The National Peace Council (NPC)

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Media Release 09-08-2013

DO NOT UTILIZE THE ARMY TO MAINTAIN PUBLIC ORDER

The tragic incident at Weliveriya in the west of the country, where the army was deployed to bring a public protest to an end, has led to the deaths of three persons and serious injuries to many others.  The protest, which was against the contamination of groundwater consumed by village communities in the area by a factory, spilled over onto the highway obstructing traffic.  The National Peace Council deplores the government’s use of the army and shoot-to-kill methods to suppress a protest by the people in the exercise of their freedom of association. 

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31.07.13 - Media Release

VIOLENT DISRUPTION OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME DEMONSTRATES THREAT TO PLURALISM, MULTI-CULTURALISM AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

As part of its post-war peace building initiatives the National Peace Council (NPC) has been conducting an educational programme on the LRRC report in different parts of the country, including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Matara, Galle, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar, Puttalam, Ampara, Kurunegala, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. These LLRC workshops have been very popular with community leaders and local level government officials of all ethnicities. On Saturday July 27, 2013 a workshop discussion between community leaders and experts on land law and policy conducted by the National Peace Council in Batticaloa was forcibly disrupted by a Buddhist monk of the area and his supporters.

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Media Release - 2013-07-17

SOUTH AFRICAN EXAMPLE CAN HELP TO BREAK DEADLOCK ON PSC

The government has proposed the mechanism of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to make a fresh start in finding a political solution to the ethnic problem in the aftermath of the three decade long war. The mandate of this PSC is to recommend and report on “political and constitutional measures to empower the people of Sri Lanka as one nation.”

However, the opposition has so far refused to appoint any of its members to this PSC. Their concerns are perhaps that the exercise lacks any specific objective or substance and is not genuine, and only an attempt to buy time and prevent the creation of a negative international impression of the government in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be hosted by Sri Lanka in November. 

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GOVERNMENT’S CODE OF ETHICS FOR MEDIA MUST NOT BECOME A WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING

Media Release-Media Ethics11/06/2013

The government has presented a draft code of ethics for the media which it proposes to implement. The National Peace Council wishes to express its concern that the government’s draft media ethics code will be unnecessarily stringent with regard to the publication of news which the public have a right to know. The government’s motivation for coming up with the code of media ethics may be due to its concerns that its image and those of its members are being unfairly tainted by various allegations. Sections of the internet-based new media in particular have been severely critical of the government. Distorting the truth or manipulating news for the advantage of politicians or a political party is not an accepted value in a democracy. At the same time the publication of the truth may not always be in the interest of those who have to run the country.

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01.06.2013 Media Release

NORTHERN ELECTIONS GIVES GOVERNMENT OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD CREDIBILITY

The government has confirmed that elections to the Provincial Council for the Northern Province will take place in September. The National Peace Council welcomes this announcement that puts to rest the speculation on this issue. Two coalition partners of the government have been objecting strongly to these elections. If the provincial elections are not held, and the government fails to keep to its word it would seriously undermine its credibility. The international community will no longer believe any undertakings or commitments regarding the issues which form the subject matter of the United Nations Human Rights Council or other UN body. It will only strengthen the position of those who oppose the government in international forums on its record of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is necessary for a nation’s leaders to keep to their word if the country is to preserve its credibility.

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17.05.13 Media Release - VICTORY CELEBRATIONS

WAR VICTORY CELEBRATIONS WILL NOT HELP TO WIN OVER ALL WHO ARE THE SRI LANKAN PEOPLE

May 19 will mark the 4th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s three decade long civil war, but with the absence of a joint commemoration to remember all who lost their lives in it as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The end of the war has greatly improved the lives of people, as they no longer fear bombs and large scale loss of life as in the past. But the country has yet to deal with the collective grief that accompanies any civil conflict. The LLRC recommended that a separate event be set apart on National Day in which all those who lost their lives in the war would be remembered.

The National Peace Council regrets deeply that very important recommendations of the LLRC to heal wounds of war and win hearts and minds are not being followed for the second year in succession after the publication of the LLRC report. Instead the day the war ended will be celebrated by the government with military parades and a display of military hardware. There are posters claiming that it is the country’s Second Independence. However, this manner of celebrating the day as a Day of Victory will also bring painful memories to the country’s Tamil people. Many of them had relatives and friends who did not come out alive at the end of the war even though they were civilians.

The National Peace Council notes that the victory celebrations have been boycotted since their inception by the majority of the country’s elected Tamil political leadership and seen as yet another sign of the political insensitivity of governmental leaders to the sentiments of its multi-ethnic population. The whole nation needs to better understand the Tamil perspective, that they lost their material assets and families but gained nothing from the war victory. The areas where they lived are destroyed, and many of the population have yet to restore their lives.

