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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Post conflict Sri Lanka

Post conflict Sri Lanka - Daily Mirror

By Nikhil Mustafa

We are transiting through a time when peaceful resoulution seems far removed from the vocabulary for an ultimate peace to reign in Sri Lanka.

Much pain continues to be created by man. Read below excerpts of a sermon by South African priest which provides for reflection.

In the political spectrum the APRC is expected to produce some form of a consensus document. It though is not guaranteed. For that reason this column dug out the Committee A report and features an edited text to remind ourselves once more of the peaceful negotiated path ahead for an ultimate lasting solution.

“To be here at St Pauls is a great honour for me. I would like to thank Ian Woodall and Canon Warner for the invitation extended to me to preach here today.

This last week Nelson Mandela has been here in London – as Prime minister Gordon Brown described him – the greatest person of our generation.

Imagine for a moment, if Nelson Mandela had walked from prison after 27 years and said "Its time to get them" We would have died in our millions – if his memories were filled with poison – instead he said: Never, never, and never again should people do to one another what was done to us

The key question is how do we transform memory from destructive memory to life giving memory.

This is true in relation to individuals, communities and nations.

For many people, the key first step on the journey to healing and wholeness begins with the journey from knowledge to acknowledgment. Individuals, families, communities and nations have guilty secrets – everybody knows something to be the case, but there are conspiracies of silence

In all human conflicts there is an "us" and a "them". A key element in the journey of healing happens when we meet the full humanity of the other – discovering that in the deepest sense there is only "us " - we do share a common humanity and that we all have a shadow side – in the horror of what others do I am confronted by what I am capable of doing myself. There but for the grace of God, go I.Religion is increasingly a factor in contemporary conflicts. Never in human history has it been so important for religious leaders at local and national levels to model interfaith dialogue and to encourage their followers not simply to "tolerate", but to "reverence" people of other faith traditions. As Jesus says, I have other sheep that are not of this fold. The western media speaks constantly of the danger of Islamic fundamentalism. There is silence about the dangers which we face from Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and secular fundamentalism. Some us us were very encouraged when some years ago, Prince Charles asserted that he did not want to be defender of "the faith", but defender of "faith".

So far no one has claimed resposibility for what happened to me so there is no one to forgive yet. Perhaps on my return to Cape Town, someone will ring the door bell and say : I am the one, please will you forgive me. Now forgiveness is on the table – I guess I have three choices of response: yes, no or not yet. Perhaps I might ask: Excuse me, Sir, do you still make letter bombs? No he replies – I work around the corner from you at the local hospital.Will you forgive me? Yes, of course, I forgive you. I would prefer that you spend the next fifty years working in that hospital rather than be locked up. I believe much more in the justice of restoration than the justice of punishment – in restorative justice than in retributive justice.

Over tea, I might say to my new friend; I have forgiven you, but I still have no hands, one eye and damaged ear drums. I will always need someone to assist me for the rest of my life. Of course you will help pay for that person – not as a condition of forgiveness but as part of reparation and restitution in ways that are possible.

Reparation and restitution are part of the journey of forgiveness.

Committee A(excerpts)

The Provinces

* We are of the view that a unit of devolution should, as far as practicable, consist of geographically contiguous territory, be conducive to balanced regional development and be designed to enhance administrative efficiency. Differences in endowments are to be expected among units.
* We have however noted that factors such as ethnicity and language could not be excluded in all situations and that there may have to be exceptions in order to address security and other concerns of communities.
n The Group was of the view that any proposed merger of two or three Provinces other than the North and East would not pose any problem if done through referenda in accordance with provisions presently available in the 1978 Constitution and the Provincial Councils Act, No. 42 of 1987.
* In this context the Group identified the following as the main concerns of the Sri Lankan Tamils:-:a) a feeling of exclusion from political power including issues/matters affecting Tamils; (b) access to State land; and (c) a general feeling of insecurity.
The Group identified the following as being the main concerns of the Muslims of the North and East:-

(a) fear of ethnic cleansing and the consequent loss of private property in the North and East; (b) security; and (c) access to State land.

