Policy brief on agriculture

This is a policy brief which will be released on 7th of June to all policy makers (Cabinet Ministers)

Past Performance of agriculture sector and food security

In 1940 Sri Lanka imported 60% of the rice requirement to feed our people. At that stage we used traditional technologies and varieties of rice and there were no agrochemicals, for rice production. By using high yield varieties, new technologies and agro chemicals we became self-sufficient in rice over the years. Since 2010 Sri Lanka has been producing (rice) more than what is required. In 2015, (population – 20.7 million) we produced excess rice than what was required. The high yielding rice varieties bred by Sri Lankan scientists supported our food security over the years. Using traditional varieties we have been obtaining less than 1.5 tons per hectare (average 0.65 tons) whereas through new, high yielding varieties we are now obtaining 4.5 tons per hectare.

Maize production was commercialised through contract farming in early 2000 for animal feed production to the poultry sector. Currently eggs and meat are the main source of animal protein to the nation. Maize is now the second largest crop in the field crop sector.


However, achieving food security in the country was not without a cost.  It was achieved at the expense of environment and human health. Prevalence of CKDU diseases with the paddy farming community is a serious health issue. The direct cause of the disease has not been diagnosed yet. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link CKDU with a specific agrochemical. Inappropriate agricultural practices and misuse of agro chemicals in farming are issues that need to be addressed.

Therefore, any national agriculture policy must have to look for four vital components, food security, farmer income, health of all living beings and environmental sustainability.


Challenges in addressing food security of the growing population

Sri Lankan population is increasing and food production will have to be increased in order to feed the nation. According to predictions of Department of Agriculture, we need additional quantity of 0.76 million tons of rice to feed our people in 2020.

However the availability and access to land and water is limited. If the country continues to achieve the food security by being self sufficient to meet the food needs of the growing population, the only option available to the policy makers is to increase the productivity of paddy and OFC as there is limited possibility to expand the area under these crops.

In the workshop following two important areas were highlighted in addressing the growing food needs of the country.

Climate Change

Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges the country has to face in future and if we do not take prudent action it will affect our agriculture and food security. In Sri Lanka, there is a continuous increase in average temperature over the years. The drought and flood incidents have increased; we are experiencing a high rate of landslides more than what we experienced in the 20th century. In 2016 both the monsoon rains failed seriously affecting the availability of rice to meet the consumptive requirements of 2017.  Only two third of extent that the country planned to cultivate in Maha 2016/ 2017 have been cultivated and the total production was significantly lower than what was experienced over the past decade.

In order to face this erratic weather behaviour, the department of agriculture should be equipped with knowledge and practices such as cultivation of short duration varieties.


Not having a cohesive policy and not underscoring the real issues

The government new policy of toxin free nation and organic agriculture with traditional varieties has taken a drastic turning of the overall food security policy. With this new policy 30% of paddy area with improved rice varieties is to be replaced with low yielding traditional varieties with no fertiliser and no agro chemicals. Also under this policy the weedicide Glyphosate was banned overnight. These policies will have serious repercussions on the agriculture sector in the short run as well as in the long run. Proven technologies, adopted over the years, should not have been changed without proper scientific reasoning. Policy changes must be carried out by consulting experts and scientists who are knowledgeable on the subject.

Yet, Department of Agriculture, the main government body responsible to recommend and release the new agriculture technology and agricultural practices to the farmers has not been involved in this policy making process. Abrupt discontinuation of agrochemicals without proven alternatives will have some negative impact on local agriculture. Maize farmer’s costs have risen due to high labour cost involved in manual weed control. Tea and other plantation crop sectors have also been affected due to not having a chemical weed control method. Due to shortage of labour, weed control is a real issue in the plantation sector.

Direct consequences of this new policy to the agriculture sector are observed in some sector. Although the country has very optimistic vision for the organic agriculture sector, it is less adopted at farmer’s level.  The actual cultivated extent of Organically-grown rice in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, Maha season is only 0.08% of the total cultivated extent of rice in Sri Lanka.     Therefore, overall paddy production has been marginally affected.

Not highlighting the real issues in farming sector and misinformation that is fed to policy makers, derailment of agriculture is imminent.

  • Misuse of pesticides – The key issue with regard to pesticides is mishandling and overuse. The farmers must be trained thoroughly in judicious pesticide use.
  • Overuse of Fertilisers
  • Organic farming – No food or agricultural system is toxins free. Whether it be organic or inorganic. The need is to minimize toxins through appropriate interventions.
  • Collapsed extension system in the country –  Over the last 30 years or so our extension services has deteriorated very badly. There are loads of field workers but with poor knowledge and output. So the farmers learn about pesticides and pest control from the pesticide vendors in the village!

Therefore, the country’s effort to achieve food security, increase farmer income, health of all living beings and environmental sustainability, the knowledge of the scientific community is very vital. Government enacted institutions should receive the due consideration in the process of policy making.


Clearing truth from untruth in agriculture

Taken from a lecture by Professor Buddhi Marambe

There is a ban imposed on several pesticides including all total   killer herbicides in Sri Lanka. After the ban of these time tested techniques, now there is a cry for cost-effective, alternative methods for weed control.  We missed the important problem again.  The real issue is the misuse of pesticides. Unfortunately we went and adopted a policy, imposing a ban on total killer weedicides with no proper scientific proof, kicking out a time-tested technology, dramatically affecting the Sri Lanka’s agriculture system. As we learned this outcome was based on unscientific explanations given by those who are not in the profession. The problem that we have always faced is to clear truth from non-truth, and to draw a clear line at least from now on wards in policy making towards the betterment of the agriculture sector in Sri Lanka.

