We wish to congratulate the eleven-member panel headed by senior lawyer Manouri Muttetuwegama, who after exhaustive, countrywide consultations conducted over a year, have come up with a unanimous report. The fact that the panel members come from all communities and their consultations reflect aspirations and apprehensions of victims from different communities, gives us hope that the Sri Lankan society, at last, can transcend ethnic and religious differences based on shared universal human values and principles.
The official reception of the report by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, the Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, in the presence of three key Ministers - Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Prisons Reform, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, D. M. Swaminathan and Sate Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, A.H.M. Fowzie - signifies that the implementation of this report is vital, a sine qua non, for genuine reconciliation among the three communities.
The report is timely as we approach the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review in March. The contents of the report appear to be consistent with the spirit and letter of the UNHRC resolution which Sri Lanka itself co-sponsored – a fact clearly underscored by the tweet from the UNHRC chief Zeid: ‘welcoming CTF recommendations, especially clear backing of hybrid court with local and foreign judges.’
GTF welcomes the comprehensive recommendations related to the proposed judicial mechanisms, in particular, the need for ‘international expertise including judges in each transitional justice mechanism’, ‘both male and female judges representing all ethnic communities’, and ‘a special structure for women and children during examination of witnesses related to sexual crimes and crimes against children.’
We also commend the panel for recommending that ‘a number of confidence-building measures ranging from the expedited return of land held by the military, to the release of a list of all detainees and detention centres, the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the immediate release of persons held under the PTA without charges, must be undertaken without delay to bridge the considerable deficit in trust and confidence.’ The report further recognises the urgent need to address lingering concerns of militarisation, enforced disappearances and livelihood opportunities to promote reconciliation.
The panel’s finding that ‘foreign participation is required as those who suffered during the conflict had no faith in local judiciary which lacked expertise to undertake such task’ very much resonates with the victims of the Tamil community. This is a long-standing view that is further reinforced with the recent verdict on the murder case of former Tamil parliamentarian Mr. Raviraj.
A credible and impartial judicial process is so fundamental to come to terms with our violent past that is littered with not only the crimes committed against the members of each community, but also on their behalf. GTF, therefore, is deeply dismayed by the statements of two responsible ministers in the unity government denouncing the recommendations of the Task Force calling for foreign participation in the judicial mechanisms.
We call upon the government to have the courage to take this momentous step at this crucial juncture by fully implementing the recommendations expeditiously.