Collective grief not dealt with

The National Peace Council notes that the victory celebrations have been boycotted since their inception by the majority of the country’s elected Tamil political leadership and seen as yet another sign of the political insensitivity of governmental leaders to the sentiments of its multi-ethnic population. The whole nation needs to better understand the Tamil perspective, that they lost their material assets and families but gained nothing from the war victory.  The areas where they lived are destroyed, and many of the population have yet to restore their lives. The National Peace Council regrets deeply that very important recommendations of the LLRC to heal wounds of war and win hearts and minds are not being followed for the second year in succession after the publication of the LLRC report.  Instead the day the war ended will be celebrated by the government with military parades and a display of military hardware. There are posters claiming that it is the country’s Second Independence.   However, this manner of celebrating the day as a Day of Victory will also bring painful memories to the country’s Tamil people. Many of them had relatives and friends who did not come out alive at the end of the war even though they were civilians. The National Peace Council also calls on the entire national polity to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war. We believe that if the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year.  Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict.  They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place.  This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all people living on the island could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation.  Instead on the day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, people will be divided in their grief.  There will be no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.The NPC says that even while giving thanks that there is no more war in our land, and blessing our country to have long lasting peace and reconciliation, religious leaders in the country can take the lead in remembering in silent thought or prayer in their temples, kovils, mosques and churches, all those who died in the conflict.  We also call on all the people to light a lamp or candle or perform some other symbolic act with their families in their homes to remember all those who died during the course of the war.  Perhaps where the government has failed civil society can make what effort it can to bind the people in their remembrance.  (Colombo Gazette) The National Peace Council (NPC) says the 4th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s three decade long civil war is being commemorated today with the absence of a joint commemoration to remember all who lost their lives in it as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).NPC says the end of the war has greatly improved the lives of people, as they no longer fear bombs and large scale loss of life as in the past.   But the country has yet to deal with the collective grief that accompanies any civil conflict.  The LLRC recommended that a separate event be set apart on National Day in which all those who lost their lives in the war would be remembered. The American Civil War (1861-65) was one of the most ferocious wars ever fought.  The war produced a casualty toll of over 620,000 soldiers on both sides and 50,000 civilians.  But President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that it was a war of brother against brother. General Robert E Lee who led the Confederate armies surrendered and was treated with the utmost respect. There was a common cemetery for the war dead of both sides. The defeated Confederate soldiers were treated leniently.  It was by conciliatory measures that Southern Confederate nationalism was overcome and the defeated State pledged allegiance to the Union.  The conciliatory approach of the American government saw the achievement of the main war goals as realized in 1865, when each ex-rebel state repudiated secession and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment“Four years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize.  The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do.   A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country.  This is not the way for reconciliation and for winning the ethnic minorities over to a Sri Lankan nationalism. It shows a lack of foresight that defines statesmanship.   In this context, we call on the government to ensure that the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will take place,” NPC said. read more

Ahead of Afghan runoff election UN calls for improved polling process

“The run-off vote is an unprecedented event for Afghanistan’s democracy,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš.He renewed his congratulations to around seven million people who voted on 5 April for their “extraordinary performance” which led to a higher than expected first round vote.“Afghans remain undeterred by attacks against the democratic process and are determined to take control of their destiny and provide their next leader with a full mandate and legitimacy,” Mr. Kubiš said of the message that would be sent by Afghans voters in the two rounds.On 14 June, they will head back to the polls to choose between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.There are expectations that the Commissioners of the Independent Election Commission and the Head of Secretariat will implement some technical changes in this second round. Candidates and observers, among others, recommended improvements to transparency and communications in the management of the results and complaints following the April vote. Mr. Kubiš, who met yesterday with the Commissioners, stressed that elections are both a technical and a political exercise.“Technical improvements alone will not result in a better election without the political will of candidates to respect the process and its results and to disavow fraud by their supporters, as well as for government officials to remain impartial,” said Mr. Kubiš, who is also the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).Meanwhile, Afghan civilian society groups and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission today released a report documenting how Afghans view their prospects for peace.With information derived from focus groups and other interviews with 4,648 Afghan men, women and youth from all 34 provinces, the report summarizes a wide scope of ideas that are considered essential to achieving lasting peace in the country. The report includes 30 provincial-level road maps for peace, and a 10-point national road map.Among the issues prioritized by Afghans are: disarming and disempowering local militias, tackling widespread corruption and impunity among the police and judiciary, resolving ethnic tensions, tribal disputes and factional conflicts which fuel broader armed conflict, respecting human rights and women’s rights and providing equitable development assistance and service delivery across Afghanistan as well as improving the education system and empowering youth.“UNAMA fully supports the findings of the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace which is an important, inclusive rights-based peacebuilding initiative,” said UNAMA’s Human Rights director, Georgette Gagnon.“Policymakers should ensure that Afghan men, women and youth are meaningfully included in the peace process and have a real say in the future direction of their county,” she continued. Ms. Gagnon added that the future Afghan leader should listen to the people’s views and the solutions they propose and incorporate them into stabilization and development efforts. read more