Draft national policy
on reconciliation - Part II:
National integration as a prime need
With regard to specific grievances of Sinhalese in villages adjacent
to former conflict areas, the LLRC Commission notes that the government
has tended to overlook those who lived in villages such as Weli Oya,
Moneragala and Kebethigollawa, who survived the terror perpetrated by
the LTTE. The people in these villages continued to live under
tremendous threats to their lives without migrating to safe areas in the
They faced security risks, hardships in education, disrupted and
fractured livelihoods, paucity of health care and transport facilities.
Moreover, the Sinhalese who resided in the Eastern Province faced
inadequacies of the administrative system. For instance, Weli Oya is
categorized under a number of districts, a section under the Mullaitivu
district, a section under the Vavuniya district and another under the
Trincomalee district. As a result numerous difficulties were faced by
people in the areas where work is done in Tamil, whereas people living
in Weli Oya are predominantly Sinhalese.
Education facilities for brighter future. Picture by Chaminda
The perception of discrimination and unequal treatment within the
Tamil population arose from a series of administrative changes, such as
discrimination against the use of the Tamil language in a context where
education was segregated by language. This contributed to deprivation in
regard to jobs, which was exacerbated by the state being the predominant
employer in the context of statist economic policies. Positive
discrimination policies in education struck hardest at the well educated
Tamils in the North. The perceived discrimination was seen as arising
from the fact that central government and its decision making processes
were far removed from the needs and aspirations of the Tamil people. The
many youth rebellions all over the country testify to the sense of
alienation felt generally by the rural population, but in the North and
East this sense was increased by the absence of representation at
decision-making levels in government. In addition, there arose
resentment over total state control of lands and colonization schemes
which seemed disproportionately beneficial to the majority community.
The Muslims, though not direct protagonists in the armed conflict
between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan state, have undergone considerable
suffering during the years of fighting in the North and East. The
forcible eviction of the entire Muslim community from the Northern
Province by the LTTE, the massacre of hundreds of Muslims while
worshipping in mosques in Kattankudy and Eravur, the takeover of lands
belonging to the Muslims in the Eastern Province, the deprivation of the
livelihoods of Muslims in the conflict areas and the lack of adequate
security to the Muslims were a few of the phenomena that contributed
greatly to the sense of insecurity and unease that Muslims faced because
of the conflict.
Unlike the Tamil community which challenged state structures as a
means of addressing grievances, the Muslims took a separate political
path and preferred to engage with the state and work within the
mainstream of Sri Lankan politics. This created a great deal of
misunderstanding between the Tamil and Muslim communities and caused a
strain in their relationship.
Discrimination against the Tamil population which is seen to lie at
the root of the three-decade conflict has been attributed to the
struggle between a majority community and a minority community, where
the latter seeks space to operate within a larger polity. The notion of
democracy dictates that a balance must be achieved for this in a manner
that is not at the expense of any community.
More employment avenues for Northern youths. Picture by Nissanka
The balance to be found would need to be premised upon the common
need for integration. In negotiating such a balance, trust is a
prerequisite. There currently exists a trust deficit which has
contributed to the view that, as the minority moves towards advocating
geographical separation, any concession by the state will be detrimental
to the majority community. Conversely, the Tamil minority is labouring
under a lack of confidence and trust as a result of failed aspirations
As a result of the long-standing strife and struggle, two key
challenges remain to be addressed so as to propel the country towards
enduring and sustainable peace and prosperity. First, the root causes of
the conflict need solutions which are satisfactory to all the
communities and peoples of Sri Lanka. Second, there is a need to dispel
suspicions and weld all communities into and within the fabric of one
nation. The LLRC report of November 2011 states that '...despite the
lapse of two years since the ending of the conflict, the violence,
suspicion and sense of discrimination are still prevalent in social and
political life. Delay in the implementation of a clearly focused post
conflict peace building agenda may have contributed to this situation.'
* To build a shared future for the people of Sri Lanka based upon
equality, justice and dignity.
* To ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities without
alienation and discrimination of any kind.
* To wholeheartedly accept individual identity and respect cultural
diversity within a united Sri Lanka
* To acknowledge and address the needs and aspirations of all
communities residing in the country
* To encourage a sense of caring to be shown by the state to all
citizens and communities and acknowledge and address fears and
insecurities of all communities residing in the country.
* To foster a sense of belonging in all peoples and communities
irrespective of language, ethnicity, race or religion.
Harmony and reconciliation for sustainable peace and prosperity
through improved inter-communal relationships based on trust, equality,
confidence and mutual benefit.
The end of the armed conflict has opened up space to address the task
of nation building unhindered by pre-occupation with a debilitating
armed struggle which was a drain on the nation's resources. The
decimation of the LTTE has created a vacuum that long dormant economic
forces have moved in to fill. With the Sri Lankan government's efforts
to ensure large infrastructure development in the past two years,
healthy growth rates have been achieved. There remains a need to take
further steps so that economic achievements may be translated into
meaningful and equitable benefits that will impact on the life of every
Sri Lankan. In this context, there remains a need for political reforms
that entrench empowerment and a willingness to bring closure for the
suffering of individuals and communities as a whole. The LLRC report of
November 2011 states that 'people from all corners of the country who
came before the Commission gave an almost palpable impression that this
is Sri Lanka's moment of opportunity for Sri Lankans to chart a vision
for a harmonious future for our nation and a wholesome Sri Lankan
Interdependence between the three communities and the role of the
The three communities must also work hard to create governance,
administrative and social structures that create and foster
interdependence among themselves. This will help create the feeling in
each of the communities that their progress or downfall is inextricably
linked with the progress or downfall of the other communities and thus
help to inculcate a strong sense of nationhood among Sri Lankans.
