The LLRC Sittings in Pictures

The recent presentation in Thuppahi of a specific proposal from the LLRC on national anthems as well as the issues raised by Thuppahi on the topic of DISAPPEARANCES prompt me to present a number of images from the sittings conducted by this peripatic body of personnel together with a brief officla report. the images have been helpfully provided by Kithsiri De Silva an old Aloysian class-mate who was an officer servicing the work of this august body.  I am also tacking on an official report on the LLRC plus one dissenting note about its lopsided composition from Harshadeva Amarathunga. Michael Roberts

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A NOTE: The grief among Tamil survivors of the war and the extended period when they were — whether forcibly or willingly — encompassed by the LTTE”s strategy of deploying them as a defensive formation and a foundation for Western interventions, is not a topic that I am unfamiliar with. I have written essays before on “Missing Persons” and more recently in July/August 2016 my visit to Mannar with Jeremy Liyanage enabled me to receive brief accounts from 4 or 5 Tamil women (with Peter Sinclair as translator) who had journeyed to the town to record theri tales of missing family members before one of the Tamil committees pressing this issue. These women were repeating tales they had presented before other commissions or bodies pursuing this issue. Their persistence is a factor to absorb in assessing this sorry and complex tale. Michael Roberts 

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The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission( LLRC) Concludes its work- The Final Report will be handed over to the President on 20 November [2011] …. http://www.mfa.gov.lk/index.php/media/news-archive/3146-the-lessons-learnt-and-reconciliation-commission-llrc-concludes-its-work-the-final-report-will-be-handed-over-to-the-president-on-20-november

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) officially concludes its work on 15 November, 2011. The Presidential Secretariat has advised the Chairman and the Commission that the final Report  be handed over to His Excellency the President  on  20th November  at the President’s Office.

The LLRC was appointed by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 15 May 2010. The Commission held 57 public sessions and undertook 12 field visits at over 40 locations to talk to the people in the North and East and in other affected areas of the country.  In response to its public notices, over a thousand people appeared before the  Commission to make representations and the Commission additionally received and analyzed over  5100 written  submissions. This public interaction activity in Colombo and  throughout the country lasted nearly 11 months. The Commission also held unscheduled meetings with the general public especially in areas affected by conflict and in IDP settlements. The Commission revisited certain areas in the North and East in order to further clarify issues, verify information and formulate recommendations.

The Commission submitted  its Interim Recommendations  to  the President covering issues relating to detainees, law and order, land, Illegal armed groups, and language in September 2010.

The Commission examined the progression of the conflict that afflicted Sri Lanka as well as  looked ahead towards  an era of healing and peace building in the country. It endeavoured to analyse submissions as well as  other published reports, both local and international, relevant to its mandate in order  to  draw lessons, and  make recommendations based on  an  analysis of the course of the conflict and its causes  with a view to redressing  grievances while  taking  the country forward to an era of reconcilitation and  peace building.

The Commission  was gratified  that its work was facilitated  by a significant   cross-section of the citizenry of Sri Lanka who appreciated the Commission’ outreach work.  The Commission’s analysis and recommendations are anchored  on the ideas , opinions and observations made by those thousands  who came before it to  either make oral presentations or written submissions. The  Commission facilitated this process of community consultation by holding public sittings particulary in the affected rural  areas of the Country. Public sittings were held in the Districts of  Jaffna, Mannar,  Kilinochchi,  Mullaitivu, Vauniya, Trincomalee,  Batticaloa, Ampara,  Moneragala, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Galle and Matara, and in Colombo.

Representations were heard or received  from  a  broad spectrum of people and organizations, the general public, the academia, professionals, business leaders, defence officials, detained LTTE cadres, clergy and religious dignitaries,  administrative officers, politicians, inter-faith groups, persons who had experienced the conflict first- hand, ex-LTTE  members, former members of other armed groups, Citizens Committee representatives,  NGO representatives, Sri Lankan expatriates and persons who have been generally affected by the conflict .

The Commission sought to ensure that the public sessions or written submissions were made in the language of choice of the respective persons. The oral submissions were simultaneously translated into a link language.  Any person had the choice of making an oral submissions in public or in-camera. If any person  had a concern about appearing in person before the Commission, he or she had the liberty to hand- over  a written submission  in person or send via post or  through a third party. Fundamental to the Commission’s work methods were the principles of transparency, objectivity and impartiality. Accordingly all transcripts of  the Commission’s deliberations  at public sittings were published on the LLRC Web site .

The Commission’s recommendations focus on a broad range of issues vital for building  post conflict reconciliation, stability  and  socio economic development. The Commission  is confident that its  recommendations  would   constitute a framework for action by all stakeholders, including the Government, political parties , and all communities. This framework would go a long way towards  constructing a platform for  consolidating post conflict peace and security as well as amity and cooperation within and between the diverse communities in Sri Lanka. The Commission believes that the Government, as well as all political  parties  and leaders must manifest political will and sincerity of purpose  to take necessary actions  to ensure implementation of the recommendations. The Commission makes an earnest appeal to all parties concerned, in particular to the Government  to  make all efforts to that end through consensual approaches..

