Sri Lanka’s ‘Truth’ Commission: A Brief Assessment of the LLRC Report

12.17.11

Sri Lanka’s ‘Truth’ Commission: A Brief Assessment of the LLRC Report

12.17.11
Jean-Marc Ferré

Readers will find no big surprises after reading the final report of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). It is very much what most people were expecting. A document that looks to the future, exonerates the military, does not touch on the question of accountability and includes some touchy-feely language about the country’s need to move forward, celebrate its diversity and be grateful for the defeat of terrorism. Essentially, all civilian casualties were the result of people caught in the crossfire or were the LTTE’s fault. “The protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority” by the Sri Lankan armed forces, the Commission has determined.

The report also claims that military operations moved at a “deliberately slow” pace because Sri Lanka’s military personnel were so careful and cognizant of the dangers to civilian life during the final phases of the conflict. While the LTTE deliberately targeted civilians, it appears that Sri Lanka’s military did not, according to the LLRC report. That assertion goes against what most people seem to think, including the report produced by the United Nation’s Panel of Experts. In order to determine “questions of State responsibility,” the LLRC report goes on to note that an “international tribunal” would be unhelpful because there just is not enough evidence about what actually happened during the final phase of the conflict.

Essentially, it would be nearly impossible to “re-create” what actually occurred in a court of law. The Commission found that it was just too challenging to give even an estimate of civilian casualties during the end of the war. The Commission also found it difficult to determine what happened regarding the shelling of hospitals. Although, it is clear to the Commission that Sri Lankan military personnel never intentionally went after civilians in the No Fire Zones (NFZs) either.

The report talks about remuneration for victims/survivors, especially civilians. Although, the responsible entity for doing so, the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA) is currently suffering from a lack of funds so it is uncertain how that will play out in the years to come. The Commission’s analysis of the current challenges facing Sri Lanka appears to be slightly more realistic than the rest of the report. Land issues, minority rights and the possibility that militarization in the North might be a bit too much are all mentioned. And yet “The Commission however recognizes the fact that considering the protracted nature of the conflict spanning a period of thirty years, resolving all such issues would naturally take time and require significant resources and financing.”

So, Sri Lankans and the international community must be patient, of course. Wait, wait, wait—there is always something to wait for in the pursuit of accountability in Sri Lanka. And of course the Commission has found that the most responsible way to approach accountability and the pursuit of national reconciliation would be to establish some additional “independent” bodies to help achieve this.

The Commission has even suggested that the Sri Lankan government conduct an investigation to ascertain the veracity of the Channel 4 documentary “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields.” Evidently, authentication by United Nations specialists is insufficient. While the video does contain certain inaccuracies, it still provides credible evidence that widespread violations of human rights and international law were committed by Sri Lankan military personnel. There is some fluffy prose about promoting a trilingual Sri Lanka and finding a political solution to address the long-term grievances of the Tamil people.

So, the question is not whether or not the LLRC is insufficient. (It is obviously a weak report, and, in some ways, undoubtedly weaker than what even the most pessimistic people were expecting). The question is whether people sitting in Western capitals (like the US, UK and Canada) who were demanding “accountability” are going say that this report is good enough.

Was the statement made by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, a genuine articulation of US policy? Does Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper really care about accountability in Sri Lanka? Many people were waiting for the publication of this report. Sri Lanka and the LLRC should be topics of enormous interest at the Human Rights Council’s 19th session in Geneva this March. It is unclear how events will unfold early next year in Washington, New York, Geneva, London, Ottawa and elsewhere in the coming months. What is clear is that if President Rajapaksa is able to get through the next two cycles of the Human Rights Council unscathed, accountability and the idea of an international mechanism will become afterthoughts.

Sri Lanka is currently struggling with numerous problems related to human rights, governance and national reconciliation, which the current regime shows no interest in resolving. Yet a balanced, accurate recounting of what actually transpired at the end of the war is vital. Human Rights Watch has already come out with a strong statement condemning the report and others will come soon. It is hard to imagine that a reasonable person (who has been following events in Sri Lanka closely) could buy “the story” that is the LLRC. But if other countries are placated by this biased, inaccurate and disappointing report loaded with lacunae, it will be incumbent upon Sri Lankan citizens and civil society leaders to demand more transparency and better governance from their politicians.

