The National Peace Council (NPC)

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DEDICATE OURSELVES NOT TO REPEAT THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST

On July 23, 1983 an anti-Tamil pogrom took place in various parts of the country in which innocent Tamil persons, their homes and businesses were attacked and destroyed. This violence, over a period of a week, took place with the participation of sections of the then government in retaliation for the killing of the 13 soldiers who were caught up in a land mine blast. Many innocent Tamils who lived in Colombo and elsewhere faced terrible atrocities. This violence escalated by stages into full scale war.

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DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES ARE DETRIMENTAL TO RECONCILIATION

The re-commencement of the practices of registering Tamils with the police and of conducting search operations that target them have been widely reported in the Tamil media in particular and have created a renewed sense of insecurity and injustice amongst the larger Tamil population that is detrimental to national reconciliation. The practice of registering of Tamils and security search operations of private residences even late at night was carried out during the period of war and terrorism.  But today more than 14 months have elapsed since the war ended, and there have been no acts of militancy or terrorism in this period that would necessitate a revival of the harsh measures of the past. Two months ago Parliament approved the repeal of a large number of emergency laws which was projected worldwide as a sign that normalcy had returned to the country.

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MAKING AN HONEST EFFORT TO FULFILL EU REQUIREMENTS WOULD FULFILL DEMOCRATIC OBLIGATIONS AND RALLY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT IN FUTURE

The Sri Lankan government has said it is rejecting the 15 conditions set out by the European Union in relation to extending the benefits of the GSP Plus tariff concession since such demands constitute a violation of our national sovereignty.  The government has also announced that it will deny visas to the three members of the panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to advise him on human rights issues pertaining to Sri Lanka's recently concluded civil war.  The Sri Lankan government's position is that both the EU and UN Secretary General are interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state and that this is unacceptable.

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EU OFFER IS OPPORTUNITY TO POSITIVELY RE-ENGAGE ON GOVERNANCE ISSUES

The Sri Lankan government is considering an offer by the European Union to revise its decision to terminate the GSP Plus concession for goods exported from Sri Lanka to the EU on August 15, 2010.  The European Union had earlier announced its decision to suspend the GSP+ trade concession to Sri Lanka following an investigation by the European Commission, which identified significant shortcomings in respect of Sri Lanka's implementation of three UN human rights conventions relevant for benefits under the scheme. These are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention against Torture (CAT) and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC).

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REQUIREMENTS FOR RECONCILIATION TO FACE FUTURE CHALLENGES

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed an eight member Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to report in six months on the lessons to be learnt from the events in the period, Feb 2002 to May 2009, their attendant concerns and to recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such a situation.  In view of the short deadline given to the Commission, the National Peace Council believes that a focus on the period after January 2008, when the war increased in intensity, can be more helpful to the government in dealing with issues of human rights in the last phase of the war about which several international organizations and governments have been expressing their concerns.

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Feeling of Deterioration in Jaffna Must Be Reversed Without Delay

The state media has been giving wide publicity that the crime rate in the Jaffna peninsula is relatively low and an economic boom is taking place due to the government’s “Northern Spring” development programme.  It has also warned that unscrupulous elements are propagating falsehoods about the security situation.    After a period of improvement in the ground situation after the end of the war in May last year, there have been reports of a deterioration of conditions in the Jaffna peninsula, including threats, extortions, kidnappings and killings. Lawyers of the Jaffna Bar Association have not been attending to their work and are boycotting the courts in protest against a magistrate inquiring into a case of kidnapping, ransom demand and killing of a child being reported to have been threatened. The increase in insecurity is also leading parents to recommence the practice of accompanying their children even taking time off work to do so. 

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NPC OFFERS SUPPORT TO THE GOVERNMENT IN ADVANCING NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

The conclusion of the Presidential and General elections and the big electoral victories achieved by the government can pave the way to a long period of political stability instead of continuing polarization.  With the government close to obtaining a 2/3 majority in Parliament, it is well positioned to take leadership in addressing the many deep-rooted problems in society.  For the first time in three decades Sri Lanka also faces no systematic threat of non-state political violence.

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SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT TO MAINTAIN CREDIBILITY

There have been news reports carried in the media that human rights lawyer and head of Transparency International, Sri Lanka, which is currently monitoring election abuses, J C Weliamuna, may be arrested and detained. In addition there have been reports that the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and joint convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Secretary of the Free Media Movement Sunil Jayasekera figure in a list of civil society activists who are said to be supportive of the political opposition.  All these organizations and the persons named have worked with the National Peace Council as part of its own mandate to foster ethnic harmony, respect for human rights and national reconciliation in the country.

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REPEAL REPRESSIVE LAWS THAT PERMIT ABUSE OF POWER

The recent Presidential elections were widely heralded as being the first in recent times in which the people in the entire country could participate and as signifying the reunification of a country that was for so long divided by war.  However, the political developments after the elections are indicative of a growing political crisis in the country and practices that are in contravention of the norms of democracy and good governance.  At the centre of these developments has been the sudden arrest of the defeated Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka who represented a joint Opposition alliance less than two weeks after the election at which he obtained the votes of over 4 million voters including the bulk of the ethnic minorities.

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Post Election Challenge for Country

President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a second term at the Presidential Election of Janumary 26 with an unexpectedly big majority although this election result has been called into question by the main opposition candidate, General Sarath Fonseka.  The election results telecast by the state media as they stand demonstrate a schism in the thinking and expectations of the ethnic minorities and ethnic majority populations.  President Rajapaksa obtained a smaller proportion of votes in the North, East and central hills where Tamils and Muslims predominate and also in the capital city of Colombo where the proportion of Tamils and Muslims is high. Elsewhere in the country in the Sinhalese-dominated areas, the margins of victory for the President were high.

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