The Commission wishes  to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped in various ways to ease  the burden of its complex and difficult mandate  and  to make its work a  rewarding experience. The success of the Commission’s work will of course  depend on the extent to which its recommendations are implemented, especially in the context of the tardy track record of successive Governments in that regard. The Commission wishes especially to thank all those persons and organizations who made a proactive choice to make  presentations or sent written submissions, and the Media for its assistance in taking the message across, which motivated more people to come before the Commission.

 Lakshman Wickramasinghe, Media Consultant- LLRC
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Omission of gender: Sri Lanka’s “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,” 25 June 2014 …. 

Harshadeva Amarathungar discusses the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and its inadequacies in considering gender issues in the post-conflict Sri Lanka.

ommision-gender-1 LLRC. Photo credit: “Ada Derana” news

My first job was at a local peacebuilding organisation in Sri Lanka, working as a program coordinator. In 2002, the organisation started a peacebuilding initiative that brought together people of different ethnicities. I travelled from Colombo to Jaffna University in the north of the country to meet Tamil university students there. We passed cities, towns and villages throughout the journey, and after passing Vavuniya, I began to see young and old women sitting beside the dusty road with unpacked tents and two or three children. There were almost no men accompanying them; however, there were plenty of uniformed male soldiers around with weapons. I can still clearly remember everything I saw there. I thought about how the women were going to make shelters by themselves with their children there, and I wondered what would happen to them in the future. I felt like something was missing in these resettlements, and I felt the same way when I read the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report. Later on, I realized that the missing element was ‘gender sensitivity’.

The patriarchal society I grew up in did not train me to think about peace and harmony; but the marginalized femininity of the Sri Lankan culture helped me to connect with the concept of peace. In reading the LLRC Report, I realized that I felt no connection to my mother’s peaceful ways, and there was no space for all those mothers and sisters who were sitting beside the road in Vavuniya.

“The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.” –Simone de Beauvoir

In The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Explorations with Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life (1990), Richard Light argues that the male-oriented education system, structure and pedagogies contribute to exclude women from decision-making. The male dominant knowledge, teachings, politics, war and peace are a ‘regime of truths’ that seriously limit the space for women. Thus, the silencing of gender creates a ‘hegemonic truth’ of masculinity. Joan V. Gallos explains how women and men learn and understand the same fact differently. Women and men see the world differently, so there should be different ways of analyzing conflicts or problems. In the Sri Lankan context, there should be a discussion on how women’s perspectives can be included in post-conflict activities. If there were gender sensitivity in the rehabilitation efforts and resettlements in 2002, I would not have seen those women and children sitting beside the road, surrounded by armed soldiers.

The LLRC in Sri Lanka

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was a commission of inquiry established in 2010 to look back at the conflict Sri Lanka suffered and to look ahead to a process of healing and peacebuilding around the country. The LLRC was expected listen to the grievances with regards to the Sri Lankan civil war and political violence. The LLRC Report came out in 2011 and articulated recommendations and observations of the commission regarding “governance, devolution, human rights, international humanitarian law, socio economic development, livelihood issues, issues affecting hearts and minds, leadership issues and many more.”

Mrs. Ramanathan is the only female member of the LLRC. Photo credit: Tisaranee Gunasekara Mrs. Ramanathan is the only female member of the LLRC. Photo credit: Tisaranee Gunasekara

Despite its earnest objectives, the LLRC fails to consider the status of women as victims or actors in the Sri Lankan conflict. Instead, the male-centered LLRC report represents a masculine and hierarchical regime. As Nadine Puechguirbal explains in ‘Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and Post-conflict Reconstruction,’ found in Gender Matters in Global Politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations, language is key to understanding the power relationships of patriarchies that have consistently neglected gender perspectives for their own benefit. The language that decision-makers use to articulate problems is very important, however, the LLRC report does not reflect this at all.

Sri Lankan woman telling her story in front of the LLRC. Sri Lankan woman telling her story in front of the LLRC.

Sri Lanka has been called on by international leaders to investigate the incidence of sexual violence against women both during and after the conflict, and there is a high level of international media coverage on this topic. I myself have often witnessed armed soldiers teasing and verbally harassing women in Colombo. According a BBC News article, Human Rights Watch noted that women and girls from the north and the east were subjected to sexual violence as a result of the conflict, and they have reported 62 cases of sexual violence involving the security forces after conflict ended. Considering these facts, it is important for the LLRC to adopt a gender perspective in the Sri Lankan context in moving forward in the healing process.

Yet, several features of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation CommissionL are questionable from a gender perspective. First, the panel of experts is composed of one female figure among seven male figures. The sole female member of the panel, Mrs. Manohari Ramanathan, is rarely seen in the news or in photos. She always appears in the corner of the table, which symbolizes the marginalized position she holds within the panel. Second, the design of the LLRC’s inquiry procedure is seriously flawed, because they failed to create a safe space for vulnerable individuals, particularly victims of sexual violence, to tell their stories. The hearings are held in public and often in front of cameras, reporters and strangers. While victim’s information is only published with consent, their grievances are expressed without any confidentiality, which makes it exceptionally difficult for them to feel safe and supported.

 

 

 

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