The publication of the LLRC report is one more sign that Rajapaksa’s regime thinks it can do whatever it wants and face no consequences for its actions. Unfortunately, the regime is probably right.

9 comments
10 comments
Mango

The overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans will have nothing to do with international investigations and the rest of drivel talked about in this article for a simple reason. After 30 years of bloodletting, the LTTE had to be defeated. Everything was proportional and predicated on that. It is not our of love for the Rajapakse family, rather to ensure that their soldiers and leaders will not be judged by a tainted and hypocritical West and its human rights lackey. For the bitter losers (i.e. the overseas dregs of the LTTE and their forlorn supporters) to keep going on about war crimes will produce only one outcome. There will be no international investigations by parties and countries who themselves have recently been involved in civilian deaths on a truly industrial scale. Gibson Bateman's real biases about Sri Lanka are displayed in his own words. "Tamil people already have been stripped of their dignity and they are now forced to live under de facto military occupation." Well, what sort of occupation were the Tamil people in North & Eastern Sri Lanka living under, during the LTTE / Eelam days? A paradise on earth to which the diaspora Tamils came flocking? No. Perhaps Mr Bateman can explain why Tamil civilian casualties were so low in Eelam War 4 -- especially in the Eastern sector -- until the LTTE, staring annihilation decided to use as shrapnel sponges, their 'own people', hoping and praying that this would precipitate an international intervention.

Seyon

The confrontations, aggression and violence came only from the Tamil racists, who exploited the issue to drag Jaffna deeper into mono-ethnic extremism. They succeeded in disguising their economic/class interests and promoting it as an act of discrimination against the Tamil-speaking communities. But history records that the language issue was driven aggressively only by the Tamil racists and not by the Tamil-speaking Indians, Muslims or the non-Vellahla Tamils of the east. The aggression and violence of the Tamil racists proved the Marxian thesis that the ruling class will not give up power without a struggle. And true to the barbaric character of the Tamils they declared war on the rest of the nation by passing the Vadukoddai Resolution in 1976 – the period when Tamil supremacy was in its last legs. They were the founders of the fascist culture in Jaffna. Despite the civilized veneer presented to the outside world the Tamils ran a fascistic regime reducing the depressed Tamils to slaves. Their cruel caste system has no other parallel in any other part of Sri Lanka. They virtually had a free run of the peninsula because the colonial rulers turned a blind eye to the subhuman Tamil culture of violence. Thesavalamai legitimized slavery and the Tamil slave-owners ruled the land with an iron fist, with the colonial administrators often refusing to interfere in the laws and customs of the ruling caste/class. Thesa (land) walamai (laws and customs) legitimized the land-owning Tamils as the slave-masters of Jaffna. From feudal and colonial times until May 18, 2009 when the Tamil cult of violence sank in Nandikadal, Jaffna was under the jackboot of, first, Vellahla fascism followed, second, by their equally brutal fascists in the LTTE. Both groups oppressed and subjugated their own people and denied their victims the fundamental right to live with even a modicum of dignity and self-respect. The LTTE took over from where the Vellahlas left and perpetuated the cult of fascist violence which reduced the Jaffna Tamils to subhumans.

Guest

Starvation of civilians for months and  prevention of badly needed  medical supplies, bombing of 'save zone' creating craters  are untouched by the LLRC obviouly they constitute war crimes. Unless the government is made to realise that only abmission of guilt will pave way for reconciliation. What the government does now is deploying large number of mono-ethnic army to impose fear and suppression as an alternative to reconciliation.

Guest

In the history of the world after UN, there were few Genocides - Germany against Jews, Rwanda against TUTSIS and now Srilanka against Tamils, WHY SRILANKA is EXCEPTION without even UN condemnation while others investigated and punished>??? Syria - just allegedly killed 5000 civilians - being condemned by the so called international community and the UN also urged International Criminal Court to investigate the Syria but not Srilanka where all evidence shows more than 40,000 People were slaughtered in just few days - this is a conservative figure as the actual number of dead was three times more than the UN figure of 40,000.

