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New Sri Lankan Commission: Too little, too late?

The name and the terms of reference sound noble. A ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ to find out who and what fractured the fragile ceasefire between the LTTE and the government, and the war that followed till it ended in May, 2009, exactly a year ago.

world Updated: May 19, 2010 00:59 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The name and the terms of reference sound noble. A ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) to find out who and what fractured the fragile ceasefire between the LTTE and the government, and the war that followed till it ended in May, 2009, exactly a year ago.

At the end of six months, the Commission would recommend “institutional, administrative and legislative measures needed in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation.’’

That sounds noble too. But what exactly are the eminent jurists and former diplomats in it expected to achieve?

Will they suggest “legislative measures’’ like devolution of power to regions within a united Sri Lanka?

Or will they look into allegations of war crimes levelled against the government and the Tamil Tigers? Allegations – like the latest by the International Crisis Group — that say displaced Tamil civilians were killed in large numbers by the indifferent army, smelling a hard-earned victory, and desperate rebels using them as human shield?

“Evidence gathered by the ICG provides reasonable grounds to believe that during these months (April-May 2009) security forces intentionally and repeatedly shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations,” the ICG said.

The government has always denied killing a single civilian; all who were killed on the other side must have been combatants.

So, naturally, the LLRC is not a War Crimes Commission — a demand from some in the international community — because war crimes were not committed in the first place. Other then by the LTTE who are dead and gone anyway.

The Commission, an official explained, will look to provide restorative and not retributive justice.

Good that he explained. Because retribution, at least effectively as I see, can’t be brought against dead people.

“Restorative’’ would make more sense to the 300000 displaced Tamils. They need some semblance of normalcy to be restored to their lives. But does Sri Lanka need a beautifully named Commission to do that? No, just step up the pace of resettlement and
rehabilitation.

Just thinking noble will not do. There has to be intent.