Future of Agriculture and Food Security in Sri Lanka-

Taken from Professor Buddhi Marambe’s Presentation at the Marga Institute/ Gamani Corea Foundation Seminar on the future of Agriculture in Sri Lanka and Food Security

AgriculturePolicy change and climate change are both unpredictable in Sri Lanka. Both are human-induced and both have had and will have detrimental impacts on agriculture in Sri Lanka. World population is estimated at 9.5 billion (2050) and about 90 % of the population growth will be observed in developing countries. Approximately 50% increase in food production is required by 2030 to feed the world population and 80-100% increase in food production is required by 2050 to feed the world population. But only about additional 10% of current arable, non-protected land will be available (445 Mha)(Lambin, 2011). Water availability and access are key constraints to poverty reduction and food security.

In 1940’s the population of Sri Lanka was 6 million people, 60 % of rice requirement was imported and traditional varieties were used then and there were no agrochemicals. Life expectancy was just 46 years, then. In 2015, population was 20.7 million people and there were excess rice production with the use of high yielding varieties and use of new technologies and agrochemicals. Today life expectancy is 76 years.  We are ranked 65th in 113 countries and we are ahead of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

However this story may not have a happy ending. Climate change is real. We have experienced slow & continuous rise of ambient temperature (0.01 – 0.03 °C per year), frequent occurrence of extreme weather events, droughts & floods have increased, occurrence of high intensity rains, land slides, tornado type winds, intense lightning strikes, total number of dry days, warm days  have all increased whereas number of cold nights/comfort nights have decreased. Climate of the country has undergone a drastic change where there is no rains when it is needed (drought) and there more rains when it is not needed (floods). In 1916 we experienced the worst drought in 40 years. Heavy rains in early 2017 affected our vegetable cultivation. We need an additional quantity of 0.76 million tons of rice in 2020.

So where do we go from here? We need to take into account climate change concerns in development planning in the   agriculture sector (e.g. NAP). We need to go for:  Climate-resilient varietal development (planting material), high quality planting material (e.g. seeds), crop-animal Integrated (climate-resilient) farming systems. We also need to maintain self-sufficiency in the main staple food which is Rice (Make use of both traditional as well as modern technologies), with buffer stocks + planned release. We need to cultivate abandoned paddy landwhich has no other land use. Crop diversification based on agro-ecology is vital and we need to further improve land productivity through judicious input use (e.g. organic matter + chemical fertilizer, crop   protection).

We also need to :-

  • Prioritize investments on agriculture – local/export markets
  • Enter into carefully designed public–private development partnerships (e.g. seeds, improved technology, product trace-ability)
  • Strengthen entrepreneurial capacities (e.g. Young Farmer Forum; Farmer Cooperatives)
  • Increase value added production (e.g. rice varieties for biscuit production – At 306, 308, 309)
  • Have better coordination in production and market mechanisms (e.g. price control??)
  • Increase private and public investments in R&D
  • Tap the expert knowledge (science-based) in decision   making: NOT non-expert or divine advice

And we all lived happily ever after





Three out of Five state that Private Universities should be allowed in Sri Lanka

Darn the road is blocked by protesters again! Students are on the road screaming their guts out and demanding that Private Universities should not be allowed in Sri Lanka. Are these students protesting because of political motivation? or is peer pressure? There is no rational discussion or debate in the media backed with data and empirical evidence . Hard questions with regard to who actually enter Public Universities through state funds, what is their contribution to society, what is the actual payback in economic terms are not addressed. And we at Marga wondered “what is the public view on this?” So we picked the Annual International Book Fair (In 2016) which is held at the B.M.I.C.H during the month of September and interviewed a random sample of  600 persons and carried out an opinion survey on higher education. The annual Book Fair draws a large crowd of students and parents for are interested in one thing – BOOKS …in other words Education. A moderate estimate of the total number of visitors is around one million. Now that is a good group to get an opinion from, and through individual interviews we are bound to get an honest and spontaneous response.

The findings are quite interesting. Predictably almost 100% of the respondents are of the view that free education is good for the country. Reasons quoted are equal opportunity for all, it helps those who have economic problems and it brings about an educated public. Just over 3 out 5 who were interviewed stated that private universities should be allowed in Sri Lanka. Majority of the respondents who have not been to the University or not yet entered University and those who have left the University are of the opinion that private universities should be allowed.  However in the case of undergraduates the opinion about whether or not Private Universities should be allowed is fairly divided. So no prizes for guessing who is blocking the road.

Over 50% recognized the need to cater to students who cannot get into public universities through private universities. The main contention about Private Universities was about qualsri-lanka-university-students-protesting-against-privationsity issues. The disagreement about whether or not Private universities should be allowed is chiefly among undergraduates and it is fairly divided. Seven out of 10 sample members is of the view that the few who enter university make the best use of the opportunity they get through free higher education. Seven out of 10 also stated that there should be changes made to the University system. 100% of the Undergraduates who were interviewed were of the opinion that university system should be changed. Some of the key changes that were suggested were the introduction of courses that match the job market.


Bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka- public view

The Marga Institute conducted a public opinion survey on bribery and corruption in early 2015.This was one of the first public opinion surveys that Marga conducted after a considerable period of time. Some of the key findings are listed below.

—Out of a list of five issues , bribery and corruption was seen by respondents as number 2 issue that needed to be addressed /solved after “cost of living” which was rated as # 1 priority.

