grievances cannot be fully addressed without a fuller understanding of this culture of violence that marred the relationship between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.”

    Thus, the LLRC indirectly accepts that the “CULTURE OF VIOLENCE” was introduced in the country NOT BY THE TAMILS, BUT BY THE SINHALESE AND IT WAS INDIRECTLY CATALYZED BY THE GOVERNMENTS OF SRI LANKA.

    It is very important to note at this juncture that the LLRC has not analyzed and found WHAT MADE THE GOVERNMENTS OF SRI LANAK TO CATALYZE THE ‘CULTURE OF VIOLENCE’ IN THE COUNTRY.

    Here also the Commission has failed to conduct its ‘diagnosis’ scientifically!

    Therefore, its ‘PRESCRIPTION’ would be WRONG!

    Dr. Dayan! To make the ‘diagnosis’ scientific and correct, the LLRC should have analyzed and come to a definite conclusion on WHETHER THE GOVERNMENTS OF SRI LANKA FORMULATED AND IMPLEMENTED POLICIES AND ACTIONS BASED ON SOME DOCTRINE OR NOT.

    Dr. Dayan, here the LLRC has either failed or conveniently got itself excused from talking anything about a very important question!

    Here only the Paragraph – 28 of the UN Panel Report becomes very important. It states that:

    “After independence, political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, SINHALA-BUDDHIST NATIONALISM GAINED TRACTION, ASSERTING A PRIVILEGED PLACE FOR THE SINHALESE AS THE PROTECTORS OF SRI LANKA,AS THE SACRED HOME OF BUDDHISM. THESE FACTORS RESULTED IN DEVASTATING AND ENDURING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATURE OF THE STATE, GOVERNANCE AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN SRI LANKA.”

    The UN Panel Report thus emphasizes that the ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems of Lanka has been its SINHALA BUDDHIST NATIONALISM based on the SACRED DOCTRINE: SINHALA – SINHALESE _ BUDDHISM – LANKA doctrine withONE TO ONE CORRESPONDENCE.

    However, we have to check whether the conclusion arrived at by the UN Panel is correct or not.

    Let us test this scientifically.

    We have to formulate a correct method and test it.

    For that, we must study what policies and actions of the Governments of Sri Lanka would satisfy Sinaha Buddhist nationalism based on the doctrine: Sinhala – Sinhalese – Buddhism – Lanka with one to one correspondence and see whether these policies and actions have been implemented by the successive Governments of Lanka.

    Dear Dr. Dayan Jayatileka!

    As long as the Sinhala nation and Governments of Sri Lanka adhere to the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism based on the said doctrine with one to one correspondence:

    1. the country would BELONG ONLY TO THE SINHALA THERAVADA BUDDHISTS, and SINHALA LANGUAGE and THERAVADA BUDDHISM ONLY COULD BE GIVEN THE FOREMOST PLACE IN THE COUNTRY. Thus, citizens other than the Sinhala Theravada Buddhist CLAIMING RIGHT TO THE COUNTRY OR A PARTICULAR REGION WILL NOT BE ACCEPTABLE;

    2. the citizens other than the SINHALA THERAVADA BUDDHIST WILL CONTINUE TO REMAIN AS SECOND CLASS CITIZENS AND THEY HAVE TO BE CONTENT WITH THE RIGHTS AND CONCESSIONS GIVEN TO THEM BY THE SINHALA THERAVADA BUDDHISTS;

    3. THE COUNTRY COULD REMAIN AS A UNITARY STATE ONLY AND GENUINE POWER SHARING WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE. Thus, CREATION OF FEDERAL STATES NEITHER BE TOLERATED NOT EVEN BE ACCEPTED;

    4. THE COUNTRY COULD NOT BE MADE A MULTI-ETHNIC, MULTI-RELIGIOUS, MULTI-LINGUA;AND MULTI-CULTURAL COUNTRY;

    5. DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS WOULD BE ENTIRELY ENJOYED BY THE SINHALA THERAVADA BUDDHISTS. But, in the long run, even the ordinary Sinhala people would lose their democratic rights.

    These will ultimately cause the total denial of democratic rights, violation of human rights, arbitrary arrests and detention, extra-judicial killings, violence, war, ‘terrorism,’ bribery, corruption, malpractice, deterioration of economy, accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small group of politically influential people, poverty, malnutrition, social problems, suicides and ‘Dhukka’ in a country where multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural societies live.