The following were identified by the Group as being the main concerns of the Sinhalese in the North and East:-

(a) security; and (b) apprehension of possible loss of livelihood opportunities resulting from devolution.

nAs regards the North-East, the Supreme Court has in its recently delivered judgement held that pre-conditions for the merger, as given in the 13th Amendment and the Provincial Councils Act, had not been fulfilled. The Group has therefore identified the following options(only one quoted here):

n A single North-East Province with two internally autonomous Units to address the concerns of the Muslim and Sinhalese populations.

a) In such an arrangement, the Muslim-majority Unit will comprise Kalmunai, Sammanthurai and the Pottuvil polling divisions as the base together with non-contiguous Muslim-majority Divisional Secretary’s Divisions in the North-East. (b) The Sinhala-majority Unit will comprise Ampara polling division together with non-contiguous Sinhala-majority Divisional Secretary’s Divisions in the North-East.

(c) Such units shall exercise legislative and executive powers relating to certain subjects and functions devolved by the Constitution itself. These would include law and order, (see 6:10:(A)(f) ) education and culture. The modalities of such a process will be addressed in a future report. (d) Special arrangements would have to be made in regard to alienation of State land as the bulk of State land available for future expansion lie in Sinhala-majority Divisional Secretary’s Divisions. (e) Constitutional guarantees, such as double majority, may need to be incorporated to safeguard the interests of the Muslim and Sinhalese minorities.

(f) While a base unit by itself would not pose many problems, the attachment of enclaves may give rise to practical issues relating to law and order which need examination in depth.

Confidence Building Measures

The Group recommends that the government take administrative action, within specified time frames, in respect of the following matter, to alleviate the grievances/concerns of the minority communities:-

1. Implementation of the Language Provisions
1:1 The Constitution provides that in areas where Sinhala is the language of administration and records are kept in Sinhala, every person has certain entitlements so as to enable him/her to transact their business with the State in either Tamil or English. [Vide Article 22(2) Chapter IV. 1:3 Hence at an operational level immediate steps should be taken to provide for Tamil literate staff, translators and office equipment, in the different government offices. Adequate funding and resources should be provided for the recruitment of staff and other requirements.

2 Security Concerns
2:1 Measures should be taken to restore the confidence of all communities and the minorities in particular, in the Law and order situation in the Country. 2:2 A matter of deep concern to the Tamil Community in particular is the large number of abductions, disappearances, and extra judicial killings which have been going on this year, 2006. 2:3 Despite assurances by the Government, ordinary citizens of this country are disheartened by the fact that investigations into these crimes are not being pursued with ordinary diligence by the police, that there are no prosecutions being initiated by the State thus far, and that the criminals are carrying on with their killings with impunity and no fear of punishment. 2:4 The Government must take all necessary steps to protect the human rights of all the people of the country. Directions should be given to the law enforcement officers that they should enforce the law without fear or favour with impunity to none so that the rule of law is upheld and the confidence of the people is restored. 2:5 In the light of previous communal clashes and ethnic violence it is recommended that in areas which are constituted predominantly of a particular community, the police stationed therein should be predominantly of that community, while still retaining a multi-ethnic character. This will make all minority communities living among majority groups more assured of their security. 2:6 In view of the ethnic imbalance in the police and armed forces in favour of the majority community, persons belonging to the minority communities will have to be recruited in sufficient numbers so as to rectify the situation. This may have to be over a period of time. 2:7 However for a start a firm commitment could be made to recruit a target number of police officers from the minority communities. Time frames could be drawn up and the international community could be invited to support and assist with the training programmes. 2:8 It may be noted that in a similar situation of ethnic imbalance in the police and armed forces the new Constitution of Macedonia also provides for such measures for the minority Albanian population as part of the peace process.

3. Relief and Rehabilitation
Priority should be given to the re-settlement of IDPs who have suffered displacement due to war and ethnic violence. Their personal safely and security should be guaranteed and compensation paid for the dislocation caused 3:1 High Security Zones

n A matter of deep resentment among the Tamil people is the fact that their lands and homes have been taken over by the Armed forces for security zones. One such zone is the Valikamam High Security zone in the Jaffna Peninsular The area taken over for the security zone comprises of 36 Grama Niladhari Divisions in extent 58.5 sq. kilometers of fertile red soil. The number of persons displaced was computed in 2003 ,as being Sixty five thousand seven hundred and fifty six.(65,756).

n This is a humanitarian problem which has to be addressed. Compensation should be paid to the persons dispossessed. The Government should also work out a scheme for releasing those lands which can be immediately released, to the owners, so as to show its good faith, while giving serious thought to a gradual dismantling of these zones in tandem with a genuine peace process and decommissioning of arms by the LTTE. Armed forces to be stationed only in areas deemed expedient and essential, where ever possible primarily in State land.

The text above are reminders of the work beyond war. An essential task which can be delayed but not avoided.

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