The National Peace Council (NPC)

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CITIZENS PEACE AWARD FOR 2011 TO DR NIMALKA FERNANDO

The Citizens Peace Award for 2011 of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka has been awarded to Dr Nimalka Fernando, President of the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism.  In making this award to her, the National Peace Council considered the courage, commitment and leadership she has demonstrated in a consistent manner over a long period in working for human rights, people’s empowerment and justice for sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.   The awards ceremony took place on June 26, 2012 at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations & Strategic Studies in the presence of members of government, opposition, diplomatic community and long time colleagues and activists from civil society and grassroots communities.  (See video of the event on  http://vimeo.com/45087670)

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PEOPLE’S RESOLUTION ON HUMANITARIAN ISSUES

Over the past two years the National Peace Council worked with over 700 members of inter-religious groups in 12 districts of the country, including the North and East.  These groups with the representation of religious clergy of all the main religions engaged in humanitarian initiatives to meet the needs of war affected women and children in particular.  On June 16, 2012 total of 164 representatives from the groups that have been participating in this process met in Colombo and gave their assent to a resolution which was born out of their first hand community level experiences.   The National Peace Council believes that this resolution is one that calls for the attention of the government and other decision makers.

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PUBLIC MOURNING MUST BE PERMITTED TO TAKE PLACE IN THE NORTH

The third anniversary of the end of the war will be celebrated in the coming week.  In the past two years this has taken place with victory parades and with public commemorations of war heroes by the Government although many people would say it was not appropriate after a civil war when citizens of the country were killed in large numbers.  It is also necessary to remember that the government is being accused of war crimes and violations of humanitarian laws.

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RULE OF LAW AS ANTIDOTE TO RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

The dispute over the presence of a Muslim mosque on Buddhist temple land in Dambulla points to an underlying tension in Sri Lanka's multi religious society that is being exploited by extremist forces. The latest incident is a violent mob attack led by some Buddhist monks on the mosque in the presence of state security forces.  The National Peace Council condemns this act of violence and damage done to the mosque that has caused a deep sense of hurt and insecurity in the minds of the Muslim community.

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TRANSFORMATIVE CONTENT OF LLRC REPORT REQUIRES PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION

The resolution on Sri Lanka passed at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 22 called on the government to implement the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the government to address the issues of post-war transformation of the country.   The government has so far not made a comprehensive or detailed response to this resolution. Although the issue of the Geneva resolution on Sri Lanka has generated interest within the country, much of the public discussion on it has been ill informed or based on partial assessments. The key role of the LLRC report in addressing both international and national concerns has not been given sufficient attention. 

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STATE MEDIA MUST NOT BE PART OF HATE CAMPAIGN

There is an ongoing media campaign against some key Human Rights workers and the NGOs who have spoken out in favor of the proposed resolution on Sri Lanka at the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The campaign to vilify and incite hatred towards these NGOs and human rights activists in the context of the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is of particular concern as it involves the use of the state controlled media.

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ADOPT GENEVA RESOLUTION THROUGH CONSENSUS

A vote on the US-sponsored resolution aimed at promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka is scheduled to take place later this week at the conclusion of the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  Bitterness and rancor have accompanied the debate in Geneva.

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CONVERGENCE OF MINDS ON IMPORTANCE OF LLRC

The 19th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva is seeing Sri Lanka’s implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations taking centre stage.  The United States and its western allies in particular will be presenting a resolution on Sri Lanka. The indications are that the resolution will call on the Sri Lankan government to “implement the constructive recommendations” of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.  The government in response brought out vast numbers of supporters out into the streets to reaffirm that there should be no interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

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POLITICAL DIALOGUE MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY CONCRETE CHANGES ON THE GROUND

During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna gave support to the Sri Lankan government's intention to have a Parliamentary Select Committee work out the modalities of a political solution to the ethnic conflict.  The Indian government has consistently expressed its interest in a political solution and that the Sri Lankan government gave such assurances during the war that elicited international support.  President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also informed the Indian Minister that his government would be pursuing a political solution to go beyond the present framework of devolution which was an outcome of the Indo Sri Lanka Peace Accord of 1987 and contained in the 13th Amendment to the constitution.

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GOVERNMENTAL FOLLOW UP TO LLRC REPORT IS IMPORTANT

The final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has drawn a mixed reaction. The 388 page report has been criticized by the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance, and by international human rights organizations. They have referred to the report as being in the nature of a white wash and failing to deal with the issue of accountability of the government for alleged war crimes. In addition, there is extreme disappointment expressed by victims of the war that the Commission did not provide them with immediate redress or solutions to their pressing problems, but referred these for further inquiries.

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