The National Peace Council (NPC)

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The Friday Forum on LLRC Report

The Friday Forum                                                                           2, Greenlands Avenue, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka

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14th December 2011

The Friday Forum Urges the Earliest Public Release of the LLRC Report in Full

The Friday Forum is a group of concerned citizens who meet frequently to give thought as to how the processes of ensuring peace, justice and good governance, upholding of the rule of law, and acceleration of socio-economic development can best be supported.  We welcome the news that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has submitted its final report to H E President Mahinda Rajapakse. Friday Forum supported the LLRC process fully and expressed their faith in the Commission being able to present a report of value addressing issues of terrorism, accountability, national reconciliation and peace with dignity and equality for all Sri Lankans.

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NORWEGIAN EVALUATION REPORT ON THE BREAKDOWN OF THE PEACE PROCESS IS WORTHY OF STUDY TO ASCERTAIN THE LESSONS FOR A POLITICAL SOLUTION

Sri Lanka's internal war and terrorism lasted for three decades and ended in May 2009 with the military defeat of the LTTE.  The overall cost in terms of lives lost, property destroyed, development opportunities foregone, emotional suffering and migration of Sri Lankans is incalculable.  The bitterness and animosity that the last stage of the war caused would be a permanent scar on the inter-ethnic relations unless there is a genuine reconciliation between the government and the Tamil leaders on the one hand and between the ethnic communities on the other.

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TNA STATEMENT NEEDS TO BE PROBED AND ACTED UPON TO ACHIEVE RECONCILIATION

01.11.11

After a protracted and very costly war as occurred in Sri Lanka it is necessary to start with political reconciliation between the different ethnic communities and also between the government and ethnic minorities.  It is not easy to heal the nation after such a traumatic conflict. The hurt and harm inflicted on the victims especially the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods caused during the war would have caused deep scars. This reconciliation cannot be achieved without democratization and   among the people of different communities, the government and political parties.   

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FULL ACCOUNTING TO DEAL WITH WAR CRIMES CHALLENGES

Today the Sri Lankan government is under international pressure on account of alleged war crimes that were committed in the last phase of the war and to be accountable according to international standards. Legal cases against Sri Lankan government representatives have been filed in US and other international courts alleging war crimes and serious human rights violations in the last phase of the country's war. Human rights organizations maintain that massive violations of human rights and crimes against humanity warrant intervention by the UN.

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LIFTING OF EMERGENCY WILL STRENGTHEN DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s announcement to Parliament that the government would not be renewing the state of emergency comes as a welcome action in the restoration of normalcy in the country.  With the war against the LTTE ending over two years and three months ago, the time was ripe for a restoration of normal laws to the country. The country has been governed continuously under emergency laws since 2005.  The National Peace Council is hopeful that civil administration will be installed in the former war zones of the North and East, and the role of the military in governance will be rapidly diminished.

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FREEDOM OF MEDIA CONTINUES TO BE UNDER THREAT DESPITE END OF WAR

The freedom of expression and of the media received another brutal blow with the murderous assault on senior journalist and news editor of the Uthayan newspaper, Gnanasundaram Kuganathan, in Jaffna on Friday. He is now in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Jaffna Hospital with head injuries due to blows from iron bars. The victim had previously been targeted by assailants who stormed the Uthayan office in May 2006, asked for him by name and, having failed to find him, killed two other staff members. Only recently he had started residing outside of the Uthayan office, believing that the security climate in Jaffna had improved and impunity no longer reigned so that he could live a relatively normal life. But he was mistaken, and the attack on him will remind all journalists of what their fate could be if they cross an unknown line and overly anger those in positions of power.

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FREE AND FAIR ELECTION WILL BE CORNERSTONE OF POLITICAL SOLUTION

The forthcoming local authority elections to be held on July 23 are taking place in 65 towns, urban areas and rural parts of the country. However, the main focus of political interest has been on Jaffna in the north where a large number of government ministers and senior politicians of opposition parties are presently campaigning. The northern elections, while local in scope, are of national importance because of the unresolved grievances of the Tamil people and international pressures that have arisen in relation to them.

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FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION IS A RIGHT IN THE NORTH AS ELSEWHERE

The physical attack of those attending a TNA election meeting in Jaffna ahead of local government elections to be held on July 23 has attracted considerable criticism and condemnation. Government spokespersons have argued that the meeting was unauthorized. On the other hand, the TNA has pointed out that it was not a public meeting and hence did not require the approval of the Police. The right to even conduct peaceful protests is now a recognized internationally under the UN Declarations. It should also be noted, , that the supreme law of the land embedded in the Constitution upholds freedom of association as a fundamental right, and as such it is applicable throughout the country. This right cannot be denied to the citizens of Jaffna. In this connection it must be noted that the freedom of movement of the citizens of the Vanni are still subject to the discretion of the Army.

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RESTORE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION IN ALL ASPECTS TO ENSURE DEMOCRACY

The three week leadership training for incoming batches of university students in army camps that is currently being implemented at short notice is being debated nationally and is building up into a major political issue.  The government has justified this measure as a progressive one that will institute discipline and social etiquette in the students.  In the past universities have been hotbeds of student agitation and even violence. On the other hand, opposition political parties, student organizations and parents have expressed their opposition to this measure and questioned the need for this orientation to be given by the army and to take place within army camps.  They have also argued that the orientation course if deemed necessary could well be done outside the military camps.

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MULTI-PARTISAN APPROACH TO ADDRESS UN PANEL REPORT IS DESIRABLE

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has released to the public the report of the Expert Panel he appointed to advise him on human rights issues in relation to the last phase of Sri Lanka's war.  The panel of experts has called on the UN Secretary General to immediately set up an independent international mechanism to investigate credible allegations that both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE committed serious human rights violations, including some that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the months before the decades old civil war ended in 2009.

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