What does reconciliation mean?
Posted on October 30th, 2013

By Neville Ladduwahetty‚ ‚  Courtesy Island

Judging from the opinions expressed by commentators, analysts both nationally and internationally, it is evident that Reconciliation has different meanings to different people. To some, Reconciliation is a process of healing while to others it means Truth or Justice, and to yet others it means Nation Building and/or Acknowledgement/Accountability of what happened. While any one or mix of the mentioned interpretations of what Reconciliation means may be applicable to certain particular circumstances, there is no clear understanding of what reconciliation means and therefore what needs to be done to bring about Reconciliation. The only condition that all are agreed upon is that without Reconciliation there is no going forward.
Reconciliation requires that there is consensus between the parties concerned as to what needs to be addressed for Reconciliation to be meaningful. For instance, in the case of the South African experience discussions between the apartheid regime and those opposed to it extended over a considerable period to determine the procedures and processes for meaningful Reconciliation. Despite this preparation, opinions differ vastly as to whether there is meaningful Reconciliation today in South Africa after nearly two decades.

In the case of Sri Lanka such discussions did not take place between the parties concerned. Instead, based on a joint statement between the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General of the United Nations a Presidential Commission, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was appointed on May 15, 2010. The Commission sought opinions from as wide a spectrum as possible of Sri Lanka-â„¢s citizens and published a report of what the LLRC considered should be addressed for there to be Reconciliation. Despite the initial misgivings as to the composition of the Commission, the report was accepted by the International Community and resolutions passed by the UN in Geneva calling for the implementation of what is commonly known as LLRC Recommendations. This is what the Sri Lankan Government is currently engaged in and in fact is being faulted for perceived short falls in its implementation.

1. If the general principle is for parties to a conflict to agree on the issues as to what needs to be addressed to resolve differences and bring about Reconciliation, have the International Community and the United Nations misdirected the Reconciliation process in Sri Lanka by calling for the implementation of the LLRC Recommendations without consensus between the parties concerned?
2. If as a consequence of the process adopted under pressure from the UN which represents the International Community, in the implementation of recommendations (that essentially are unilateral), the Reconciliation process fails to meet the desired objectives, should NOT the UN be held accountable?

It should be noted however, that even if they are, it means very little because at the end of the day it would be Sri Lanka that would have to face the consequences if outcomes are negative.

The recommendations of the LLRC are primarily based on opinions and views expressed by a cross section of Sri Lanka-â„¢s citizenry and what the Commission perceived as to what was needed to bring about Reconciliation. Having developed the recommendations there is no evidence as to whether the Commission attempted to seek the views of the leadership of the Tamil community. If it did, and the Tamil leadership did not cooperate the only option open is to proceed without consensus. Under these circumstances, it is unrealistic to expect the processes of Reconciliation to succeed, since meaningful Reconciliation requires consensus and commitment on the part of the parties concerned.
The Executive Summary of the TNA-â„¢s analytical response to LLRC report in its second paragraph states: “The LLRC-â„¢s processes and practices have failed to win the confidence of the Tamil community. The Commission also fails dramatically short of International standards applicable to accountability processes”(The Island, January 16, 2012). The Government should have brought the TNA-â„¢s opinion of the LLRC recommendations to the attention of the International Community, the UN and in particular India. There is a lacuna on the part of the Government in this regard. The need is for the Government of Sri Lanka to bring to the attention of those engaged with Sri Lanka and others who are critical of it, that the processes leading to Reconciliation being implemented do not in fact have the endorsement of the Tamil leadership and therefore the Reconciliation is unilateral. Under the circumstances the International Community, the UN and India in particular become jointly responsible for not bringing pressure on the TNA to participate in the implementation processes, since Reconciliation is in the interest of all concerned.

The responsibility for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations was with the Government until the election of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC). With a functioning NPC in place, some of the responsibilities come under provisions of devolved powers thereby making the NPC and Government jointly responsible for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. This fact should be brought to the attention of the International Community, the UN and India in particular. In view of these altered circumstances the Government and the NPC should jointly develop clear separation of activities in regard to their separate responsibilities. The result of such an exercise would be the development of a Revised Action Plan based on consensus which in the future should be the basis for review.

