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Saturday, 07 August 2021 10:14

Media Release - Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus statement on meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to promote Peacebuilding and Reconciliation

A group of civil society members under the umbrella of the Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa together with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, President’s Secretary Dr P B Jayasundara and Foreign Secretary, Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage, at the Presidential Secretariat on August 3, 2021. The undersigned civil society members presented a memorandum that set out their hopes and concerns and welcomed the opportunity to engage with members of the government on topics of post-war reconciliation, minority rights, civil society space, and governance.

At the outset the civil society members expressed their support for the ideas and spirit of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tweet message “We are committed to work with the @UN to ensure accountability & human dev. to achieve lasting peace & reconciliation. We are dedicated to resolving the issues within the democratic & legal frame to ensure justice & reconciliation by implementing necessary institutional reforms.”

-Tweet by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa July 21, 2021 

The civil society members expressed their readiness to support the President and his government’s efforts on the basis of his tweet above and called on him to bring together all political parties so that a consensual national policy on national unity and reconciliation will be framed which will be implemented by successor governments. They expressed concern with regard to civil space which they wanted the government to protect. They expressed their conviction that development will succeed best if it is accompanied by peacebuilding and reconciliation that is successful and unites all the people through education and constructive actions. 

After listening to all comments made by the civil society delegation, who had the opportunity to speak without interruption, President Rajapaksa responded to the comments made and to the contents of the memorandum. He said civil society can assist the government to take the reconciliation process forward. He said that he also wants civil society to work in protecting the rights of children and women and that his government is committed to protecting the rights of all the people. With regard to PTA, he said that the government is formulating a reasonable law. He said that 16 prisoners held under the PTA were released recently and the government was working on the cases involving a number of other prisoners and release will be considered in line with the legal process. He said that those in detention following the Easter Sunday attack, who were marginally involved will be released after they are rehabilitated just as 12,000 LTTE cadre had been. 

The President affirmed to the civil society members that he intended to make his twitter post a reality and he would be willing to work with them on reconciliation. He spoke of the need to find practical solutions to resolve conflicts such as on the takeover of land in the north and elsewhere and to facilitate improvement of the living standards of communities to make them feel as being part of Sri Lanka. He stated that he is ready to address issues affecting people despite political differences. This included the release all possible lands immediately within this year, permitting farmers to cultivate the lands within military camps and where necessary to retain lands for military purposes to pay commercial rates and acquire the lands. He also spoke of the need to enhance the people’s livelihood opportunities and improve living standards by promoting entrepreneurship 

In addressing issues of devolution of power, the President said that he had discussion with the Election Commission on conducting Provincial Council Elections and there is agreement to ensure that they have elected representatives. He said that the ruling party, the SLPP, is keen to and committed to provincial council elections as local party supporters are also keen to take part in the electoral process. In a democratic system of governance, majority consensus prevails but he said he is ready to protect the rights of all people by working through negotiations and reaching consensus. 

Members of the delegation felt that they were able to have freely express themselves at the meeting without a single interference or attempt to regulate their side of inputs. The meeting had the features of democratic conduct and ended with goodwill and satisfaction with the President stating he would meet other civil society organisations as many did good work although there were varied opinions about them. Throughout the meeting there was cordiality and mutual respect. The meeting concluded after an hour and twenty minutes with the prospect of future dialogue and engagement and expectation by the undersigned of concrete actions in response to the memorandum submitted to the President (see attachment).
 

Signed: 

Ven. Kalupahana Piyaratana

Rev. Asiri P Perera (Retired President Bishop)

Mr. Hilmy Ahamed

Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa

Mr. Rohana Hettiarachchi

Mr. Varnakulasingham Kamaladhas

Prof. T. Jayasingam

Dr. Dayani Panagoda

Dr. Joe William

Mr. Sanjeewa Wimalagunarathna 

The Sri Lankan Collective for Consensus is a group of individuals drawn from multiple sectors of society, religion, academia, and non-governmental organisations. They are committed to a Sri Lanka that is founded on ideals of pluralistic coexistence, human rights and justice. 

August 6, 2021