—Politicians, schools, police and former government  were associated  (without being prompted) with bribery and corruption  by the sample. Unprompted association of incidents of bribery and corruption were:

—Alleged acts of bribery and corruption of Former Executive President, —Avant Garde incident, —School Principals asking for bribes to enlist children at their schools, —Corruption at Customs Office and —Devinaguma Programme. —People generally believe what they have heard about corruption

——3 out of 5 persons of the sample stated that bribery and corruption had increased during the previous 5 years (Before 2015)

—Police, Customs, Ministries, Schools and Government Department (In that order ) were identified by the sample who was interviewed, as places of high occurrence of bribery and corruption.

—Main source of corruption  seem to be pointed at Political sector; the  Public sector & Education sector were ranked high in terms of  bribery and corruption.

—Almost 3 out 5 are not aware of existing laws that prevent or prosecute acts of bribery and corruption.

—Awareness of the “Right to information Act” and “Declaration of assets and liabilities Law” was low. Out of those who were aware felt that enforcement of these laws would reduce corruption

—However majority believes that if laws are enforced strictly it would help reduce bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka.

—They also stated that a campaign against bribery and corruption should be launched and school children should be taught ethics and morals in school.

—People may still give bribes to get their work done and and in fact —1 out of 3 may give a bribe to get their work done in the future. —It appears that bribes are given out of convenience (“we cannot get our work done”) and some do not view it as a bribe but as a tip (As long as it is not demanded)

So we have a culture of bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka?

Some points to consider

—Is there a culture of bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka? How does the general public actually view bribery and corruption (Can we bring in shame factor as a constraint?). —How can we take forward the “ethical code of conduct for parliamentarians” which was part of President Maithripala Sirisena’s election manifesto? (Especially conflict of interest). How can we make Political Parties more accountable? —Can we broaden the scope of declaration of assets and liabilities law? (amend the secrecy clauses regarding the prevention of public dissemination of information that is obtained). Do people condone bribery and corruption as a something inevitable that takes place in the context of development projects? Have development projects brought about s greater opportunity for politicians to engage in corrupt practices?

Samarthan’s Campaign to Make Real the Right to Work (India)

In 2005 the government of India passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The Act said that every rural household was entitled to 100 days per year of unskilled employment on public works projects.
India’s economy has grown at an average annual rate above 7 percent over the last decade. But the country still has more poor people than any other country. Rural households are the worst off. The NREGA was a bold step to address the widespread poverty.
The NREGA says that each of India’s local councils, the gram panchayats, must make a list of needed public works projects such as digging wells, contouring land, horticulture, toilet construction, and road construction. Village officials must also work with officials at higher levels to prepare a labor budget for the year. Any rural resident adult who submits a simple application form to the local official must then be given work within 15 days. If no work is given, the person must instead be given an unemployment allowance.


One problem with the scheme was that many eligible people were not aware of it. Also, many poor families did not have the “job card” that they need to participate. For those who apply, there could be bureaucratic problems. The panchayat secretaries did not always give a written receipt for the job application. The panchayat officials also sometimes chose to use machinery rather than human labor. The village secretaries sometimes delay giving approval for labor and materials. Local officials sometimes work with bank and higher-level officials to allocate money to “ghost” workers, so that they get the money instead. There were also delays in payment. Payments were made into bank accounts, and sometimes there were no branches of the bank nearby. When poor people travelled to the bank to get their money, bank officials often say that they are too busy to help them. All these problems encouraged poor people to migrate in search of work rather than to participate in the program near their rural homes

About Samarthan

Samarthan is a non-governmental organization that was established in 1994 to support the development of civil society groups in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It focuses on the poor and disadvantaged sections of the society. The government of India chose Madhya Pradesh to launch NREGA in 2006. Samarthan has therefore been involved in monitoring the program since its earliest days.
Samarthan began by organizing social audits of the program in several districts. The social audits involved village gatherings where government records from the program were read out for everyone to hear, including the names of those who were recorded as working on the program.
Samarthan also developed a system for tracking the paperwork and payments made. For example, it looked at the certificates issued by officials who verify the completion of public works projects. It looked at the village-level records of the number of persons given work, wages paid, delays in payment, and unemployment allowance. Together with the social audits, this analysis revealed the pattern of abuses.
To address lack of awareness of the program, Samarthan organized village youth to distribute the application forms for NREGA. The application forms were also made available in the village grocery shops. Samarthan told people that they must ensure that they get a dated receipt for their application so that they could get the unemployment allowance if they were not given work.

Challenges faced by Samarthan

Unfortunately, some of the secretaries threatened the workers who asked for a dated receipt, saying that those who insisted on a receipt would only get work after 15 days, whilst those who did not would be called to work within two to three days. However, other officials appreciated Samarthan’s work. One district-level official had a copy of Samarthan’s pamphlet sent to all residents in the district living below the poverty line.
Samarthan discovered in its work that village-level leaders did not have the capacity to plan the necessary works projects or to budget for the work because they had not been properly trained by the government. Samarthan therefore assisted in building the skills of these officials. This assistance increased the effectiveness of the program and also helped to reduce the officials’ opposition to Samarthan’s activities.
In addition to the other activities, Samarthan provided the local press with evidence-based news stories. It organized a workshop of civil society organizations and the press to raise journalists’ awareness of development issues, including NREGA. This press coverage angered some government officials. When this anger was worst, Samarthan staff feared to work in some villages where the worst problems had been reported.

