Sunday, 10 January 2016 16:25

Transitional Justice Process Should Include All Sri Lankans

NPC’s expansion of its inter-religious engagement with the support of Misereor to promote reconciliation through the transitional justice process took it to Badulla to meet with community leaders of the area.

Over 50 participants from different walks of life, including university academics, government officials, local authority members, journalists attended the meeting, along with religious clergy from all four religions. The current focus of interest in transitional justice revolves around what happened in the north of the country in the last phase of the war.

During the Badulla discussion another dimension came into focus. This was the sense of neglect of the other ethnic and religious minorities who felt that the entirety of attention is being given the problems of the Tamils of the north and east, to their neglect.

A representative of the Indian-origin Tamil community said that they too needed to be beneficiaries of the transitional justice process, as they too had suffered mass violation of their human rights, which had yet to be remedied. In 1947-48, at the dawn of the country’s independence, nearly all the Indian-origin Tamils who were working on the tea plantations in the central highlands were denied citizenship rights and disenfranchised. This was a blow from which they have yet to recover.

Representatives of the Muslim community have likewise expressed their sense of neglect and being marginalised from the discussion of the UNHRC resolution, which needs to include them too as victims of mass violation of their human rights. This is on account of both the mass expulsion they were subjected to from the north in 1990 at the hands of the LTTE, and also the numerous massacres they were subjected to in the east of the country at the hands of the LTTE for which an accountability process is necessary.

At a time when they find themselves once again being targeted by Sinhalese nationalist groups such as “Sinha Le” they find it dismaying to be relegated to the periphery of the discussions on transitional justice.

At the Badulla discussion there was also a representative of the Sinhalese, a Buddhist monk, who spoke of the people who lived poverty-stricken lives in UvaWellassa where the massacres of the colonial period took place. The message from Badulla was that the transitional justice process needed to include all the Sri Lankan communities because each one of them had been victimised in the past, and the memories continue to be living ones in need of truth, justice, healing and reparation with a guarantee of non-recurrence.