Marga & CHA Press Their Views in the Washington Den, October 2014 — Two Accounts

Jeevan Thiagarajah: “Memo on Visit to Washington, 16-23rd October 2014: Resetting the Discourse on Post-War Issues of Accountability”**

The purpose of the visit was to engage with Think Tanks, Media and Eminent Persons on the work done by Marga-CHA on issues of accountability during the last phase of the war with a view to resetting the discourse, currently the subject of a UNHCR mandated investigation under way in Geneva.

The key points in regard to the issue of accountability were the following.

  • The shift in the accountability focus from war to post-war rights and governance issues.

The conversations first with the Think Tanks and thereafter with the State Department seemed to suggest greater concern and interest with post-war than war related accountability. References were made to war related gender-based violence (WIIS) and possible evidence that may be submitted in testimony by potential witnesses (Heritage Foundation). The Director, South Asia of the State Department seemed to indicate a desire and willingness to move beyond the war and engage in a fresh and open engagement on post-war issues of concern to both sides. Ambassador Schaffer in a insightful analysis of the state of bilateral relations underlined the importance of opening conversations around postwar themes and opined that it is necessary to get to a win-win situation where reconciliation was concerned.    

  • Issues on both sides of the relationship which need to be discussed and trust deficit sorted out to enable reset the bilateral relations and the Geneva conversation.

The Director, South Asia, noting a divergence of bilateral relations 2009/2010, asked why we were concerned with the UNHRC Resolution. Following a discussion of Sri Lanka’s concerns, the Director South Asia made a categorical statement that the State Department was not interested in a regime change. However he stated that there were many issues on US side and no doubt on the Sri Lankan side and expressed a feeling of frustration on the US side in regard to the state of engagement with Sri Lanka. During the course of the discussion that followed a mutual stocktaking was considered a useful first step in examining what and how trust deficit could be sorted out which we surmise would allow a shift in the focus on Geneva. Ambassador Schaffer reiterated the need to work out mutual expectations.

  • Scope for opening Track I engagement on selected issues of mutual interest on the part of US Agencies.

The Director, South Asia indicated that there were several areas where US agencies were interested in engagement with Sri Lankan counterparts if space could be opened to move forward in regard to postwar accountability issues. In fact he said that the State Department was holding things back until resetting of the relations.

  • Willingness and active commitment to engage in a Track II conversation on issues of mutual concern on the part of the think tanks.

The think tanks, WIIS and Heritage Foundation indicated a willingness and interest in working on areas of mutual interest. These would need to be defined leading to an initial exchange of ideas. On the Sri Lankan side “women in peace and security” which is of interest to WIIS can provide the framework for collaboration on the designing of a national program on issues of prevention, protection and promotion for inclusive development. Such a program can provide for a reset of the current discourse relating to women which comes into several areas of rights based engagement as far as Geneva is concerned. The conversation with Heritage Foundation can be structured around issues of post-conflict development, governance and reconciliation. The current Director, South Asia on behalf of the Atlantic Council expressed interest in initiating a conversation bringing in concerned Academia, Businessmen, Congressmen and other key interest groups targeting a possible Congressional visit to Sri Lanka. Ambassador Schaffer referred to several areas where conversations should be initiated both in the US and in Sri Lanka.

  • Interest shown by the media to report on the Sri Lankan perspective.

The two meetings with the media indicated their interest in reporting on the Sri Lankan perspective as this is missing in US media reporting. The meetings were mainly in the nature of “filling in the background” and the issues of accountability relating to the war and postwar situation were discussed. The need to take note of the larger picture in addressing specific events and incidents was emphasized. The media could be brought into the engagements with the think tanks.

The way forward suggests a strategy of creating a US constituency on Sri Lanka following a multi-pronged approach combining:

  • Following up and extending the area of engagement to further contacts on Track II initiatives with think tanks on post-war development issues.
  • Engagement with the State Department towards the loosening deadlock.
  • Work on a Congressional visit to SL.

****    ****

Asoka Gunawardene: Note on Visit to Washington, 6-23 October 2014: Resetting the Discourse on Postwar Issues of Accountability

The visit was facilitated by Levick and covered the following Think Tanks, Persons of Eminence and Media. A meeting with Tad Brown, Director, South Asia Desk, State Department, was arranged by the SL Embassy. We debriefed the Ambassador prior to departure.

