The National Peace Council (NPC)

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10.10.15--Media Release

On October 1 the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a resolution on Sri Lanka titled Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. The resolution was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and passed unanimously which was in contrast to the four previous resolutions of the UNHRC on Sri Lanka since 2009. The focus of the resolution is on taking forward the accountability process with regard to human rights violations during the course of the war. Accordingly it will be necessary for the government to initiate the process of accountability without delay. The government needs to set up the envisaged judicial mechanism which will hold formal trials into complaints of human rights violations with international participation.

The co-sponsored resolution also calls on the international community to assist the Sri Lankan government in furthering its efforts in rebuilding infrastructure and resettling internally displaced persons. The National Peace Council notes that the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, has also welcomed the co-sponsored resolution. These are positive indications of the evolution of a spirit of partnership and joint problem-solving at the highest levels of national and international decision making that is necessary for promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. This goodwill needs to be seen in practical terms at the ground level too in which people become the direct and immediate beneficiaries.

The release of lands held as high security zones back to their owners, and the release of prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act without charge for many years are priority requirements in this regard. As recommended in the co-sponsored resolution government should take steps to review the Public Security Ordinance Act and review and repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in line with contemporary international best practices. It should also release the prisoners who are kept without trial in prison for a long period. The release of a woman who was held in prison for 15 years without charge, and who suffered torture, illustrates the urgency of the need for action on the ground, and for compensation and reparation.


25.09.15 Media Release

The release of UN Report on alleged war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka’s war is an important step in the country’s transition to reconciliation. It will require the Sri Lankan government and people to give their attention to the unhealed wounds of the past that continue to fester in the body politic. The spirit in which the government needs to approach the accountability and healing process is that it is right for Sri Lanka, and not because of international or other external pressures. If approached in this way, seeking international expertise becomes necessitated by need rather than by politics.

The UN Report calls, among others, for reviewing all cases of detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, publishing unpublished reports of human rights-related inquiries, prioritizing the return of land, and developing a national reparations policy. It calls for a hybrid judicial mechanism with the participation of Sri Lankan and international judges, lawyers, prosecutors and investigators to ensure accountability. It also calls on the government to ratify the convention on Enforced Disappearances, the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court.


06.09.15 Media Release

The victory of the coalition of parties led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the General Elections on August 17 will ensure that the changes brought about at the presidential election can be sustained. The majority of Sri Lankan voters reaffirmed the choice they had made in January when they voted in President Maithripala Sirisena and rejected the call of narrow ethnic-based nationalism. The National Peace Council welcomes the formation of the National Unity Government with the UNP and SLFP which have been traditional rivals, joining together in it to share governmental responsibilities including the allocation of ministries. Political bipartisanship was demonstrated in the unanimous vote of Parliament to appoint the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

We also welcome the decision of Parliament to give the TNA an important role in governance by appointing its leader R Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip’s position going to Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the JVP. As a party that primarily represents the interests of the Tamil people in the North and East of the country, the TNA has hitherto been focusing its attention on issues of particular relevance to the Tamil people. These include a political solution to the ethnic conflict as well as issues of post-war recovery and accountability. Now with the leadership of the opposition in Parliament being formally granted to it, the TNA is provided with an opportunity, and a duty, to conduct parliamentary affairs in the national interests. As the leader of the opposition, the TNA leader is vested with a larger mandate that includes the interests of the people of all communities.


Media Release - 26-08-2015

The outcome of the General Election held on August 17, and the victory secured by the United National Front for Good Governance led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe paves the way for democratic transition to take place in two key aspects of good governance. It will consolidate the shift away from a highly centralised structure in which the system of checks and balances was weakened to a more consensual and systemic mode of governance that followed the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January. It will also consolidate the shift away from a militarised mindset within the government in which mistrust of ethnic and religious minorities was highlighted to a society that is multi-ethnic and multi-religious in its decision making and choices.

The National Peace Council also welcomes the prospect of a government of national unity to address the challenges of the future. The agreement signed by the two largest political parties, the UNP and SLFP after the elections, to work together for two years on identified areas of good governance including the safeguarding of fundamental freedoms and protection of the rights of women and children reflects the consensus that exists in society regarding good governance. However, we regret that the both the government and opposition did not live up to their commitments towards the empowerment of women in politics when they failed use their quotas in the national list to appoint women to parliament and instead appointed only two woman to the 29 positions. They failed to rectify the abysmally low representation of women in parliament which fell to 4 percent. Another priority area for reform would be in the area of inter-ethnic relations and the sharing of power between the ethnic majority and minorities.


22.07.15 Media Release

The rampant violence that engulfed the Tamil people 23 July 1983 and days that followed discredited Sri Lanka internationally and signaled the brain-drain among the Tamils that would impact the future economic and political trajectory of the country. It also led to a costly and brutal war that lasted until May 2009, tore up the fabric of society and undermined the national economy.

Underlying both the anti-Tamil pogrom and the protracted war stemmed grievances of the Tamil people and the failure of their attempt to draw attention to them in a peaceful and non-violent manner. However, 32 years later, conditions in Sri Lanka have changed so that a political solution has become a viable prospect. The experience gathered in the work done by the National Peace Council for over two decades convinces us that our fellow citizens are now more willing to accept, and commit themselves to, a political solution that ensures justice and security to all.