The merits of a Revised Action Plan would be to create the need for the setting up of a joint mechanism to monitor progress and wherever necessary to intervene to build capacities and infuse resources to meet required contingencies. Such joint efforts have the potential to develop and strengthen Reconciliation processes that were not there when recommendations to foster Reconciliation were developed during and after the deliberation of the LLRC. Therefore, the presence of NPC has the potential to nurture a new environment of cooperation with benefits to all. However, while the potential is there, outcomes would depend on the attitudes of the parties concerned; i.e., whether there is a genuine commitment to Reconciliation or not.
While the potential for Reconciliation through cooperation is a real possibility, the NPC may opt to implement those provisions devolved under the 13th Amendment without engaging with the Sri Lankan Government in order to project an image of independence, and to be free of the so called “Sinhala Government”. Considering the enormous Social problems associated with the War Widows, the elderly, the disabled, children and IDPs following two decades of conflict and issues relating to infrastructure such as roads and housing to mention a few, there is bound to be serious constraints in terms of capacities and resources needed to meet these challenges. Despite its shortcomings if the NPC decides to go it alone and seek external assistance to meet its needs with a view to projecting a Tamil “self” the cost would be to concretize aloofness with a cost to Reconciliation.

An approach of aloofness may serve the aspirations of the Tamil leadership but what about the Tamil people. Would the interests of the Tamil community in general, the farmer and those engaged in fishing be better served by isolation and aloofness considering that without cooperation with the South such issues cannot be resolved without engaging at the national level with the governments of India and Sri Lanka? Therefore, the NPC should give serious consideration to the choices it makes as to how it proposes to address issues relating to devolved powers.
While the call for internal self-determination could conjure images of grandeur that may appeal to the Northern electorate, the NPC has to be fully conscious that whatever the NPC “determines” has to be within the existing Constitution with all its warts and blemishes. And if the NPC aspires to go beyond it cannot do so unilaterally, nor would it be profitable to resort to unconstitutional methods. Therefore, for the sake of its electorate the NPC has a responsibility to spell out the contours of what it means by “internal self-determination”. The NPC must realize that it cannot go beyond the current Constitution without the cooperation of the South, and that this is not possible without reconciling with the South, because it is only through meaningful Reconciliation and the guarantee of territorial integrity, and within the framework of a unitary state, that the NPC could hope to go from where they are now.

The options open to deal with violations committed by the parties to any conflict are either to resort to retributive justice or to measures based on restorative justice. If the former approach is adopted it would entail adopting procedures based on formal prosecutions involving witnesses, provisions for their protection and evidence of an order that would stand up in a Court of Law.

The experiences of countries that have adopted such procedures have been that it is not only time consuming, but also that at the end most of the accused go free due to lack of verifiable evidence. For instance, it took over a decade for South Africa to convict an organization that had planned to overthrow the post-apartheid government (Daily Mirror, October 29, 2013). In the meantime, thousands got off scot free due to lack of evidence leaving the victims to deal with the perpetrated injustice. This approach frustrates Reconciliation.
On the other hand, a more reasonable approach for Sri Lanka would be a policy of Conditional Amnesty where a blanket Amnesty would be granted to all combatants subject to charges being brought against anyone guilty of violations backed up by verifiable evidence within a specified time frame. Such an approach being restorative, would foster Reconciliation.

Reconciliation has to engage parties to a conflict not only in their total commitment to Reconciliation but also in consensus as to the particularities of the path leading to reconciliation. In the case of Sri Lanka while there have been expressions of the need for Reconciliation, the Tamil leadership stated that the “processes and practices” developed by the Government did not win the confidence of the Tamil community. Despite this view, the International Community through Resolutions in Geneva pressured the Sri Lankan Government to implement recommendations that were developed by a Commission (the LLRC) appointed by the Government. Consequently, the approach adopted is unilateral and does not have the formal endorsement of the Tamil community. It is evident from the foregoing that not only has the International Community violated a cardinal principle of Reconciliation -” i.e., the need for consensus, but the fact also that the Government of Sri Lanka through its failure to bring this to the attention of the International Community, has by omission taken on the sole responsibility for the success of failure for Reconciliation, when in fact it should have been the JOINT RESPONSIBILITY of the communities involved.
The situation has changed recently with the election of the Northern Provincial Council. While it was the responsibility of the Government to implement the LLRC recommendations until the election of the NPC, from now on, Reconciliation becomes a shared responsibility in respect of those issues that are devolved under the 13th Amendment, the most pressing of which concerns Social issues of vulnerable people particularly in the North. These altered circumstances require the Government to develop a Revised Action Plan jointly with the NPC; a fresh Action Plan that clearly identifies the respective areas of responsibility. Such a process would compel the NPC to cooperate with the Government, whatever its views are about the LLRC recommendations.

