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Is There A Political Will To Implement LLRC Recommendations?

[The Sunday Leader.lk, Sunday, 12 February 2012 13:42 No Comment]

Whatever planetary conjunctions may come into formation two Full Moons before the Sinhala New Year for President Mahinda Rajapaka and his clan, the economic and political clouds are already gathering ominously over this usually sunny isle. The alleged war crimes allegations have come around for the third time this year in a vicious form. US President Barack Obama himself is taking a personal interest in a resolution that is expected to be moved at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva towards the end of this month.

Sri Lanka’s steady climb as a ‘land of the rising GDP’ as painted by the optimistic Central Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal, is confronted with unforeseen odds such as the massive trade deficit of nearly $ 9 billion – cost of imports far exceeding that of exports.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has abruptly ended is $ 2.6 billion bailout package with $ 800 million yet to be released because of the failure of the government to keep to agreed targets particularly with regard to the net international reserve target. Minister Sarath Amunugama and Governor Cabral say that they do not need the $ 800 million of the IMF but then why borrow at commercial rates of interest from commercial banks which are many times higher than the IMF rates?

In Colombo the people have wearied of dancing on the streets, raban playing and gobbling ‘kiributh’ for nearly 3 years after the ‘historic victory’ and are now shouting obscenities at the esta lishment demanding pay hikes.

Will President Rajapaksa, the maestro Sri Lanka politico rise up to

this triple challenge?

In Geneva at the end of this month will be the greatest of challenges Sri Lanka may face: a resolution condemning its armed services for alleged war crimes. This time it is not so much the United Nations and its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon but American President Barack Obama who despite all his problems – nine months to go for the presidential election – considers the Sri Lankan issue a priority.

Last week Washington despatched three of its big guns on human rights issues to Sri Lanka: Stephen Rapp Ambassador at-large for International War Crimes, Mario Otero Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights and Robert Blake Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, a former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, who knows Sri Lankan politics and antics inside out.

With Western nations out for Sri Lanka’s jugular on the human rights

issue – even though they have been accused of far worse war crimes down the years the world over – President Rajapaksa appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee which even many Sri Lankans presumed to be a red herring, while Western nations thought it would be a whitewash of our armed forces.

Surprisingly the LLRC had made

recommendations that appear to have pleased and displeased both sides.

Some of the recommendations of the report are those which the West including the report of the Expert Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, wanted. Earlier Sri Lanka had refused to permit investigations into the conduct of its armed forces claiming it to be a breach of its national sovereignty.

Washington is now calling for the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC. Robert Blake himself speaking at a ceremony on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day in Washington had said that

the, ‘LLRC offers a very promising way forward to help Sri Lanka become again an island of peace and prosperity’.

Sri Lankans especially those in the Rajapaksa camp were jubilant on the release of the LLRC report  initially because it was not rejected outright by the West and took some of the wind off the sails of Sri Lanka

critics. But some of the hardliners such as those of the JHU rejected

it and it is likely that the acceptance of the report will be resisted

by even moderate Sinhalese in the UPFA with the passage of time. That is perhaps why government supporters are thumping themselves on their backs on the report and there are no signs or calls for it to be implemented.

The report says that (during the last phases of the conflict) there is

a possible implication of the security forces causing deaths or injury

to civilians even though there may not have been the intent to cause

harm. Under these circumstances there is a duty on the part of the State to ascertain more fully the circumstances the Commission had stressed and added that there is a duty on the part of the State to ascertain more fully the circumstances under which such incidents could have occurred and if such investigations disclosed wrongful conduct, the wrongdoers should be prosecuted and punished.

On alleged disappearances of civilians the Commission has noted that a number of people had said that they witnessed people surrendering to the army.

It is the clear duty of the State to initiate necessary investigations into such specific allegations and where such investigations produce evidence of any unlawful act on the part of individual members of the army, the wrongdoers should be prosecuted. The launching of a full scale investigation into these incidents and where necessary institution of prosecutions is an imperative specially to clear the good name of the army, it has said.

A household survey covering all aspects of families in all parts of

the island to ascertain first hand the scale of circumstances of death

and injury to civilians as well as damage to property during the

period of conflict has been proposed. An independent investigation into the Channel 4 video footage has also been recommended. The LLRC notes persistent reports on attacks of journalists and media institutions and killing of journalists but that these incidents remain to be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. The failure to investigate and prosecute offenders would undermine the process of reconciliation and Rule of Law, it has been held.

Some of the other recommendations call for prosecution of offenders irrespective of whether they have political connections or not; the Police Department being made a separate institution from those dealing with the security of State and the establishment of an independent Police Commission.

The LLRC report with its call for investigations into some of the

alleged war crimes also calls for measures such as ensuring the freedom of the media, investigation into attacks and killing of journalists and

the establishment of the Rule of Law.

The Rajapaksa government would act in its best interests if it does go ahead with the recommendations made by its own Commission rather than be caned by foreign powers in Geneva.

The problem for President Rajapaksa and company however is one of staying in power. Would its vote base be eroded by accepting some of these recommendations? Is the recommendation for the devolution of power not popular even within the UPFA? Does the Rajapaksa government have the  political will to implement the LLRC recommendations?

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