Lessons Learnt

Simple steps can be taken to correct a situation as in this case
Audit (gathering and making available information to the villages- reading out the names in the list so that people in the community know who is left out of the scheme.
Do the work ourselves to improve the process rather than just criticize it. (Distribution of application forms)
Resistance is bound to come because every single Official is not honest but struggle must continue.
Samarthan should have also established links and maintained a strong relationship with Government Authorities to ensure that they support what Samarthan is engaged in (Government / local authorities must see and be convinced that the movement is working for common interests)
Press articles and stories should have been published only in the instant that there was failure to take necessary action on the part of the officials.
There also must be a process to bring to book any offending public official. This is the weakness of Samarthan’s campaign. They did not establish links with the higher authorities who would have intervened when there was intimidation or non cooperation.

The Role of Civil Society in Kosovo and Liberia

•Role of CSO in Kosovo and Liberia

In both Kosovo and Liberia, CSOs took an active role in protecting individuals and defending human rights, especially during the armed conflicts. In Kosovo, for example, prominent institutions such as the non-governmental Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms worked extensively in highlighting instances where citizens were targeted and abused by the Serbian regime and collaborated with key international institutions such as the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in collecting evidence on human rights abuses and crimes against humanity (Kosovar Civil Society Foundation ). In addition, CSOs played an important role in documenting massacres in Drenica, which saw the mass executions of Albanians by Serbian Special Forces, and brought these atrocities to the attention of like-minded organizations in other countries to generate mobilization and solidarity and calls for change.

In Liberia, the Liberian Women Initiative (LWI) played an active role in highlighting the difficulties faced particularly by women and children, the abuse of women and the use of children as child soldiers during the war. Other Liberian organizations focusing on human rights issues, such as the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) and the Centre for Law and Human Rights Education (CLHRE), carried out extensive work in identifying and chronicling the massive abuses meted out to citizens by the belligerents.

Following Taylor’s election as Liberia’s president in 1997, most groups working on human rights made attempts to take advantage of the democratic space that seemed to have opened up with the overthrow of the autocratic Doe regime, but soon found themselves at loggerheads with the government . Despite growing restrictions under Taylor’s reign, civil society groups working on human rights were instrumental in educating citizens about human rights and providing much needed assistance to those who suffered from abuse during the conflict

During the period, however, a majority of the NGOs in Kosovo were established along ethnic lines and in most cases limited services to the spheres in which they operated. In general civil society created a parallel system of service provision, with many civil society activities biased towards ethnic Albanian sections of the population.

Civil Society in Liberia

In Liberia, prior to the armed conflict, participation in civic activities in communities was exceptionally low. However, civic participation blossomed during the conflict with the creation of the NGO Special Emergency Life Food Programme (SELF), which developed activities that encouraged citizens to participate in electing leaders for their communities. SELF was instrumental in channeling much needed aid to those affected by the conflict. As a result of the breakdown in social and economic infrastructures for the most part and the absence of a viable government during the conflict, civil society took on the normal role of the state in providing services to communities. According to the CSI Analytical Country Report for Liberia (AGENDA 2010: 30), during the conflict ‘local CSOs were managing entire displaced populations of over 100,000 people and were responsible for distributing food and providing schooling and other vital functions’, putting in place structures to achieve these objectives which are still in place in the post-conflict period.

Civil Society in peace building

Where the two cases differ significantly in terms of the roles played by civil society is in the involvement of civil society in the resolution of conflict. In Kosovo, once the non-violent civil society efforts to prevent armed conflict were overtaken by violent factions, CSOs do not seem to have played any significant role in moving toward peace – except to the extent that they sought to defend human rights. Furthermore, it does not appear that Kosovo’s civil society was allowed a place at the table or consulted by the belligerent parties or the NATO/UN peacekeeping and administrative bodies.

In Liberia, by contrast, civil society was a leading force in promoting the peace process. Indeed, one could say that the outbreak of conflict in a way opened up new spaces for civil society to evolve. For example, at the outset of efforts aimed at finding a lasting solution to the conflict, the Interfaith Mediation Committee (IFMC), a combination of the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) and the National Muslim Council of Liberia (NMCL), led attempts to bring the various warring factions together, took the lead in discussions by local, national and regional actors aimed at finding lasting solutions to end the conflict, and provided the guiding framework for some of the peace negotiations. The religious community, under the tutelage of the LCC and the NMCL, had to realign their responsibilities to encompass the provision of assistance and ensure that citizens in their respective areas were safe . The IFMC played a central role in serving as the contact point between the different parties involved in the conflict. Even though the first peace talks faltered because of disagreements between the different factions and the crisis persisted, the key proposals put forward by the IFMC were used as a blueprint by ECOWAS in its subsequent peace negotiations.

The proposals put on the negotiating table by CSOs were preceded and supported by a series of community-led demonstrations held in rural areas with demonstrators calling on factions to end the war, start the process of disarming fighters and hold elections. These demonstrations later coalesced into a movement known as the Civic Disarmament Campaign which persistently called for an end to the fighting and disarming of combatants and for citizens to be involved in governance processes in the country (AGENDA 2010: 15). The IFMC also contributed to conflict resolution by pushing for the disarmament of tens of thousands of combatants and organizing boycotts to protest against what it considered shortcomings with some peace agreements, especially those with provisions which allowed for members of some rebel factions to join the government .