We should also not forget those who saved the Tamils from those who incited and carried out the pogrom of July 1983. There are many accounts of Tamils, including NPC members, attributing their escape from injury and death to their Sinhalese and Muslim neighbours. We are grateful to those who risked their own lives to allow Tamils to hide in their homes or take them to places of safety.


28.06.15 Media Release

The dissolution of Parliament became necessary due to the political deadlock between the government and opposition. The UNP-led government appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena was unable to get through the necessary legislation to govern effectively. The president was not able to deliver on some of the important promises he made in his election manifesto, including the passage of the 20th Amendment and the Right to Information Act due to the lack of cooperation between the government and opposition. As a result most of the unresolved issues that existed prior to the presidential election continue to be relevant, such as the need for a Freedom of Information Act. In particular, the main conflict that Sri Lanka has grappled with since its independence, the ethnic conflict, remains unresolved. The chances of a durable peace in Sri Lanka will be slim as long as feuding politicians do not resolve the issues but use the unresolved conflict as part of their political arsenal.

The brief lived UNP-led government that was formed after the presidential election gave an indication of the progress that is possible in taking the country in a new direction in terms of conflict transformation. In particular, the lifting of the fear psychosis that held society in thrall and the steps towards the reintegration of the ethnic and religious minorities into the mainstream of society were virtually instantaneous, due to the shift in the policy and outlook of the new president and the government. Both of them publicly acknowledged the multi ethnic and multi religious nature of the polity and the value of adhering to internationally recognised systems of good governance.


Media Release - 30-05-2015


One of the unresolved and tragic problems of Sri Lanka’s war is the return and resettlement of the Muslim people who were expelled from the North by the LTTE in 1990. An estimated 80 percent of them continue to live outside their original places of residence. Recently the issue of resettlement of displaced Muslims took on controversial proportions and was linked to the alleged encroachment of the Wilpattu National Park. Sections of the national media gave wide publicity to statements by nationalist Sinhalese groups who accused displaced Muslims backed by Muslim politicians of being involved in this illegal and environmentally destructive activity.

The government and environmental groups have now confirmed that there is no encroachment of the Wilpattu National Park which is located in the Puttlam District outside of the Northern Province. However, there is concern that the buffer zone is being illegally encroached upon in the neighbouring Mannar District, namely the Marichchukkaddei-Karakdikuli forest reserve that adjoins the Wilpattu North Sanctuary, which is contiguous with the Wilpattu National Park. There is evidence that it is the formerly all-powerful Presidential Task Force (PTF) that allocated these lands for resettlement as far back as 2011. Environmental groups have taken the position that no settlement or resettlement of people should take place in violation of the law and at the expense of environmental conservation.


17.05.15 Media Release

Protect the Space for Reconciliation during May 18 Commemorations
The government has declared that May 18, the day the war ended six years ago in 2009, will be commemorated as a Day of Remembrance. This signifies a departure from the practice of the past five years when it was considered a Day of Victory, and is recognition that the people who fought against the government were part of the same national community and constituted members of the same State. The government will be conducting its own military parade on this day, but unlike in the past it will also remember all who died in the three decade long conflict. It has also expressed its opposition to the occasion being used to pay tribute to the LTTE as an organisation and has taken legal injunctions to prevent commemorations of the LTTE.


12.05.15 Media Release

The passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is the beginning of a long journey to governance based on principles of human rights, fair representation and checks and balances. It owes much to the statesmanship of President Maithripala Sirisena and the vision of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The 19th Amendment was passed by an overwhelming majority of 212 votes to 1 in Parliament. It is intended to make the presidency accountable to the judiciary and to parliament and also the secure the integrity of those state institutions whose independence from partisan politics needs to be strengthened. These include the judiciary, police and public service.

The 19th Amendment establishes a Constitutional Council of 10 members, of whom three each will be appointed by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. One will be appointed by the President. The Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Speaker will be ex officio members. The Constitutional Council will be empowered to make the selections of those persons who will constitute the appointing authorities of the various state institutions.

Following the presidential elections, the President and government leaders have publicly affirmed the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of the Sri Lankan polity. This suggests that those appointed to the Constitutional Council should represent the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of the polity. The National Peace Council calls on the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to both ensure that at least one of the three members they are each entitled to appoint to the Constitutional Council should be from an ethnic or religious minority.


01.05.15 Media Release

The International Conference on Religious Tolerance and Harmony that took place at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka earlier this month on April 22-23 was an example of healing and reconciliation activities to take place at the level of the people consolidating the multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature of Sri Lanka.

The conference brought religious clergy, scholars and students from different parts of the country and also from abroad to exchange ideas and to get to know each other in a positive and accommodative environment. International participants came from India, Bhutan, Myanmar, USA, Thailand, Maldives, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Uganda, Argentina and UK. Sri Lankan university participants came from University of Jaffna, Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Eastern University, Colombo, Sri Jayawardanepura and Kelaniya and numbered around 250. Registered outside participants numbered 356.

The conference had 12 academic sessions including the discussion with the keynote speaker Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy from the United States who is a nationally recognized leader on issues of religious freedom and 40 papers were presented. The conference venue and the surroundings that had been prepared over the past months to hold such a conference provided an ideal setting not only for an academic exercise but created a conducive atmosphere that provided an avenue for the expression of a multi-religious spirituality.



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