COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, told the 32 nd. session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Wednesday, that the Lankan armed forces will release, by 2018, all lands they had seized from civilians during the 30 year war.
“Last week the military released another 701 acres of land to the District Secretary of Jaffna, out of which, 201.3 acres were handed over to their original owners on 25th June.
The Government has clearly instructed the military that all the land obtained from civilians must be released latest by 2018, and that the owners of whatever land that may be required for national installations or development purposes would be fully compensated,” Samaraweera said.
Of the 12,000 acres seized by the Security Forces, about 4,000 acres have been released since January 2015, according to available statistics.
On the controversial issue of having foreign judges in the Judicial Mechanism to be set up for dealing with cases of war crimes, the Lankan Minister said that the mechanism to be set up will have the confidence of the stakeholders, especially the victims.
“Sri Lanka is no stranger to international assistance and participation with many investigative and forensic experts having worked with us in the past. Of course, there are varying views on the nature, level and role of international participation. Divergent views are indicative of a healthy democracy and consultative process. Despite such divergent views, however, I can assure you that the mechanism that is finally set up will be one which has the confidence of the stakeholders, especially the victims, with fair trial and due process guarantees,” he said.
On the question of Transitional Justice the Minister said: “The Government recognises that, in order for the transitional justice process to be effective in achieving the desired objectives, the necessary mechanisms should be properly sequenced, integrated and coordinated. Some have started raising alarm bells that sequencing of mechanisms is a delay tactic or means to omit the component of justice.This is incorrect. The Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms is already consulting experts and is working on obtaining the required training and capacity-building for the relevant mechanisms – investigating techniques, forensic expertise, prosecutorial strategies – so that when the designs are in place, following the Consultation Process, the required expertise for the mechanisms will also be in place.”
Combining Urgency With Caution.
Samaraweera said that the Lankan government’s approach to ethnic reconciliation combines urgency with caution and diligence, so that no mistakes are made and the solutions evolved stand the test of time.
“We are following what the ancient Romans would have called, a policy of festina lente – making haste slowly. This may make it seem for some that the progress we are making is too fast, and too slow for others. What we have achieved so far since January 2015, may seem like 'baby steps' for some, but for us they are 'giant leaps'.”
“Some alleged that we are being optimistic, upbeat and hopeful. I must say that we are. How else do we work towards achieving our objectives? What is important is that our optimism is not based on delusion. It is based on the actual results of what we have managed to achieve so far, and the knowledge that our Government is working on a comprehensive strategy that will enable us to pursue different processes in a coordinated, integrated and appropriately sequenced manner,” Samaraweera said.
Need For Patience
Calling for all round patience, Samaraweera said: “Reconciliation does not happen at once, overnight. It requires effort, hard work, commitment, and careful, continuous, concrete action. It is not an end that can be reached where no further work is required. It is not a box that can be ticked as achieved. It is a journey that requires constant striving. A commitment towards which our nation should be bound across generations, and a central tenet of governance, because the price to pay if we falter, is not one our nation can endure once again after over thirty years of bloodshed that has spared no one.”