Saturday, 18 September 2021 18:05

18.09.2021 - Break with the Past is Needed to Get Out of Impunity Trap

The level of impunity in the country has reached very serious proportions. The incident in which the Minister of Prison Management Lohan Ratwatte is alleged to have entered prison compounds and threatened Tamil prisoners with his gun and made them kneel down before him is an indictment of the state of the Rule of Law, the independence of institutions and the system of checks and balances in a democracy. So far the minister concerned has only resigned from his portfolio as Minister of Prison Management but not from his other ministerial portfolios.

We note that the accused minister has asserted his innocence several days after the reported incidents took place and after his resignation as Prisons Management minister. As the minister is a member of parliament the National Peace Council believes it is appropriate that an independent inquiry be conducted with the investigators being appointed in a bipartisan manner by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to instill public confidence in the process. In the meantime we believe the Minister should resign from all ministerial appointments pending investigation or be removed from such positions. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the issue of impunity and the lack of regard for human rights and dignity in governance.

The problem of impunity of state actors is long standing and precedes the present government. It is this type of conduct with impunity and without accountability, by those in government who set themselves above the law that has taken the country to Geneva and calls into question the rights of individuals and democratic practice within the country. Unfortunately this type of conduct gained political acceptability during the period of the three decades long war and long periods of emergency rule. However, the war is now over more than 12 years and the last election was fought on promises of a restoration of law and order and the practice of discipline as being national values. 

The National Peace Council believes that the time for a break with the past has come. The government needs to walk its talk if it is to serve the country and the national interest. Government leaders need to act within the law and respect the system of checks and balances and the independence of institutions. They need to demonstrate basic decency and civility. 

Governing Council
The National Peace Council is an independent and non-partisan organization 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.