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P-TOMS - no cause for triumphalism or complacency

Bishop of Colombo Rt. Revd Duleep de Chickera, in a statement on the P-TOMS states: "Many are grateful that the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure has been signed and is in the process of being implemented. We should however not forget the turmoil and tensions this created.

Consequently this must not be seen as a victory, for no one wins when a society fragments. The politically mature way forward is to see this step as a sacred responsibility in which efficient and fair implementation and reconciliation require concurrent attention. Segments of civil society who have been supportive of P-TOMS see this as a rare opportunity for rehabilitation as well as trust and goodwill.

Now, therefore is the time for the Government and the LTTE to prove that this arrangement is right and workable. For this to happen, the two signatories to the P-TOMS, must ensure that there will be no haggling over trivialities, endless fault-finding and a cover up of irregularities. Failure to do so will expose the real agendas of the signatories and they will be judged by the people, specially the afflicted. A democratic culture and prevailing dissent demands that the P-TOMS process continues transparent and open to public scrutiny; and with regular evaluation. Many who have supported the P-TOMs retain the option to disagree if the signatories violate with the needs of the afflicted.

This will lead to a loss of goodwill. Many who have had difficulties with P-TOMS may come to accept its pragmatism if transparency, scrutiny and evaluation are ensured and progress made. This will lead to a growth of goodwill. A concurrent shadow mechanism set up in collaboration by non-governmental, non-LTTE, civil society groups to monitor and ensure that the needs of the afflicted receive the highest priority requires serious thought.

Credibility of process alone is however not enough. Parallel counter productive issues with adverse spill over effects need to be addressed. One such issue is the current internecine killings which must stop immediately. Collaboration for the benefit of the afflicted becomes a farce if more affliction is caused by arbitrary killings.

That there are serious undercurrents that threaten and provoke this cycle of killings is obvious. Something unknown to the public is happening and this needs to be investigated. In the prevailing circumstance of suspicion and allegations, intimidation and fear it is unrealistic to expect local investigations to unravel the hidden issue. Consequently, it is now imperative that the Government invites a Commission of competent persons from interested friendly countries without vested interests, to inquire into these killings.

The Commission should receive the approval of Parliament and, since its mandate will include all regions and groups, be acceptable to the LTTE. Where the co-operation of any group is withheld, the Commission should have the authority to recommend appropriate local and international sanctions as well as a review of the continuity of P-TOMS.

Another issue is the concern of groups who feel marginalized in the operational areas, specially the Muslims and scattered Sinhala communities. Political pacts tend to empower some and marginalize others. It is therefore mandatory and certainly not too late for the P-TOMS agreement to by modified for these grievances to be heard and provided for.

Some organisations engaged in tsunami reconstruction work have taken a deliberate decision that the allocation of financial resources will be equally divided between the North, South and East and that the beneficiaries will be the afflicted persons of all ethnic and religious groups. A similar guideline, if accepted by the signatories as mandatory for their work will further allay the fears of marginalized groups."

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