Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune US Bureau
As a prelude to the Washington meeting between US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Sri Lanka External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Pieris on 18 May surrounding the issues of the implementation of the recommendations of the reconciliation commission, accountability to alleged violations of international law during the final chapter of the battle to defeat separatist Tamil Tigers and ethnic reconciliation, a senior American diplomat stationed in Colombo sent a serious message to Sri Lanka.The United States encourages a political package that will address the root cause of the 26-year conflict; it envisages a fresh dialogue between the GSL and the main Tamil political party TNA; the US guarantees that the TNA and other Tamil political parties now committed to a ‘United Sri Lanka’; the vitality of an ‘action plan’ to address the alleged violation of international humanitarian law, accountability and the implementation of the LLRC recommendations; the importance of addressing the grievances of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Paul M. Carter, the Political Counselor of the American Embassy in Sri Lanka, the third ranking US foreign service officer of the State Department in Colombo, made known to the Government of Sri Lanka what the United States expect of Sri Lanka when Minister Piers visits Washington this week when he addressed a seminar convened by a Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian S. Sritharan in Jaffna on Sunday, 13 May.
In fact, it is Dr. Carter’s unit in the Colombo US mission, the Political Section, that monitors, researches, investigates and come up with policy planks on Sri Lanka’s ‘National Question’ for the understanding and consumption of the Secretary Clinton’s office through the South and Central Asian Bureau of the State Department.
The tone of his address and issues highlighted to the Jaffna gathering, which was attended by the Indian Deputy high Commissioner stationed in Jaffna V. Mahalingam, is the indication the basis of the talks Ms. Clinton will initiate this Friday with Dr. Pieris in Washington.
We give here the section of American Embassy Political Counselor’s address on the issues that are on the Clinton-Pieris agenda in Washington.
The text of Dr. Paul M. Carter’s address that touched significantly of political solution, accountability and ethnic reconciliation :
(Begin Text) The Government of Sri Lanka has taken extraordinary and excellent measures to economically rebuild the war-ravaged north and east which is highly commendable.
Less have been done however on the core political issues of accountability, reconciliation and finding a political solution with the elected representatives of the Tamil People.
We believe that while economic growth is important, lasting peace addresses the issues that led to the conflict.
Indeed, studies by experts on conflict resolution around the world indicate that if the underline causes of the conflict are not addressed there is a high risk that in several years a new conflict could result.
This is the message not only of the United States and the international community, many Sri Lankans have made the same argument.
President Rajapaksa appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to look into these questions. The US gave the LLRC time and space for its work, and it did nit pre-judge the commission. The LLRC completed its report and sent it to President Rajapaksa in November. And, in December the president sent the report to the parliament and was made public.
We read the report with great interest. The LLRC report addressed a large number of areas that concerned to Sri Lankans.
It made substantive recommendations on reconciliation, rule of law, media freedom, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses.
If implemented, these recommendations could contribute to genuine reconciliation, and strengthen democratic institutions and practices.
At the same time the report’s conclusions on accountability, the alleged violations of International humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) were not strong. And, these were shortcomings in the accountability sector.
The LLRC also came to the significant conclusion that the cause of the war the failure of the Sri Lankan governments’ over the years to address the grievances of the Tamil people.
None of these conclusions of the recommendations came as a real surprise.
The LLRC hearings were mostly public and people raised these issues in their testimonies.
These are well known issues. Particularly very human issues such as disappearances, families not knowing where their loved ones are, and people wanting to obtain death certificates for the family members they knew were dead. And, people wanted to go back to their villages.
Thus, we do not agree with those who say that it is only being a short time the LLRC report was published.
Or, the idea that it is too early to expect the government to have an action plan in implementing the findings of the LLRC recommendations.
Given the lack of action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, the U.S. and 39 other countries sponsored a resolution on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.
Much was said in the Sri Lankan press about the resolution; unfortunately, much of it is not true.
In fact, the resolution was quite moderate; It made three points:
First, it called on the GSL to implement the constructive recommendations made by the LLRC, and to fulfill its legal obligations and commitments to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equality, accountability and reconciliation to all Sri Lankans.
Second, it requested the GSL to present as quickly as possible a comprehensive action plan. This plan should detail the steps that the GSL has taken and would take to implement the recommendations, and also to address the alleged violations of international law.
Third, it encouraged the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to encourage them to provide in consultation with and with the concurrence of the GSL advise and technical assistance to implement the above steps.
It also requested the HR Office to present a report on the provision of the assistance to the HR Council in March 2013.
We are waiting to hear the GSL plan on the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.
This week, Minister of External Affairs G.L.Pieris travels to the U.S. to meet Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other officials of our government.
Secretary Clinton will ask about the GSL action plan and progress in implementing the LLRC recommendations as discussed in the UN resolution.
In addition to the LLRC report and its recommendations, the U.S. has closely followed the bilateral talks between the GSL and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on political settlement.
We believe that dialogue and negotiations are essential in reaching an agreement that is in the best interest of all sides. We therefore, were disappointed when the talks came to a standstil in January.
Now it appears that the talks in current configuration may not continue.
Nevertheless, the TNA leadership has said that with certain conditions the TNA would be willing to enter the parliamentary select committee (PSC).
We support the decision of the TNA, and will do what we can to encourage all sides to work in good faith for the PSC to reach an equitable and sustainable agreement in a timely manner.
An agreement will require a dialogue and compromise from all involved. It also will require all parties to work together as statesmen.
This is the test of a true democracy whether politicians could work together in the best interest of all the people.
Sri Lankans suffered greatly in the war. It is our hope from that suffering and disruption the emergence of new appreciation of and commitment to peaceful political dialogue.
The TNA and others recognize the future of the Tamil people is to be found in united Sri Lanka that respect the rights of all its citizens.
We will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lankans to find a peaceful political settlement.
We look forward to the day all Sri Lankans share peace and equality to enhance the richness of this beautiful island (End Text)
– Asian Tribune –