The National Peace Council (NPC)

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The forthcoming Presidential Election is  the first in which voting can take place in all parts of the country due to the end of the war with the LTTE.  As a result, sections of the population who lived under LTTE control, and who could not vote in the past, will be able to participate in the democratic process for the first time in over two decades.  These new voters need to receive every encouragement to cast their votes and become participants in the democratic process.  Their participation in the election can reduce ethnic fragmentation and enhance the unity of the country.



Recent Sri Lankan history has been characterized by a serious crisis in governance which has prevented the country from realizing its true potential and eroded our freedoms without which there is no democracy. Democracy is not the doing the will of the majority for that would justify even harming and acting against the interests of the minority who disagrees. The National Peace Council holds that democracy and freedom go together and without freedoms, such as freedom of the media and freedom of expression implemented by the Rule of Law, there is no democracy.   At present the country is embroiled in a contentious presidential election called prematurely that is dividing and confusing the people.  The legitimacy of governing and winning elections for the sake of power is the foremost issue.



Recent actions of the Government, include the restoration of North-South access through the A9 and the gradual resettlement of detained IDPs.  The National Peace Council holds that these are long overdue yet commendable policy shifts and steps towards the reunification of Sri Lanka and its people. While these actions extend a conciliatory hand towards the Tamil minority, the large scale destruction of infrastructure in their home areas and certain administrative obstacles may impede the realization of their purpose. There are reports of IDPs in camps still remaining subject to restrictions on their movement.  Travel on the A9 highway by public transport continues to involve long delays due to the requirement of travelling in convoys.



In response to strong pressures, both internationally and from within, the Government of Sri Lanka is currently relocating large numbers of the civilians who were until recently being detained in camps. At least 280,000 persons who were displaced during the last stages of the war, were confined to welfare centres from which they were not permitted to leave. The speeding up of resettlement is a welcome move since it provides the displaced population greater opportunity to move freely and restart their lives. The Government's resettlement objectives are vital to future reconciliation and development in the country; for resettlement to be sustainable. However, the Government needs to act fast ensure that the full needs of the people are being met.


Government has Duty to Ensure Freedom and Safety of Media Personnel

Recently two well-known Sri Lankan editors, Frederica Jansz and Munza Mustaq, were threatened by letters sent anonymously through the post. The manner of wording, the format, and the intent behind these letters were similar to the death threats addressed to former Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was murdered a few weeks after the threat was received.  These incidents have taken place in a context in which the curtailing of media freedom has become perceived as a necessary aspect of national security.


Sri Lanka needs to retain GSP+ Concession

The final report of the EU investigation team into Sri Lanka’s conformity with the standards expected to retain the GSP Plus tariff concession was handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka on Monday.  There is concern that Sri Lanka could lose the concession that has helped it to boost its exports to the EU market and made the EU the country’s leading export market with a 36 percent share of total exports.  The GSP+ concession is given to those countries that are found to be progressing positively in the areas of good governance, sustainable development and poverty reduction.


Ensure Freedom of Choice and Provide for Peaceful Reconciliation

The decision of the Government to release displaced civilians in the welfare camps in the North to relatives willing to house them is a very welcome move. This positive pronouncement follows discussions that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had with leaders of the Tamil National Alliance.  There has recently been a heightened concern regarding the conditions in the camp and the inadequate resources available to prepare for the monsoon rains which are imminent. There have been calls for the immediate release of at least one third of the detained population in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. The government has taken a commendable step in responding to these concerns, signalling a concern for its Tamil people and taking positive measures towards their future wellbeing.


Provide for Democratic Choice of Displaced Population

The humanitarian crisis in the north, involving over quarter of a million internally displaced persons who have been confined to government welfare centres, has got exacerbated in recent days. This problem has created serious disaffection amongst the Tamil people and attracted international criticisms towards the government's handling of the crisis. Heavy rains have caused flooding of sections of the welfare centres with water seeping into tents, the breakdown of sewerage systems and increased possibility of disease. With monsoonal rains expected in a few weeks which would be far heavier than the rains currently experienced, a potentially catastrophic situation looms ahead.


Need for Rebuilding Relations with Long Term Partners

The Government of Sweden has recently announced that it will be closing its embassy and bringing its bilateral aid programmes in Sri Lanka to an end in the coming year.  Sweden has had a close development-oriented relationship with Sri Lanka that exceeds 50 years.  During this long period Sweden provided generous assistance to Sri Lanka's development efforts, particularly in the areas of rural infrastructure building, upgrading of the education system, strengthening of the investigative capacities of the police force and in contributing to the strengthening of institutions that could safeguard human rights and peace.


Hold Special School Examinations for IDPs to Restore Confidence

The end of the war has brought with it the opportunity for a restoration of normalcy and reconciliation after 30 years of suffering and trauma.  However, the plight of the nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons who are being kept within welfare centres in Vavuniya is a continuing source of much suffering and heartburn.  The situation within these camps is reported to be very poor and cannot easily be verified as entry into them is severely restricted.  The National Peace Council urges the government, as a priority measure, to specify a time frame for the release of these people from the welfare centres and their resettlement.



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