Risking Peace for Politics : Are we losing our chance for Reconciliation?

January 2015 ushered in a new era for Sri Lanka. It is a moment in time that echoed the voice of a nation weighed down by debt, autocracy, and corruption. It was a call of hope by the people and an opportunity for every citizen to envision a future that would be built on the pillars of Good Governance, Democracy and Reconciliation. 

Today that hope is once again threatened by the same forces that want to hold the nation within its repressive grip of selfish political interests. On the 26th of October, an unconstitutional political coup was attempted with the aim of overthrowing the democratically elected government and appointing an illegal government through political manipulation, bribery and coercion. This dictatorial regime is attempting to force its way back into power, shaking the very foundation of the country’s future.

First, they disregarded Good Governance. Then they attacked Democracy.

In a blatantly undemocratic manner, through a direct violation of the constitution, on the 26th of October the President unlawfully removed the existing Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. A series of unconstitutional events following this included the appointment of former President Mahinda Rajapakse as the new Prime Minister who to date does not hold a majority in Parliament or the confidence of the house, the buying over of Ministers in an attempt to show a majority, appointing an illegal cabinet of Ministers who have unlawfully taken over functions of state institutions, and unconstitutionally dissolving Parliament- against which petitions have been filed and are currently under examination in the Supreme Courts of Sri Lanka. 

And now, they have jeopardized Reconciliation. 

This is a pillar without which our country is at the risk of falling back into an abyss of war and violence. Reconciliation processes were recognized and accepted as pivotal in 2 respects. On one hand these mechanisms are essential for victims of war to repair and restore their lives. On the other hand, is the basic premise that there is no development without reconciliation. Disregarding reconciliation is a betrayal of the people’s trust in the government, and a shattering of their faith in a chance for long-term peace. 

The SCRM (Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms) was set up for the purpose of engaging in reconciliation related work that is vital for social and economic development. It was tasked with coordinating between state and non-state organizations/ institutions in order to set up mechanisms such as the Office of Missing Persons, The Office for Reparations, a Truth-Seeking Commission and other accountability mechanisms ensuring that our nation could heal the wounds of the past and move into a future free of violence and conflict. 

Following the outrageous turn of events since the 26th of October, all the progressive effort of this secretariat has been stalled with the work of some key staff members being officially terminated by the Prime Minister’s Office. The staff for this secretariat were engaged following a thorough recruitment process and have been trained with specialized technical skills even at an international level. The work conducted at the SCRM and the mechanisms it has put in place are pivotal to maintaining peace and reconciliation in the island. Apart from supporting policy implementation related to reconciliation, the SCRM has spearheaded a number of projects and social awareness campaigns from the grassroot levels and state institutions, to public and private media as well as civil society. 

The hit to key staff members of the SCRM is a major red flag to all reconciliation related work. It is a sign that this unlawfully appointed government has not only begun its work in an unconstitutional manner, but that it also plans to fall back to the pre-2015 policies that paid no heed to the needs of the people. They are policies that will not hear the cries of families of missing persons, they are mechanisms that will not consider the suffering of war victims who have not received any form of compensation for their loss, and they are short-sighted development strategies that do not see the need to reconcile a war-torn society. 

The attacks on the pillars of good governance and democracy are a shame to the legitimacy and integrity of our nation. But the shattering of the chance for reconciliation will take this country back 30 years. It will plunge our society into a suffering and bitterness that will not disappear simply because it is ignored. Wounds that are not healed will ooze with tension and strife, leading us once again towards a cycle of conflict. We are desperately in need of upholding these pillars. On this, we cannot fail. 

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.