Other organizations contributed to the peace process in diverse ways at different points in the Liberian conflict. For example, the above-mentioned Liberian Women Initiative (LWI) ensured that female representatives participated at the Accra Clarification Conference, a key peace negotiating forum held in 1994, in spite of initial resistance to the presence of women by warring factions who assumed that women were not directly involved in the conflict. By insisting that women were represented at the conference, the LWI encouraged a degree of consciousness among the belligerents that the aspirations of all parties should be considered and not just those of the warring factions .

The NATO intervention that ended the armed conflict in 1999 was considered to be a turning point for the development of civil society in Kosovo (KCSF 2011: 20). The immediate priority in the post-conflict era in Kosovo was the resettlement and provision of services to approximately 880,000 returning refugees and the rebuilding of economic and social infrastructure destroyed by the war. The post-conflict situation also brought structural challenges because, in addition to the returning Albanian refugees who needed assistance, Serbs who stayed in the province became victims of revenge attacks from sections of the Albanian population. The huge humanitarian and infrastructural needs and the necessity for reconciliation saw a rise in the number of both local and international NGOs to meet these needs.

The increase in the number of local NGOs in particular was made possible with assistance from international donors. Often NGOs were established in response to funding incentives available, with the result that their objectives and activities did not necessarily tally with the needs of local communities. This meant that many initiatives were short-lived. More important still, some donors when providing aid sought to avoid the parallel civil society structures that had existed in the 1990s during the period of repression from the Serbs because they felt that these structures had strong ethnic foundations and some were perceived to have connections with the KLA.

Civil Society and reconstruction of Kosovo

In any case MTS continued to provide services to communities, and the Centre for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedom assisted those in need and provided counselling to some suffering from the effects of war (AGENDA 2010). Furthermore, the international NGOs especially made use of the Kosovo Enforcement Force (KFOR) to deliver aid in communities that needed assistance the most.

The CSI Analytical Country Report for Kosovo tells us that although Kosovo’s civil society is experiencing many positive developments, huge challenges remain (KCSF 2011). Many parts of civil society continue to depend on international funding for their existence. As new sources of funds emerge, especially from the European Union, the divide grows between large CSOs that have the capacity to handle large grants and smaller CSOs. Connections with local constituencies remain weak, contributing to a continuing low level of public understanding of civil society. Nevertheless, especially with Kosovo’s 97newly declared independence, CSOs are moving into new areas, e.g. concerning the rule of law and ‘watchdog’ activities, that portend a promising future.

Civil Society and work for democracy in Liberia

The period following the end of the conflict in Liberia has been called the ‘golden era’ in the history of its civil society development (AGENDA 2010: 15). Its beginning was marked by the inclusion of representatives of civil society in the transitional government, as called for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – a major outcome of the Accra peace process – which prepared the country for elections held in 2005. The inclusion of representatives from civil society in the transitional government meant that civil society representatives (though fewer in number than those from the government and political parties) played a role in the formulation and implementation of policy. This meant that civil society was recognized as a viable player, which enhanced the space for civil society to tussle for positions with political formations.

During the transition period, CSOs continued to provide some services to communities which were beyond the reach of government. In addition, prior to the long anticipated post-conflict elections in 2005, civil society urged the different parties to exercise restraint after campaign pictures of members of several parties were vandalized, and the New African Research and Development Agency (NARDA) worked to ensure that approximately 12,000 people were registered and therefore made eligible to exercise their democratic rights in several regions in Liberia
Lessons learnt
•Collecting evidence, gathering of information is a vital part of Civil Society activity for effective action and advocacy .
•Information gathered must be made available to like minded individuals, organizations and interest groups world wide.
•Educating citizens about human rights facilitates people coming forward for help and makes it easier to provide  assistance to those who suffered from abuse during  a conflict situation.
•CSO’s must step in to take on the responsibility of providing basic services to the population.  Aid to affected groups came to CSO’s and NGO’s and structures were also established for relief work which were used even after the conflict.
•However when providing such services biasness towards a specific ethnic or people’s group must be avoided.
•Civil Society can take on an active role in peace building as in the case of Liberia.
•If connections with local constituencies are weak, it will contribute to a continuing low level of public understanding of civil society.

Presentation of Professor Rajiva Wijeysinghe at the Colloquium on the Publication “Issues of Truth and Accountability- 3rd Narration (The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka)

Let me start with a paradox. This is an extremely impressive book, but I find it woefully depressing. It has been put together, according to the introduction, by three patriots who are also strong adherents of pluralism and the rule of law. Godfrey Gunatilleka is, as Dayan Jayatilleka once described him, arguably the best intellect in public life, Asoka Gunawardena is the most balanced and practical of administrators, and Jeevan Thiagarajah combines unparalleled energy in the service of his country with wide ranging knowledge of what happened in various spheres during the conflict.

Why then am I depressed? There are several reasons for this. The first is very simply that it comes far too late. Second, it requires fleshing out through details which are only available with government. Third, it leaves unstated the need for immediate action by government in the spheres in which it is unable to refute allegations made against the country. Fourth – and I cannot believe that the main writers were responsible for this, given the very different perspective Godfrey put forward in the television interview – it seems to swallow wholesale the allegations against the UN leadership in Sri Lanka made by the Petrie Report. Finally, it leaves out one group of significant actors, namely those who have contributed heavily to the Darusman Report, if we are to believe Wikileaks: I mean the NGO representatives who produced evidence against Sri Lanka.

