Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka
The government of Sri Lanka is now almost finalised establishing a Consultation Task Force for the Transitionary Justice (TJ) process in Sri Lanka. The Consultation Task Force is expected to come up with recommendations for establishing viable domestic mechanisms to address the alleged serious human rights violations that have taken place during the last phase of the war, after nationwide consultations.
This Task Force has been established under the UN Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in close collaboration with the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM), Prime Minister’s Office. SCRM has been established with the approval of Cabinet of Ministers. Letters of invitation to the task have been sent with the letterhead of SCRM and Prime Ministers Office.
The Foreign Ministry has appointed Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu as the secretary and Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama as the chair of the Consultation Task Force. Dr. Saravanamuttu, a well-known human rights defender is the executive director of the Colombo based liberal think tank the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Attorney at Law Ms. Muttetuwegama, who has served in number of accountability mechanisms during the past two decades is highly regarded human rights defender in Sri Lanka.
Informed sources say that that there is no direct involvement of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) headed by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka in establishing the Task Force. ONUR was set up under the President, on approval of a cabinet decision obtained by the Hon. Prime Minister. Its website has only in English language content. A daughter of one of its board of governors has been recruited to run the ONUR.
No role has been envisaged for the Ministry for National Dialogue headed by minister Mano Ganeshan in the Consultation Task Force process.
The Task Force has 3 levels; the Consultation Task Force, Expert Advisory Panel and Representative (regional) Advisory Panel. So far 11 members have been appointed to the Task Force and 15 members to the Expert Advisory panel.
Number of leading Sri Lankan human rights defenders have been appointed to the first two levels of the Task Force. More than dozen of them have been to Geneva over the past 6 years to campaign for human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka. Among them are Bahavani Fonseka, Brito Fernando, Sudarshana Gunawrdana, Nimalka Fernando, Niran Anketell and Fr. Yogi. Two members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka too have been named as members to the expert advisory panel. Well known academics and social activists from Jaffna and Batticaloa too has been appointed.
The Task force is entrusted to carry out wide consultations for setting up following commissions: a commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence; an Office for Missing Persons based on the principle of the families’ right to know (with expertise from the ICRC); a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel; and an Office for Reparations. The Task Force is expected to organise a wide process of consultations involving all stakeholders, including victims.
The Task Force has been given 3 months to finish its consultations and submit recommendations. It has already held number of preparatory meetings and it is expected that the Consultation ask Force will be made public in the coming days. (Sri Lanka Brief)