The compulsion to cooperate in the implementation processes coupled with the need to adopt a policy of Restorative Justice regarding former combatants based on Conditional Amnesty has the potential to foster meaningful and durable Reconciliation; a much needed condition if all communities in Sri Lanka are to move forward in retaining the hard won Peace.

6 Responses to “What does reconciliation mean?”

  1. Lorenzo Says:


    “adopt a policy of Restorative Justice regarding former combatants based on Conditional Amnesty has the potential to foster meaningful and durable Reconciliation”


    1. Former combatants are NOT from Jaffna. TNA and Tamil leadership if Jaffna centric. This is why ANANTHI was DENIED any power despite winning 2nd highest number of votes.

    2. ALL TOP former combatnas in SL are with the govt and Tamils consider them TRAITORS. Tamils WANT them killed. Amnesty to them is a way to DISTANCE Tamils from govt.

    TNA will offer conditional cooperation.

    Whatever that ADVANCES Tamil Elam, they will cooperate.
    Whatever that strengthens SL, they will oppose.

    Agree that we need a NEW LLRC because things have changed.

  2. Nanda Says:

    Before 19052009 political solution and military solution were being debated, because there was a problem of bombing, killing indiscriminately, child soldiers, child kidnapping, global drug trafficking, global hijacking etc. etc.

    After that military solution was proven to work and applied. Problem no more !
    Since the solution is complete and problem does not exist why LLRC focus on the problem ?
    It should focus on “How to Educate Tamils” , whether by force or willingly.

  3. crobe Says:

    A Tamil’s idea of reconciliation is separation. The government, no matter what is done(except separation), will not be able to win the confidence of the Tamil polity who continues to sell the “Sinhalaya Gonibilla” theory. This is the only way they can continue to win elections. Just short of that, they have noting to offer the Tamil community.
    The Tamil politicians continue to undermine Sri Lanka while enjoying the benefits offered by the tax payer.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    RECONCILIATION should not mean APPEASEMENT of Racist Separatists! PROHIBIT & CONFRONT every attempt by the Tiger Nominated Agents of the TNA to revive their Eelam Struggle for a Tamils-Only Separate State!

    Removal of Army Camps that help maintain security after the recent DEFEAT of Tamil terrorists in an area in which residents were brainwashed by the separatists for over 30 years, WILL NOT IMPROVE the Safety & Security of ALL Sri Lankans, everywhere in Sri Lanka.

    The 2013 Legatum Prosperity Index report (see below) says “despite the end of the civil war with the Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, the country has not felt safe. The Safety & Security sub-index ranked at 121 out of the 142 countries surveyed.”

    Instead of Decreasing Army Presence, INCREASE the presence of the Army in the former war zones, create Naval & Coast Guard bases ALL around that Coastline within EYE-SIGHT of each other to protect our territory and stem illegal immigration from Tamil Nadu, and PERMANENTLY SETTLE Armed Forces personnel and their FAMILIES in these areas, with MASSIVE GOSL assistance, to CHANGE the distribution of residents by ETHNICITY to the Average for the Nation as a whole, as a matter of High National Priority.

    If Tamil citizens can settle in Colombo, Sinhala citizens MUST BE ABLE TO LIVE in the North & East. Let the GOSL LEAD the CHARGE towards Ethnic Integration.

    Ethnic Integration is the ONLY WAY to PERMANENTLY endow Sri Lankan citizens with PEACE, SECURITY & PROSPERITY! Let us MARCH FORWARD SENSIBLY to LEAD the Legatum Prosperity Index in the future!