The American Civil War (1861-65) was one of the most ferocious wars ever fought. The war produced a casualty toll of over 620,000 soldiers on both sides and 50,000 civilians. But President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that it was a war of brother against brother. General Robert E Lee who led the Confederate armies surrendered and was treated with the utmost respect. There was a common cemetery for the war dead of both sides. The defeated Confederate soldiers were treated leniently. It was by conciliatory measures that Southern Confederate nationalism was overcome and the defeated State pledged allegiance to the Union. The conciliatory approach of the American government saw the achievement of the main war goals as realized in 1865, when each ex-rebel state repudiated secession and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment

Four years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize. The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do. A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country. This is not the way for reconciliation and for winning the ethnic minorities over to a Sri Lankan nationalism. It shows a lack of foresight that defines statesmanship. In this context, we call on the government to ensure that the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will take place.

The National Peace Council also calls on the entire national polity to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war. We believe that if the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year. Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict. They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place. This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all people living on the island could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation. Instead on the day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, people will be divided in their grief. There will be no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.

On May 19, even while giving thanks that there is no more war in our land, and blessing our country to have long lasting peace and reconciliation, religious leaders in the country can take the lead in remembering in silent thought or prayer in their temples, kovils, mosques and churches, all those who died in the conflict. We also call on all the people to light a lamp or candle or perform some other symbolic act with their families in their homes to remember all those who died during the course of the war. Perhaps where the government has failed civil society can make what effort it can to bind the people in their remembrance.


Governing Council

The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organisation 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.

07.05.13 Media Release-Azath Sally

GOVERNMENT MUST BE EVEN HANDED IN THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

The arrest of former Deputy Mayor of Colombo and leader of the newly formed Muslim Tamil National Alliance Azath Salley under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) highlights the vulnerability of those who stand in opposition to the government on the question of the civil and political rights of the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.   Mr Salley was arrested on charges that he had fomented communal hatred in his speech and subjected to a three month detention order.  This action is in contrast to the hate speech followed by violence resorted to by the Bodhu Bala Sena which was permitted with impunity.  The State is expected to uphold the Rule of law which requires the law to be enforced without regard to race, ethnicity of religion of the offenders.  The law regarding human rights internationally also requires that there should be no discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity or religion.

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05.05.13 Media Release GOVERNMENT MUST RECONSIDER TAKING OVER LARGE EXTENTS OF PEOPLE’S LAND

The government has made moves to acquire over 6381 acres of privately owned land in the Jaffna peninsula, which it says is for a public purpose. The public purpose is presumably for the security forces.  The pasting of notices on trees in Valikamam North under section 2 of the Land Acquisition Act coincides with preparations for the Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year. It appears to be a hurried plan on the part of the government to acquire this large extent of land prior to the establishment of a legitimate and popularly elected civilian administration for the formerly war-stricken Northern Province.

There is concern in the Northern polity that the purpose of this land acquisition is to change the demographic composition with settlers from outside being registered on the Northern electoral lists.  In Kokilai, Mullaitivu and adjoining villages such as Vannankulam, Uradikulam, Thaddamalaikkulam, Pannaiyandaukulam, Akkaraivelli, Vathamadu, Kamankulam, Amayankulam, there are media reports of 3000 such families being settled.   

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13.04.13 Media Release

Respect the Right of the Tamil People to Exercise their Franchise in a Free and Fair Election

The burning of the printing press of the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna comes shortly after an attack on its distribution point in Kilinochchi.  These targeted acts of violence perpetrated on the largest circulation newspaper in the Northern Province have taken place despite the very large presence of security forces.  They also follow another violent attack on a meeting of the largest opposition Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, in Kilinochchi where the security forces present on the scene remained inactive. The TNA, as well as the Leader of the Opposition, have alleged that these attacks are carried out by soldiers in civil but the government denies them.  A government spokesperson has said the latest attack is an inside job to discredit the government.  The National Peace Council condemns these attacks regardless of who is behind them.

The NPC notes that these attacks are occurring in the context of anticipated provincial council elections for the Northern Province. The government has promised to hold these elections in September and the international community is monitoring this promise.  The issue of the Northern Provincial election was referred to in the resolution on reconciliation in Sri Lanka of the UN Human Rights Council last month.  We believe that the democratically elected government has the responsibility to stop these types of attacks, find the culprits and bring them to justice.  If not, the credibility of the government as one that follows democratic norms will collapse.  It is therefore important that these elections be held according to internationally acceptable standards.

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04.04.13 Media Release WARNING SIGNS OF A REPEATING CYCLE

Two incidents of lawlessness and violence last week highlight a dangerous breakdown of the Rule of Law.  The first was a mob attack on a political meeting of the opposition TNA in the northern town of Kilinochchi.   Although the official security personnel assigned to protect the four MPs were all present in addition to local police, they did nothing to stop the mob that disrupted the meeting. The police are by law required to prevent any acts of violence which take place within their sight.  The second incident was a mob attack on a clothing store in the vicinity of Colombo belonging to a Muslim merchant.  

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