Truth Commission nears finalization

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By 2017-01-13

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera in London said that the Reconciliation Mechanisms Committee will be studying the recently submitted Consultation Task Force (CTF) Report and finalize the designing of a Truth-Seeking Commission and...... a Reparations Office.

He spoke on the theme 'The Reconciliation Process in Sri Lanka' at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, on 11 January where he was invited as the guest speaker.

The Foreign Minister said the Consultation Task Force set up to seek the views of the public handed over its report to the government on the 3 January and copied to the relevant experts in an exercise coordinated by the Secretariat to Coordinate the Reconciliation Mechanisms, which will study the report.

The minister added that there are divergent views even within the government on the issue of the participation of foreign judges in the proposed judicial mechanism. However, despite this divergence of opinions, there is a clear consensus across the board on the need for an independent and credible domestic mechanism as pledged in President Maithripala Sirisena's election manifesto.

As a democratic and sovereign government, we will work out the architecture of such a mechanism in consultation with all the stakeholders.

He further added that "among the various multiple tasks, we undertook the drafting – through a consultative and inclusive process – of a National Human Rights Action Plan for the next five years beginning this year (2017-2021). This draft Action Plan is currently before Cabinet."

"As you are aware, the missing persons phenomenon has plagued Sri Lanka for several years. Apart from steps being taken to set up the Permanent Office on Missing Persons, we have also become parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The draft enabling legislation to give effect to the provisions of the Convention is also presently before the Cabinet.

"On the North and the East issues the minister said government has also taken a series of symbolic steps to establish equality of all citizens, such as singing the National Anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil; promising the people that we won't allow our country to plunge into conflict again and the shedding of blood of our citizens by adopting a Declaration of Peace on Independence Day in February 2015 and observing the National Integration and Reconciliation Week annually, beginning this week."

He noted that much of the preparatory work for the new Constitution has now been completed. Wide-ranging public consultations were conducted for the first time in Sri Lanka's constitutional history; much study, reflection and negotiation was undertaken to arrive at consensus at the six sub-committees set up and final negotiations on a draft are currently underway.

"Right now, the President's party, the SLFP, and the JVP have asked for time to present their respective final proposals. The Interim Report therefore, is expected to be tabled before the Constitutional Assembly in early February, for debate."

He also remarked that the government's plans of making Sri Lanka an Indian Ocean hub are beginning to bear fruit: the Colombo International Financial City; the Hambantota, Colombo East and Trincomalee Ports; and the Katunayake and Palali Airports are all hives of activity. By 2020, Sri Lanka will have the necessary infrastructure, regulations, and companies in place to achieve its hub ambitions.

"But this time, there is reason to hope. The violence has finally ceased. The two main parties that have always worked against each other have now come together. The President, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are people with wisdom who know that what we have today in Sri Lanka is a unique opportunity, which we simply cannot afford to miss. It is not the opportunity of the decade but the opportunity of a lifetime.

For the first time in Sri Lanka's history the UNP, SLFP, TNA and Muslim parties have agreed to work together to address the root causes of conflict. We have learnt from the mistakes of the past, and we are committed to ensuring that we achieve the promise that shined so brightly at our independence.

The lessons and the choices of our history are clear to us today. We have a choice between impunity, conflict, corruption, extremism and poverty, or the rule of law, accountability, equality, multiculturalism, openness and trade. We have a choice between conflict and poverty, versus peace and prosperity.

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