Lessons Learnt of the LLRC
At the time it was appointed there were many who had major doubts
about the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) having any
impact on the situation facing Sri Lanka in the post-conflict period.
There were those such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and
the International Crisis Group that rejected it outright, with ill
Others, including many governments, were not satisfied that it was an
adequate response to the strident calls for an ‘independent’
international inquiry into allegations of war crimes and violations of
humanitarian law during the final phases of the operation to defeat the
LTTE. There was much criticism and scepticism about it in Sri Lanka too,
ranging from issues such as an alleged lack of independence by being a
presidential commission to a biased judgment of its competence based on
political opposition to the government.
One of the LLRC sittings. File photo
But in recent weeks one sees a near sea change in these attitudes to
Sri Lanka’s own attempt to learn the lessons from a prolonged conflict
and also move more deeply into the aspects of reconciliation that were
important to ensure a sustainable peace with tolerance and understanding
among the communities in the land.
While the members of the LLRC have good reason to be pleased with
this emerging trend on their efforts to produce a report that was
relevant to the issues facing the country and with a mandate that sought
much from them, the government too has cause for considerable
satisfaction at this new turn of events.
The government’s decision to publish the full report within a short
period of its submission to the President, the statement in Parliament
by the Leader of the House of the government’s intent to make a serious
study of it towards implementation in the interests of reconciliation,
and the recent assurances given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself
of the commitment to implement its recommendations that would serve the
interests of reconciliation, have gone far towards changing building
this new attitude towards the LLRC, and opening of new opportunities for
diplomatic action with a greater measure of credibility behind such
A significant example of the new approach towards the findings and
recommendations of the LLRC came last week from Australia.
It was the defeat in the Australian Senate of a motion by a member of
the Greens calling for the establishment of an independent international
mechanism to investigate the issue of alleged war crimes and crimes
against humanity committed in Sri Lanka.
The resolution moved by the Green Senator Lee Rhiannon, called on the
Australian government to acknowledge that the LLRC fails to adequately
address the issue of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed
during the Sri Lankan conflict, and to support calls for the UN
Secretary-General and the UN Security Council to establish an
independent international mechanism to investigate the issue of war
crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka, as
recommended by the report of the UN Secretary-General's Panel of Experts
on Accountability in Sri Lanka.
In addition, it expressed disappointment that the Federal Government
has not issued a public response to the LLRC final report.
Very importantly this resolution, which in its details included all
the propaganda against Sri Lanka carried out by so-called Human Rights
activists who walk in step with the pro-LTTE Tamils living in the West,
and some well known politically motivated critics of the Sri Lankan
approach towards reconciliation in the United Kingdom and Canada, and
also called for implementing the Darusman report that was obtained by
the UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, was defeated with bi-partisan
support against it. There were only 11 members of the Aussie Senate
voting for it, while 30 senators opposed it.
In another development, also in Australia, Foreign Minister Kevin
Rudd, called on Sri Lanka to further investigate the allegations (into
the final stages of the war) but stopped short of adding Australia's
voice to demands for an international probe’, the widely read Australian
newspaper The Age, reported.
In an indication of acceptance of the findings of the LLRC, Rudd had
called on Sri Lanka to set a clear timetable for the implementation of
the LLRC's recommendations.
Human rights violations
The latest reaction from the United States, which had from the outset
indicated it was keeping an open mind on the LLRC, was also encouraging.
There was no outright rejection of its findings, but a more balanced
position as seen from the comments made by Under Secretary Maria Otero
and also echoed by Assistant Secretary Robert Blake at the conclusion of
their visit to Sri Lanka earlier this week.
At the media briefing in Colombo last Monday (13) Under Secretary
Otero said, “We also appreciate the work of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt
and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). While it has shortcoming on
accountability, the Commission addressed a number of crucial areas of
concern to Sri Lankans, and makes substantive recommendations on
reconciliation, devolution of authority, de-militarization, rule of law,
media freedom, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses
that, if implemented, could contribute to genuine reconciliation and
strengthening democratic institutions and practices.
Otero said she discussed the recommendations with the President who
assured her that they were looking to implement the LLRC report in a
“I urged the Sri Lankan government to share the details of their
plans and begin fulfilling the recommendations called for in the report,
and to credibly address outstanding issues of accountability,” she said.
It is noteworthy that Under Secretary Otero is the most senior US
government official to visit Sri Lanka since Secretary of State Colin
Powell in 2005. She is Under Secretary of State who oversees and
coordinates US foreign relations on the spectrum of civilian security
issues across the globe, including democracy, human rights, population,
refugees, trafficking in persons, rule of law, counter-narcotics, crisis
prevention and response, global criminal justice, and countering violent
It is therefore of significance is the fact that Otero’s statement
laid considerable emphasis on Sri Lanka’s demonstrably improved
performance, most notably in the successful prosecution and conviction
of human traffickers under anti-trafficking legislation, and rejuvenated
its interagency task force on this issue.
“We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the government
to strengthen investigation and prosecution efforts and eradicate the
scourge of trafficking in persons,” she said.
She also noted that child labour is another area where the Sri Lankan
government and NGOs are making a great deal of progress. “Today less
than two percent of children are engaged in the worst forms of child
labour in Sri Lanka.
“This is a significant achievement, particularly in this region, and
we are even more encouraged by the government’s plan to entirely
eliminate the worst forms of child labour from the country by
None of these responses whether about the LLRC in the Australian
Senate and by the US Under Secretary, as well as the latter’s
observations on Sri Lanka’s success in battling human smuggling and
child labour could be pleasing to the voices abroad, who seek to paint
Sri Lanka as a country that has no regard whatsoever for the rights of
people and human dignity.
This is in the focus of the current campaign being waged with
increased vigour in the run up to the next session of the UNHRC which
takes place on February 27 in Geneva, where a resolution on Sri Lanka is
expected to be discussed.
The pro-LTTE Tamils in the UK, Germany, France and other parts of
Europe are busy organizing special marches and even train rides to
Geneva, to hold anti-Sri Lanka demonstrations outside the UNHCR.
The signs are that the labours of the LLRC to present the truth and
the path to reconciliation have already helped in blunting the efforts
to this pro-LTTE chorus that is chanting a litany of hatred against Sri