The National Peace Council (NPC)

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EARLY WARNING ON LIKELY VOTING PATTERN IN GENEVA AND ITS REMEDY -- Jehan Perera

The opportunity that President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have had last week to visit New Delhi and canvas Indian government support for the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva had to be abandoned due to protests that erupted from Tamil Nadu state in South India. The President's brief trip triggered protests in Tamil Nadu as well as in New Delhi and Tirupati over allegations that he was denying Tamils in his country equal rights. The President’s declared purpose in visiting India was to go on a religious pilgrimage to the place of Enlightenment of the Buddha in the north of India and to a Hindu temple in the south of India.

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HIGH LEVEL VISITS SHOW INTERNATIONAL PRESSURES WILL CONTINUE -- Jehan Perera

The government’s confidence that the March session of the UN Human Rights Council will not be damaging to its interests would have grown with the visit of the three member US governmental delegation on a fact finding visit to Sri Lanka.  Their statement that the US would follow up on its March 2012 resolution at the UNHRC with a “procedural resolution” will be a disappointment to those who have been hoping that the international community will do the job of the opposition in ensuring accountability within the country.  The emphasis on procedure suggests a lack of emphasis on substance.  The indications are that there will be no new mechanisms that will be proposed in the “procedural resolution” which will possibly reiterate the same concerns that were put out in the 2012 resolution and urge a continued attention to implementation of the same.

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NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A STRONG OPPOSITION -- Dr.Jehan Perera

The appearance of a national crisis over the impeachment is fast beginning to recede and become like another episode in the past.  Most of those who opposed the impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake appear to have given up their resistance.  Even today a small group of lawyers in the Lawyers Collective continue to object to the outcome of the impeachment.  They rose up for a national cause in which there was an asymmetry of power.  But even they have been restricted to issuing statements.  They are now on the run, figuratively if not also literally.  The brief period of public protest is at an end.  Their leaders have faced death threats and some have been compelled to approach President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure their safety.

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Continuation of Extremist Nationalist Politics in Post War Sri Lanka

(Paper prepared by Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, for presentation at SAFMA Conference VIII: A South Asian Vision and Union
Amritsar [India] and Lahore [Pakistan], 5–9 January 2013)

Anti state militancy in Sri Lanka arose in the late 1970s in a context in which the ethnic minorities, especially the Tamils, felt disempowered and discriminated against by the political representatives of the Sinhalese ethnic majority.  Their failure to find redress to their problems through parliamentary and democratic means led them to try violent methods that included terrorism and also guerrilla warfare and eventually conventional warfare.  Until 2009 Sri Lanka was embroiled in an ethnic war that spanned nearly three decades.  During that period, the country suffered horrendous acts of terrorism as well as losses due to conventional military warfare.  

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EDUCATING MEDIA TO EDUCATE PUBLIC

Despite the availability of hi tech communication in most parts of the world, including Sri Lanka, too many people live in ignorance of their neighbors who belong to different ethnic, religious or national collectivities.  Too often they see them as enemies at worst, or potential rivals for resources at best.  This creates opportunities for those who wish to be leaders of governments or rebel movements to exploit the ignorance and fears of people in order to capture political power.  The situation that arises is one that is ripe for terrorism and extremism.

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Federalism as Resisted but Required System of Power Sharing for Sri Lanka

(Paper presented by Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka at the Conference on Federalism in Pluralistic Developing Societies:  Learning from the Experiences of Europe, organised by the Area Study Center for Europe, University of Karachi in collaboration with the Hans Seidel Foundation, November 6-7. 2012 in Karachi)

Ethnic relations in Sri Lanka have had a long history of friction and competition, the results of which culminated in a three-decade civil war that ended in 2009. Ethnic relations continue to be tense between the political leaderships representing the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils even following the end of the war, largely due to the absence of mutual trust and political rivalry between them.  This mistrust and rivalry can only be understood fully when placed in its historical context.  Each construes the other as an enemy against whom their cultural destiny and entitlement to the land must be established in order to fulfil their political agendas.

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SITUATION OF ORPHANS IN SRI LANKA

(Paper presented by Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka at the International Scholars Symposium on “Global Issues of Orphans and their Rights” held by the Association of Commemorative Services for Mr.s Yoon, Hak Ja’s 100th Birthday Celebration on October 29, 2012 in Seoul, Korea)

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REINTEGRATING PEOPLE IN NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT By Dr.Jehan Perera

The landscape in the more densely populated parts of the once war ravaged North is a rapidly changing one. The government focus on investing in physical infrastructure such as public buildings and roads is showing visible results. Suddenly the skeletal structures of buildings get filled out and transform the appearance of an entire area. When we passed the town of Kilinochchi, the onetime administrative capital of the LTTE, it was lighted up even though the hour was late in the night. It looked like a model town. The challenge for the government will be to make this external change an internal one as well, in which the people who meant to be the beneficiaries also rejoice in the transformation and feel that justice is being done to them.

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DE-ESCALATE IMPEACHMENT CRISIS - Jehan Perera

The process of impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake has commenced in earnest. The Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate and pass judgment on her has been appointed with a 7-4 government majority and consists of very senior government and opposition members. It has been very prompt in serving the charges against her. The Chief Justice was given one week to answer the 14 charges which she appealed against. According to news reports, this appeal filed by her lawyers was denied, and she was asked to appear in person and request for more time. Usually government administrative procedures offer those who are charged and have to answer the charges a period of 6 weeks. But this is not an ordinary case, and so the wheels of justice are moving extraordinarily fast.

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LEARN FROM PAKISTAN’S STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY - Jehan Perera

The government’s plan to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake appears to be running into unforeseen problems. The indications are now that the government’s charge sheet against the Chief Justice is not as watertight as the proponents of the impeachment motion had believed. In addition, opposition to the impeachment has come from an unexpected quarter. The four chief priests of the Buddhist Sangha have expressed their displeasure in a written statement. This has been followed by the Bar Association’s call to the government to reconsider the impeachment. Apart from die-hard government supporters there appears to be little or no public support for the impeachment amongst the intelligentsia. Those who are in the government camp, such as a group of lawyers of the rank of President’s Counsels, did not feel it prudent to let their names be attached to a statement they put out in support of the government view.

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ABOLITION OF 13TH AMENDMENT IS A DANGEROUS PROPOSITION - Jehan Perera

There is an ongoing debate whether to abolish the 13th Amendment or not. Its critics are on both sides of the divide. It is significant that three and a half years after the elimination of the LTTE there is an appearance is of a reversal, in which the powers of the provinces are being further reduced. The proposed Divineguma law would enable the central government to take over economic functions that are currently devolved to the provincial councils. In addition, with the elimination of the LTTE, government leaders began to say that no further devolution of powers was necessary, which gives credence to the conviction of Tamil nationalists that it was the bargaining strength of the militancy that enabled some concessions to Tamil autonomy to have been made.

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