The addressing and resolution of political issues affecting the
minorities is an important part of a strategy to achieve national
reconciliation leading to nation building. In this task the Sri Lankan
state must play a critical if not a lead role. It must be realized that
although the majority of the Tamils did not support and or approve the
LTTEs resort to an armed struggle, as a result of the defeat of the LTTE
and the fallout of the military campaign to achieve that end result, the
Tamils are a demoralized and wounded community.
The LLRC report of November 2011 states that 'Many who appeared
before the Commission emphasized that what had been achieved by the
Security Forces should be invested in a political process...The
Commission again found significant common ground among a broad spectrum
of persons who made representations that this task can and should be
achieved whilst upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of
the nation and safeguarding the long cherished Sri Lankan values of
democracy, tolerance and power sharing.'
A. Recovery and equitable development
It is acknowledged that a sense of grievance that led later to
separatism arose through perceptions of discrimination and inequitable
treatment. Government schemes to promote infrastructure and employment
opportunities seemed confined to Sinhala majority areas. Whilst this may
have been due to populist policies based on electoral considerations, it
created a strong sense of deprivation. Most upsetting perhaps was the
introduction of a language policy that, whilst maintaining segregation
in education on the basis of language, privileged those who knew Sinhala
with regard to state employment as well as dealings with officials. This
extended later to restrictions on educational opportunities based on
language distinctions. Though initially intended as a means of positive
discrimination, implementation was callous, and in one instance the
system was changed after unfair allegations with regard to Tamil
language examiners, who were cleared following inquiry.
Though measures have been taken to promote equity in development, and
language policies have been revised, there is still need of greater
committed concern to ensure equity.
For this purpose;
* The state shall work towards inculcating a culture where each
citizen becomes an active participant in society and feels a sense of
belonging and of being Sri Lankan. To this end, the state shall make
every effort to identify and address the social, economic and political
structures which caused dissension between communities.
* The government shall undertake an in-depth study to identify the
needs of the people in the North and East to address the question of
improving their livelihoods
* The government will commit to making every effort to ensure
equitable resource allocation and development of villages, bearing in
mind that the reverse could lead to frustration and communal tension in
clusters of villages dominated by different ethnic communities,
particularly in the Eastern province.
* The government will make every effort to ensure that all future
development activities are carried out in consultation and with the
participation of the local people, so as to, build ownership to the
development activities, as well as, give them a sense of participation
in nation building.
* Cognizant of the sense of marginalization expressed by Tamil people
due to long-standing language policies, and deficiencies in the
implementation thus far of changes, and further being sensitive to the
perception prevailing among the Tamil people of being second class
citizens, the government shall adopt urgent measures to ensure that the
current language policy is satisfactorily implemented, and developed to
promote equity as well as mutual understanding.
* Measures shall be taken to take further current measures for
recruitment of Tamil speaking Police officers, recruitment to the Police
and armed services of Tamils and Tamil speaking citizens, with
particular attention to officer cadres, should be fast forwarded.
* Recognizing that an independent permanent Police Commission is a
pre-requisite to guarantee the effective functioning of the Police and
to generate public confidence, the government shall make every effort to
empower such a Police Commission to monitor the performance of the
Police service and ensure that all Police officers act independently and
maintain a high degree of professional conduct. This will also increase
the confidence of the minorities in the impartiality of the Police.
Police training shall be given the highest priority, with a change of
culture required to emphasize the legal and moral responsibilities of
the force and its accountability to citizens.
* The government will make every effort to promote professional
skills training and activities that bring about the necessary
attitudinal changes in the public service. Public servants should be
guided by criteria, norms and conduct sensitized to the concerns and
apprehensions of all citizens, particularly the minorities.
* Bearing in mind the significant lapse of time since the
introduction of standardisation as a means of affirmative action by the
state to mitigate the imbalance in educational opportunities afforded to
different communities, the state shall in the best interests of future
generations undertake a careful review of this quota system and work
towards the introduction of a merit based admission system.
* The government shall pursue actively a programme of equitable
distribution of educational facilities and make a concerted effort to
minimize any feeling of discrimination felt by the minorities. Further,
the government shall make every effort to ensure that the inequality in
the availability of educational facilities in different areas of the
country is reduced and eventually eliminated.
* The government strongly discourages disqualifying students on
ethnic or religious grounds, in respect of admission to schools, as
being a significant impediment to reconciliation. The government
strongly declares its commitment to developing a pro-active policy to
encourage mixed schools serving children from different ethnic and
religious backgrounds. Such a policy will be implemented, so as to,
facilitate the admission of children from different ethnic and religious
groups to these schools.
To be continued