Guest

NO SRILANKAN SIN-HELLA FUNDAMENTALIST

STATE TERRORISM AGAINST MINORITIES NO NEED OF LTTE 

The Problem in the island is the Srilanksn SINHELLA RACIST state not the

SYMPTOM LTTE, Srilanka started ETHNIC CLEANSING of Tamils and Muslims as soon

as the British left the island in 1948, that is 30 years before the LTTE even

created by frustrated Tamils who did try all the democratic peaceful avenues to

get an amicable solution due to the ULTRA RACIST nature of srilankan racist

state, Now, Srilanka doing the same to the TNA - Majority Of Tamils voted for

them - in the 19 Months talks which achieved NOTHING as Srilanka cannot even

allow Tamils to have power over their LANDS nor to have Police for the North

and East while Srilanka continue to SETTLE SINHALA people and 100% SINHALA

Military families into the North and East where Tamils have been living even before

the Sinhalese came to the island as IMMIGRANTS

Raja Rajavannian

Sri Lanka's LLRC report is not worth the paper it is written on. Gibson's analysis summarises it very well. Human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the report. Now we have to wait for the reaction from the US, UK and the EU. UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has gone on record to say that if LLRC does not meet international standards all options are open to the UK government. We must remember what President Obama said in one of his campaign debates 'when genocide is happening somewhere in the world and we stand idly by; that diminishes us'. Unfortunately he stood idly by in the case of Sri Lanka. We must also remember that he was awarded a Nobel peace prize by those old intellectuals in Norway. The President said that it was awarded to him in anticipation of action. We will have to wait and see the reaction from the US government on the LLRC report. The UN report commissioned by His Excellency Ban Ki Moon said that more than 40,000 people died in Sri Lanka because of shelling by Sri Lankan armed forces. This man Rajapaksa is the Commander-in-Chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces and he is very likely to escape justice because of inaction by the international community. India, Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia are likely applaud and congratulate Rajapaksa for the LLRC report. We must remember that these countries helped Sri Lanka in the war that killed more than 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians. 60 million Tamils living in South India cannot be proud of their inaction that resulted in their government's support to Rajapaksa that killed their brothers and sisters.

TamilAmerican

A criminal investigating himself and punishing himself? Come on give us a break... The real fools are the US and other western governments who expected accountability to come from Sri Lanka itself.

Sal
Sal

Asking the Rajapaksas to conduct an honest investigation into the wrongdoings that occurred during the war, is like asking Saddam Hussein to conduct a similar assessment into the gassing of the Kurds. Why would anyone self incriminate them selves? The Western nations are trying to fool the Tamils and Rights organizations by continuing to legitimize the criminal enterprise of the Rajapaksas, led by none other than the clowns at the US State Dept. A state dept. official Robert Blake even when to the length of seeking the help of Rajapaksas to provide Sri Lanka's armed forces to the US war effort in Afghanistan, in exchange for enhanced military assistance. How could someone have the heart to seek such help from an already war weary nation? Only the greedy! The Pentagon possesses damning satellite evidence of the war and the US state. dept. continues to hide the evidence. The officials who participated  in providing military assistance to the Sri Lanka govt. that contributed to the mass atrocities must be held accountable. The Congress must demand an investigation into who shaped US policy that led to the terrible consequences.

  • via Youtube
    via Youtube

    The Political Failure of the War with ISIS

    05.30.15
  • RIA Novosti
    RIA Novosti

    Ukraine is Losing the Information War

    05.29.15
  • Gage Skidmore
    Gage Skidmore

    The GOP’s Foreign Policy Problem

  • via Facebook
    via Facebook

    Macedonia, the Melting Pot Boils Over

  • Reuters
    Reuters

    Obama’s ISIS Strategy Needs to Change

  • Raqqa Media Center
    Raqqa Media Center

    Erasing the Past: ISIS, Palmyra and Doomed History

  • Jonathan Snyder/USAF
    Jonathan Snyder/USAF

    U.S. Bombers to Australia: Washington’s Deployments in the Pacific

  • Reuters
    Reuters

    Curious Turnaround: The British Election 2015

  • New York Times
    New York Times

    Lies, Lies, and The Death of Bin Laden