28.03.16 Media Release

As befits a democratic government that governs with the consent of the people, the government has launched two major public consultation processes. The first of these public consultations organized by the government was with regard to the constitutional reform process and ended on March 15. The second major public consultation process initiated by the government is led by the National Consultation Task Force comprising civil society members. Their endeavour at the present time is to bring in more civil society groups into the consultation process.

The National Peace Council has been conducting discussions on strengthening the transitional justice and reconciliation process especially at the community and grassroots level focusing on district and community-based organizations from Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Puttalam, Mannar, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Ampara, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura, Kurunegala, Kegalle, Trincomalee and Colombo. These consultations with the civil society groups are intended to provide inputs to the government as it develops its Transitional Justice, peace and reconciliation programme.

At the consultations on the transitional justice and reconciliation process conducted with civil society representatives from all parts of the country, two key messages get highlighted. The first is the limited information available to the general population regarding these issues. There is an absence of strong and systematic messaging by the government. Second, the message from the Tamil-speaking participants from the North and East is their scepticism about the ultimate outcome of the ongoing transitional justice process. This highlights the need for greater inclusion of such groups into the process and for trust building with them.

The experience of NPC in taking this message to the people is that there is little or no awareness of what this government framework is. This is in contrast to the educational campaign in regard to an earlier constitutional reform process took place in the period between 1996 when the “devolution package” made its appearance and 2000. A special government public communications unit was set up for taking this message to the people and was called the National Integration Programme Unit which was staffed by leading academics and activists who operated under the government. As a first step it is necessary for the government to carry out a mass education campaign, so that the people who are going to be consulted have a fair idea of what the issues at stake are.

Governing Council
National Peace Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.