    Sri Lanka has become more prosperous since 2009, ranked 60th in Prosperity Index

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Oct 31, Colombo: The latest Legatum Prosperity Index, which ranks nations according to wealth and wellbeing factors, has placed Sri Lanka at 60th place moving up eleven places in overall Prosperity since 2009 when the country defeated three decades of terrorism.

    This year’s Prosperity Index, compiled by London-based Legatum Institute, contains data on 142 countries for 89 variables, spread across eight sub-indices. The sub-indices include, country’s Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Governance, Education, Health, Safety& Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.

    Sri Lanka has seen big improvements in its Economy scores, which have contributed to the country’s improvements in the overall Prosperity Index.

    The Economy sub-index has risen twenty eight places to 74th since 2009, as a result of increases in capital per worker, gross domestic savings, perceived job availability, and satisfaction with access to adequate food and shelter.

    Over the past five years, Sri Lanka has increased twelve places to 35th in the Social Capital sub-index, due to increases in willingness to help strangers and trust levels.

    A whopping 82% of people say they can rely on others in times of need and 57% believe Sri Lanka is a good place to live for immigrants.

    However, despite the end of the civil war with the Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, the country has not felt safe. The Safety& Security sub-index ranked at 121 out of the 142 countries surveyed.

    Norway led the overall rankings for the fifth year followed by Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark in that order.

    In the South Asian region, India declined to106th and overtaken for the first time in 2013 by Bangladesh which ranked at 103rd. Nepal ranked at 102nd and Pakistan remains low in the rankings at 132nd with progress hampered by security-related challenges.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    We share Prof. Indraratana’s concerns about high borrowing at high interest rates.

    Borrowing should focus on Infrastructure Developments that will generate a Rate of Return to the GOSL treasury above inflation rate, and not for spending on current consumption.

    SL’s domestic investment strategy not sustainable: Prof. Indraratna

    October 31, 2013

    Sri Lanka’s strategy of meeting domestic investment requirements through borrowing cannot be sustained for much longer, according to Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) President Prof. A. D. V. De S. Indraratna.

    “The gap between domestic savings and domestic investment was manifest in the corresponding trade deficit and was met largely through borrowings. This cannot go on much longer without either getting into a serious debt crisis or cutting down gross domestic investment.

    The way out is to change the growth strategy to one of investing with savings rather than with borrowing or in other words,” he asserted.

    Addressing SLEA Annual Sessions, Prof. De S. Indraratna went on to state that such a strategy would require reductions in the budget deficit and in aggregate demand, in addition to better strategized exports.

    The resultant containment of inflation and positive real interest rates would give better public savings which would also allow government space to increase revenue and decrease expenditure.

    “Decrease in current expenditure should result from the reduction in waste, corruption and ostentation in the public sector and improvement in the management and productive efficiency of the public-sector institutions.

    These things do not happen automatically; positive action on the part of the relevant authorities is necessary,” Prof. De S. Indraratna said.

    In that context, he went on to raise criticism over the National Savings Bank’s US$ 750 million debenture loan.

    “External borrowing at high interest rates like the NSB’s US$ 750 million debenture loan at 8.875 per cent interest would certainly counter this strategy, specially with NSB being the premier state-owned institution for savings mobilization,” he noted.

    Meanwhile, drawing attention to the role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sri Lanka’s future growth story, Prof. De S. Indraratna highlighted that relatively low inflows were caused by a lack of confidence in the country’s institutional frameworks.

    “Despite the cessation of terrorist hostilities in May 2009, FDIs have been flowing very slowly. Apparently foreign investors still do not find the necessary environment for their investment.”

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Crobe says “A Tamil’s idea of reconciliation is separation”.

    That is because Tamil Nadu leaders as well as vested interests back this idea.

    Most Tamils living in Sri Lanka, eating food grown here, jobs are here, wages are paid here, education of kids & medical needs free here, but getting Tamil Eelam wins the approval for them from high caste folk and vested interests. Tamil noses have been
    pointed in the direction of Separatism in Tamil Nadu & India to hide Caste/poverty/Class problems and bring a semblance of unity among Tamils. Outside interests gain from this …

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