Think Tanks:

  • Women in International Security (WIIS)
  • Atlantic Council
  • The Heritage Foundation

Persons of Eminence:

  • Ambassador Teresita Schaffer

Media:

  • Adam Aigner-Treworgy – Producer CBS News
  • Guy Taylor – National security Team leader, Washington Time

The purpose of the visit was to engage with Think Tanks, Media and Eminent Persons on the work done by Marga-CHA on issues of accountability during the last phase of the war with a view to resetting the discourse, currently the subject of a UNHCR mandated investigation under way in Geneva.

The key points in regard to the issue of accountability were the following.

  • The shift in the accountability focus from war to post-war rights and governance issues.

The conversations first with the Think Tanks and thereafter with the State Department seemed to suggest greater concern and interest with post-war than war related accountability. References were made to war related gender-based violence (WIIS) and possible evidence that may be submitted in testimony by potential witnesses (Heritage Foundation). The Director, South Asia of the State Department seemed to indicate a desire and willingness to move beyond the war and engage in a fresh and open engagement on post-war issues of concern to both sides. Ambassador Schaffer in a insightful analysis of the state of bilateral relations underlined the importance of opening conversations around postwar themes and opined that it is necessary to get to a win-win situation where reconciliation was concerned.

  • Issues on both sides of the relationship which need to be discussed and trust deficit sorted out to enable reset the bilateral relations and the Geneva conversation.

The Director, South Asia, noting a divergence of bilateral relations 2009/2010, asked why we were concerned with the UNHRC Resolution. Following a discussion of Sri Lanka’s concerns, the Director South Asia made a categorical statement that the State Department was not interested in a regime change. However he stated that there were many issues on US side and no doubt on the Sri Lankan side and expressed a feeling of frustration on the US side in regard to the state of engagement with Sri Lanka. During the course of the discussion that followed a mutual stocktaking was considered a useful first step in examining what and how trust deficit could be sorted out which we surmise would allow a shift in the focus on Geneva. Ambassador Schaffer reiterated the need to work out mutual expectations.

  • Scope for opening Track I engagement on selected issues of mutual interest on the part of US Agencies.

The Director, South Asia indicated that there were several areas where US agencies were interested in engagement with Sri Lankan counterparts if space could be opened to move forward in regard to postwar accountability issues. In fact he said that the State Department was holding things back until resetting of the relations.

  • Willingness and active commitment to engage in a Track II conversation on issues of mutual concern on the part of the think tanks.

The think tanks, WIIS and Heritage Foundation indicated a willingness and interest in working on areas of mutual interest. These would need to be defined leading to an initial exchange of ideas. On the Sri Lankan side “women in peace and security” which is of interest to WIIS can provide the framework for collaboration on the designing of a national program on issues of prevention, protection and promotion for inclusive development. Such a program can provide for a reset of the current discourse relating to women which comes into several areas of rights based engagement as far as Geneva is concerned. The conversation with Heritage Foundation can be structured around issues of post-conflict development, governance and reconciliation. The current Director, South Asia on behalf of the Atlantic Council expressed interest in initiating a conversation bringing in concerned Academia, Businessmen, Congressmen and other key interest groups targeting a possible Congressional visit to Sri Lanka. Ambassador Schaffer referred to several areas where conversations should be initiated both in the US and in Sri Lanka.

  • Interest shown by the media to report on the Sri Lankan perspective.

The two meetings with the media indicated their interest in reporting on the Sri Lankan perspective as this is missing in US media reporting. The meetings were mainly in the nature of “filling in the background” and the issues of accountability relating to the war and postwar situation were discussed. The need to take note of the larger picture in addressing specific events and incidents was emphasized. The media could be brought into the engagements with the think tanks.

The way forward suggests a strategy of creating a US constituency on Sri Lanka following a multi-pronged approach combining:

  • Following up and extending the area of engagement to further contacts on Track II initiatives with think tanks on post-war development issues.
  • Engagement with the State Department towards the loosening deadlock.
  • Work on a Congressional visit to SL.

*** +++  ***

** The title of this item is that imposed by the Editor, Thuppahi

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under accountability, american imperialism, democratic measures, female empowerment, governance, NGOs, politIcal discourse, power politics, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, UN reports, world events & processes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s