by K.S. Ratnavale, Centre for Human Rights & Development, Kotte, Sri Lanka, July 5, 2016
There has been a country –wide discussion about Transitional Justice. The government of Sri Lanka has appointed a Task Force who in turn appointed Zonal Task Force for consultations. There has been an avalanche of activities in the districts and zones. The moot point is whether these consultations have been held in the proper manner.
The Center for Human Rights Development which we represent has made some assessment and observations about the function of the consultation so far. The main Consultation Task Force and its accessory the zonal Task force consist of respected human rights activists, human rights defenders, victims and the civil society. Orientation courses and workshops for participants have already been held and instructions have gone out as to how consultation have to be held with people in the zones and districts.
CHRD is concerned the way consultations have been designed in the first place. Even before here task force had been set up, several groups and interested parties had gone to the periphery and had held so called “Consultations”. These persons drawn mostly from Colombo based organizations had descended on several areas of the North and East where victims and vulnerable people reside. With amazing swiftness and with ample resources at their command, they held so called “consultations” which in effect were mostly “brain washing sessions”. The contents of their discourses have the unmistakable signs that it had been a stage managed exercise with blessings from the authorities who may have executed these in order to achieve their ends. Close observation reveals that these organizations which held consultations had ulterior motive to adversely influence the mindset of the people in to falling in the line with their aims. As a result the people seem confused as to what their priorities are and what is expected of them.
For example, the groups which conducted the so called consultation had pontificated on the wisdom of having a “Hybrid Court “whereas the people have overwhelmingly opted for international mechanisms. While the question whether such mechanisms are possible or not had to be left to the experts, the opinions of the people should not be diluted or influenced by a set standard as has been done by these groups. As a result the consultation process has been seriously dented.
Giving credence to these fears is the inclusion of certain guidelines in the Hand Book provided to the zonal task force as to the methods of consultations. In their instructions it is mentioned that international mechanisms is almost impossible to obtain and that there is a possibility of veto by certain super powers. If this instruction is allowed to percolate down to the consultations groups, this amounts to unduly influencing the mindset of the people virtually instructing them to forget about international mechanisms. In this manner, it could be said that these consultations are predetermined in order to propagate a particular system/mechanisms of their own choice.