Mandate of Lessons Learnt
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
Commission which is referred to as the Sri Lanka Civil War Commission by
international media, commenced its sittings few days ago on August 11.
However, ironically, the same international media reported that the
Commission lacks teeth to investigate into the alleged war crimes
perpetrated during the last phase of the war. It appears that several
prominent Human Rights Organizations are also amongst the proponents of
this view. In this context, the article explores the ambit of the
Commissionís powers from a legal point of view.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been
appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa under the provisions of Section
Two of the Commissions of Inquiry Act No. 17 of 1948 (as amended).
Why did the CFA fail? Needs to be found out. File photo
In terms of Section 2 of the said Act, the President is empowered to
appoint, by warrant under the Public Seal of the Republic, a Commission
of Inquiry consisting of one or more members to inquire into and report
on the administration of any Government department or of any other
public institution or the conduct of any member of the public service
which an inquiry will be in the interests of the public safety or
Section Two further provides that every warrant by which a Commission
of Inquiry is so appointed should contain the terms of reference of the
Commission. Accordingly, it is patently clear that the warrant by which
the LLRC was appointed contains the scope of its mandate. Terms of
reference containing in the warrant.
(i) The facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the
ceasefire agreement and the sequence of events that followed thereafter
up to May 19, 2009.
(ii) Whether any person, group, or institution directly or indirectly
bear responsibility in this regard.
(iii) The lessons we would learn from those events and their
attendant concerns, to ensure that there will be no recurrence.
(iv) The methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by
those events or their dependents or to heirs, can be effected.
(v) The institutional, administrative and legislative measures which
need to be taken to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the
future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among
all communities, and to make any such other recommendations with
reference to any of the matters being inquired under the terms of this
As per above, it is quiet plain that contrary to the assertions of
the Rights Groups, the Commissionís scope of inquiry is not confined to
the finding of the facts and circumstances that led to the failure of
the ceasefire declared on February 21, 2002. It also includes the
subsequent events which eventually culminated with LTTE leaderís death
on May 19, 2009. Accordingly, it is manifestly clear that the Commission
has the mandate to inquire into and report on the incidents occurred
during the final stages of the conflict where the alleged war crimes
In terms of the provisions of the Act, the Commission enjoys
wide-ranging powers such as the admission of evidence that are
inadmissible in a court of law and the summoning of any person residing
in Sri Lanka to examine him as a witness. Accordingly, the Commission is
well-equipped to investigate into the alleged human rights abuses and
violations of International Humanitarian Law.
According to the aforementioned terms of reference, I believe that
the LLRC has a broader mandate than a war crimes investigative body as
it appears to be in pursuit of unravelling the root causes of the
However, eventhough the actual intention of establishing this
Commission is comprehensible to any prudent man, it was indeed the
ingenious political strategy in the context of mounting pressure for an
international probe on the alleged violations of International