    Dear Dayan! This is what our country has been facing since its independence.

    This confirms with evidence that the ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems in our country is the Sinhala – Buddhist nationalism based on the doctrine: Sinhala – Sinhalese – Theravada Buddhism – Lanka doctrine with one – to – one correspondence.

    Unless the Governments of Lanka and the Sinhala nation reject Sinhala – Theravada Buddhist nationalism based on the said doctrine in words and deeds, genuine grievances of the minorities will continue.

    Then, three very important questions arise as far as a scientific study on the LLRC Report is concerned. They are:

    1. The Commission would have been well aware of the statement in paragraph – 28 of the UN Panel Report. Then Why it failed to find out and mention in its Report why the successive Governments of Sri Lanka formulated and implemented policies and actions that produced grievances to the Tamil minorities of the country?

    2.Are the recommendations of the Commission actually based on the ‘ROOT CAUSE,’ even though it has not mentioned correctly in its Report;

    3. Does the Sinhala – Theravada Buddhist nationalism based on the doctrine: Sinhala – Sinhalese – Theravada Buddhism – Lanka with one to one correspondence have scientific evidences? Or is it false and imaginary.

    The third question will be important as far as Sinhala – Theravada Buddhist nationalists are concerned.

    However, here, we have to find the correct answers for the first two only.

    A logical analysis only would make us to come to a correct conclusion.

    Let us take the first question.

    Firstly, had the Commission analyzed and mentioned why the successive Governments of Sri Lanka formulated and implemented policies and actions that produced grievances only to the Tamil minorities,that would become proof for the intentional violations of the humanitarian and human rights laws at the last stages of war and after the war by the Government and its forces!

    Secondly, In a country with Sinhala Buddhist nationalism at its galloping stage, could the Commission come out with the truth that the ‘ROOT CAUSE’of the problems is the Sinhala – Theravada Buddhist nationalism?

    However, many recommendations made by the LLRC in its Reports indirectly confirm that the Sri Lankan Governments have been basing their policies and actions under Sinhala – Buddhist nationalism based on the imaginary doctrine: Sinhala – Sinhalese – Buddhism – Lanka with one to one correspondence.

    Anyway, we have to study carefully the Report to find out whether the Commission has given all the necessary recommendations so as to reject Sinhala Buddhist nationalism completely.

    As fa as the third question is concerned,we have to re-examine scientifically all the Pali, Sinhala, Tamil, Sanskrit literature and the archaeological finds of Lanka to come to a correct conclusion.

  • Ward

    ”LLRC report is that rarity: a welcome example of an enlightened Middle Path”

    What LLRC said on the following has been said by many conscientious Sri Lankans and foreigners for years and decades but they were called LTTE apologists and traitors:

    Armed groups in operation
    Heavy militarisation in North – East
    Land disputes and alienation
    Devolution of powers

    So the Middle Path was there irrespective of those who refused to see it and hear it.

  • luxmy

    It’s difficult to break habits.

    Even after LLRC has made recommendations on demilitarisation, devolution of power, Northern Provincial elections, etc, the President refers to LTTE rump – http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/world/asia/%E2%80%98-tamil-diaspora-does-not-want-peace%E2%80%99-959#comment-75900 – whenever they are brought up and his answers are muddled. Prof Pieris, Prof Wijesinhe and Dr Jayatilleke can and must help him.

  • SomeOne

    In my view, “Grievances” doesn’t make sense when we put it (grievances)in the context of “Democracy”. In other words, if any one believes that there are grievances then I afraid that our democratic system has terribly failed.

    Conflict (on the surface) over doesn’t mean that every one has come to compromise with consense or they will, in future. At the moment, I see that “bi-polarization” remain strong as ever before. You may agree to disagree but end of the day no one will win.

    Unity in diversity will be achieved “IF and ONLY IF” all feel that they are equal. Most of us believe that the division is along the racial line. However, Rajadurai’s defection from Amirthalingam and Karuna’s defection from Pirapakaran show that it is not the case.

    In my view, we don’t need all this kind of time wasting exercises like LLRC. We don’t have to learn lessons because we already know all these very well. In fact, we learnt this kind of lessons in so many occasions. Attractive words and Jargon will hardly bring peace. People on the ground can’t understand any way. Thank you.