For these reasons, the fourth and fifth sections of this book are weak. The first two sections are very strong, and provide an object lesson to the Sri Lankan government as to how it should have dealt with the allegations in the first place. The third section is well argued, but its main point is weakened by the failure to affirm forcefully the need for a credible internal inquiry with regard to the treatment of surrendees. In this regard the book is less balanced than the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report, which is surprising since its rationale is that of a middle way between that and Darusman.

With regard to the first three worries I have, the first could be compensated for by prompt action now on the part of government. But given the hamfisted way in which government dealt with the Darusman Report in the first place, I do not think anything more will be done. It seems incredible now that the government responded to allegations against it by producing a narrative that did not address those allegations. But, pace the book’s erroneous claim that the Ministry of Defence’s account of the humanitarian operation preceded the Darusman Report, the fact is that, in its ostrich like view that hiding one’s head in the sand would get rid of threats, the Ministry produced a document that might have been useful had it been produced in 2009, but which meant nothing after Darusman.

At the risk of making myself even more unpopular with government, which cannot bear other people having been correct, I told the Secretary of Defence, when I was called in to help with editing of that account, that it did not answer the allegations. His answer was that that was not the purpose of the narrative he was preparing. When I pointed out that the allegations needed to be answered, he said that he had allocated that task to the Chief of General Staff, who was however given neither resources nor encouragement to proceed. My own view is that this unintelligent approach has done more damage to our forces than anything else, given how easy a defence would have been of the bulk of the charges made against the forces. At the very least, citation of claims made during the conflict would have made clear the absurdity of charges made afterwards.

But as it was, the only detailed defence was what I produced, which government ignored completely, except for the Governor of the Central Bank, who bought several of the books I produced. Whether they were distributed or not I do not know, but given the emulation of the Ministry of Defence, which seems to be the chief function now of the Ministry of External Affairs, I do not think it would have reached the audience that should have been targeted. So too another good defence that came out last year, ‘The Numbers Game’ by a thoughtful Sri Lankan expatriate, has also sunk without trace, as did the documentary by Daniel Ridicki, ‘Common Differences’, despite the President ordering that it be shown in Geneva. So I have little doubt that this book too will be buried as soon as possible by the powers that be – by which I do not mean the President, who has more sense, but seems to have abdicated the defence of the country to his two brothers, neither of whom has instincts nor intellect to match his.

So, where this book succinctly makes clear that, contrary to the claims of the Darusman Report, government provided supplies in accordance with requirements agreed with the UN to the people held by the LTTE, the Minister of Economic Development presided over the production of a book which was filled so full of unnecessary detail that it was unreadable. I was asked to assist at the beginning, and we produced a report that covered the basics, but then it was taken away and everyone put in their account of what a good job each of them had done, and it turned into a vast tome. What is now needed is a direct answer to Darusman, using the excellent basis this book has provided, but that will not be produced.

The second area in which government needs to act is that of a credible internal inquiry. Now that the ice has been broken, as it were, ice in this case being the intransigence of the Secretary of Defence, by the expansion of the mandate of the Disappearances Commission, and the appointment of internationally respected advisers, it should be a short step to dividing the job up to produce swift and useful results. The business of the Disappearances Commission should be Restorative Justice, as recommended by the LLRC. But there is also a need for thorough investigation of possible crimes by individuals, and government must follow the recommendations of the LLRC in this regard, where it diagnosed a prima facie case. Of course there may be mitigating circumstances, but assuming those without investigation is as bad as what seemed blanket denials originally.

I have no doubt, given the generally compassionate way the forces fought, for which there is much evidence that this book cites, we will find no question of a genocidal or even callous policy. But this, for which I believe the Secretary of Defence deserves much credit, needs confirmation, which requires establishing that the few cases of aberrations that occurred were the result of individual passions, not general policy. If the Secretary of Defence is not made to realize this, he will bring upon the forces a greater disaster than they deserve, after fighting a hard war in comparatively exemplary fashion. The book makes clear the difficult circumstances in which battles were fought, and establishes conclusively the responsibility of the LTTE for the collateral damage that did occur. But unless the few cases of extra-judicial killing that are alleged – not of civilians, it should be noted, but of suspected if not proven terrorists – then the care to avoid civilian casualties that the forces evinced will remain in doubt.

So much for what government needs to do. But there is also more that government should do to make clear where responsibility lies for the tragedy that occurred. The book makes clear the culpability of the LTTE. It is also harsh on the UN, whereas I believe more thorough analysis, based on facts that Jeevan is aware of, and which I have recorded in many instances, would make clear who the real villains are in the international community.

It is not the Americans, which is what the fourth section of the book suggests. That indeed makes clear how confused the Americans were, and I think what seems the schizophrenia of Robert Blake can be understood when one realizes that, as he himself put it to an interlocutor who asked why his line seemed to have hardened, he was in 2009 serving a different administration. That explains the different emphases of the different Americans cited in the book, and it is a pity that we allowed extremists to treat all Americans as hostile when there were several less devious types, even under the Obama administration with its strange morality that we now find productive of even more tragic outcomes in the Middle East than the blunderbuss of George Bush.

Where blame should lie becomes clear when we consider the first error in the book, namely its claim that ‘during the Eastern Operation, there were no complaints that the military caused harm or killed civilians’. On the contrary, in August 2007 Human Rights Watch released with much fanfire a report in which it claimed that our forces had engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

I read through the Report and confronted HRW with the fact that there was only one instance cited in the whole Report about civilian deaths. There was much blustering then on the part of Brad Adams, but he could not deny that the publicity HRW had engaged in was belied by the Report. That one instance, which the forces did not deny, was the result of mortar locating radar. But though HRW granted that the LTTE had indeed taken weaponry into a refugee centre, they claimed that these were not heavy weapons.

This was casuistry of the highest order. But worse, it also indicated to the LTTE that they could get away with murder. If they fired from amidst civilians, they could either do so with impunity or else they could claim that the Sri Lankan army was deliberately targeting civilians. Thus it was the gullibility, or the wickedness, of HRW that encouraged the LTTE to employ the strategy that led to so many civilian deaths. And the book does not cite the most telling evidence for this, namely the plea of the Bishop of Jaffna to the LTTE, when the First No Fire Zone was declared, not to take weapons into the Zone.

This is the type of information the government of Sri Lanka should have deployed when allegations were first made. But given the lack of institutional memory, given that the person they sent to the site when the Darusman Report came out was a hawk who probably thought the army had used insufficient force, given the incapacity of most of those in government after the war to use English effectively, the allegations have through default turned into gospel truth as far as world opinion is concerned. This is a very far cry from the effectiveness of our defences in 2009, but since the Secretary of Defence, under Israeli pressure, got rid of our best spokesman, and since then relied on a man who, as the President put it, kept chasing after women, it is not surprising that our forces are being sacrificed on the altar of defiant incompetence.

A more sensible strategy would also have pieced together the evidence for collusion by some elements in the international community – not the Americans, I hasten to add, who were on the straight and narrow in 2008 as far as terrorism was concerned – with the LTTE. This book does not mention culpability with regard to the barriers the LTTE constructed, and I have seen no mention of this by government in recent years, but back in 2008 the manner in which Solidar allowed heavy vehicles to be used by the LTTE and did not report this to government was outrageous, and contributed to the deep suspicions that developed with regard to the international community, a factor the book registers. Unfortunately the EU, despite being misled by Solidar – they claimed at the CCHA that there were no internationals in Vavuniya, which was simply not true – granted them impunity for this aberration. And I fear the stupid Sri Lankans who talked about the event blamed the Norwegians, because it was the Norwegian component of Solidar that was in place in Kilinochchi. The truth however was that it was a shady group of Britishers who were responsible, and the head of Solidar was Guy Rhodes, whose connections should have been investigated more carefully – especially after the Wikileaks revelation that much evidence against Sri Lanka was provided by him subsequently.

Interestingly, Rhodes was part of the UN Security Committee which seems to have been busy collecting evidence against the country from early days. The Darusman Report revealed that the UN had networks of observers in LTTE controlled territory, but this was not known by government, and the Ministry of External Affairs failed to clarify who these were, and to whom they answered, after the Report came out. Indeed the failure of the Ministry to ask the questions I suggested to them, and to allow so much criticism to go by default, whilst also not pre-empting the Petrie Report by working together with the UN officials who did their best according to UN norms, is grossly culpable.

So too there has been no attempt to establish the manner in which the UN decided to leave Kilinochchi as a whole in September 2008. The book, in its strange chapter on the UN, swallows wholesale the assertions of the Petrie Report, which it cites endlessly. It never once references the narrative I prepared while at the Peace Secretariat as to what really happened, even though it mentions it to indicate that there was a very different version of what happened.

The fact is that, given that they were not doing much good, other agencies were asked to leave, but government specifically exempted the ICRC and WFP and UNHCR. The first of these stayed on, giving the lie to the claims made subsequently that we wanted a war without witnesses. It was the UN that chose to withdraw everyone, and this decision by the UN Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne, was based on misinformation, for he was told that government had only allowed WFP to stay. He subsequently told me that, had he known it was the UNHCR also, he might have decided differently.

We will not be able to find out now who fed him wrong information, which I believe was part of a plan to dragoon the UN out because the NGOs had been asked to leave. And what is astonishing is that those NGOs made no fuss about the fact that their local employees were not permitted to leave. Nor did the UN demand that their own local employees leave. Instead they engaged in a covert operation to get them out, which is one reason why Convoy XI as a whole, and then a couple of its members, stayed on for so long, and in effect destroyed the system that had been in place to deliver supplies.

I remember asking the NGOs why they did not speak out about the fact that their employees wanted to leave, and were being kept forcibly. Some I think wanted to do this, but like sheep they went along with the dominant characters who included Guy Rhodes. The claim was that they did not want to jeopardize their safety, but this was clearly nonsense, since obviously the LTTE was not going to harm them as a result of such claims. Rather, it was because they wanted to perpetuate the myth that people stayed on willingly, whereas open assertions that people were being kept forcibly would have given the lie to this.

There was one area in which the NGOs as a whole resisted another insidious ploy of Guy Rhodes. Government had made it clear that they could continue to work in the area, through the administration we still had in place, led by Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries, but Guy claimed that this would not be proper because their donors had conditions that could be met only if international staff were in place. He backed down however when I asked how there could be conditions in agreements between NGOs and the Sri Lankan government which the government was not aware of, and the others agreed to continue with their work. Whether this was ultimately beneficial however is not certain, given the sleight of hand that followed with regard to the equipment that these NGOs left behind. Jeevan is aware of the details, and of how much of this fell into the hands of the LTTE, but I suppose this book is not the place for an account of this. But it should be written down elsewhere.

One other example of sleight of hand should be investigated, but the Ministry of External Affairs has ignored this matter despite my drawing attention to this. I refer to the identity of the two individuals left behind by the UN when Convoy X! finally left the Wanni. For several days the LTTE played with them, pretending that they would allow the local UN employees to leave, which meant the Sri Lankan forces were requested day after day for CeaseFires, which doubtless the LTTE used to redeploy its own forces. Finally, realizing what was happening, the Bangladeshi Colonel in charge decided to head back and he brought with him a convoy of patients which the ICRC had organized.

With him was a Sri Lankan employee from the Colombo office, but there was no trace of Peter McKie, just as there is no trace of when and how McKie had gone into the Wanni. Government has not tried to find out what he did while he was there, but relatively recently it has been revealed that he was perhaps the principal source of information later used against us. I am sorry that no one else in government is indignant about this, that the UN should have been engaged in covert operations when it is supposed to work with governments which are the owners of the UN, rather than a few countries with agendas of their own and much money. But instead of coming out straight with complaints, those in charge of Foreign Policy in Sri Lanka have allowed deep distrust to build up, which affects relations with the less shadowy players in the UN, who are generally decent and proper.

I hope then that government will even now take its cue from this report, flesh out the narrative of the war with clear and convincing citation of evidence, and also make clear the underhand work of a few elements. But at the same time it must deal with anything underhand that our own people were engaged in, which is why investigation of the matters the LLRC noted is essential. Without that, we too would have sunk to the level of Guy Rhodes and Peter McKie, whereas we owe it to our own people to affirm convincingly that we did our best in a difficult situation, and that there will be no impunity for egregious violations of national and international norms.

Issues of Truth and Accountability; the last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka Narrative iii – MARGA & CHA Colloquium; a Private Sector Perspective -Chandra Jayaratne-



The “Third Narrative” reviewed at the Colloquium presents an alternative narrative, of the events of the last stages of the war, and has been developed as a response to the UNHRC resolution of 2014. This is in the wake of the purported conflicting and contradictory accounts of the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka. These varying accounts have come from the Army and the Government of Sri Lanka, I-NGO’s, University Teachers for Human Rights, Academics, Documentaries, Film Clips and Publications by Individuals, Soldiers and Combatants, Diaspora Groups, Civil Society Groups, Activists and Collectives in and Outside Sri Lanka , presentations by the International Community, the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts, and the LLRC.


This presentation is made following an objective analysis and is based on a private sector perspective. It has the sole focus of realizing the common future goal hopefully shared by all of the alternative view presenters. It further aims to assure that the truth and reconciliation will emerge, along with justice, equity, fairness, upholding the legitimate interests of all victims and other local actors. It is also developed with an aim to restore the lives and livelihoods of those who suffered on both sides and lead to peace, reconciliation, reparation, restoration lives and livelihoods and alleviate the grievances of those innocent victims and allow loved ones to come to terms and closure with their dead, missing and disappeared family and friends. The end goal is to ensure sustainable growth and prosperity of the nation and its people, with peace, harmony, good international relations and socio-economic development, equitably benefitting all citizens. This goal has resonance with the private sector’s primary core value of placing the interests of the nation and its people first.


The current path and actions of the Government in addressing the international challenges it faces on the accountability for the last stages of the war and its commitments / obligations in terms of international human rights and humanitarian laws, appears to be inimical to the aforesaid core interests and values. These actions appear to be based on an aggressive, arrogant and self righteous stance that ignores the committed to obligations and desired foreign policy framework for effective international relations in the globalized world we live in today.


With the Sri Lanka government’s stand of ignoring the UN HRC Resolution of 2014 and taking no part in the inquiry initiated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in fact not allowing the inquiry panel even to visit Sri Lank and further appealing to other nations to follow suit will lead to an acrimonious situation to the ultimate detriment of the nation and its people.


The UN Inquiry panel will, irrespective of the stand of the Government of Sri Lanka, continue with its tasks and have planned to receive submissions, hear and gather evidence in designated countries. The Inquiry team will engage in this task, under the guidance of the panel of international advisors recognized globally for their expertise and integrity. UNHRC team will provide an oral brief to the UN HRC during the September session and submit its final report to the March session of the UNHRC in 2015. Thus it will be an exparte inquiry where Sri Lanka has forfeited an opportunity to present, its voice, advocacy, along with the the available contradictory evidence. Thus the presentations of the Government and the armed services will not be made available to the inquiry panel, in order to clarify, defend and raise objections to the evidence and submissions before the panel. The opposing views, evidence and negative presentations by other interested parties will most likely be received by the panel irrespective of the stand of the Government of Sri Lanka. The inquiry process will document these and these will guide the outcomes of the inquiry and will remain available for access in the years to come along with the final report to be presented.


In the event the final report of the panel is inimical to the long term interests of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s international image and international relations will be negatively impacted. In addition the nation and the people may also be negatively impacted, along with any named parties against whom the inquiry findings and strictures are made and classified as parties accused of violation of international law and guilty of offences and crimes against humanity.


In such an eventuality the private sector assesses that the following economic risks may crystallize, most of them dependent on the contents, gravity and the weight of the purported evidence listed in the report, the findings and recommendations of next steps and any suggested punitive measures highlihted;

  1. Banks and finance houses imposing stipulations requiring all documentary credits to be ‘confirmed’ by acceptable first class, designated country, international banks with global credit ratings
  2. Down grading of Country risks and associated increases in country specific risk premiums impacting on cost competitiveness and deterring import export transactions
  3. Inclusion of “Sanctions and Boycott” clauses in insurance, loan and credit agreements and import export  trade and credit documentation
  4. Foreign Investors, and Commercial entities entering with trepidation in to long term trade, service and technology transfer arrangements and agreements with Sri Lankan business
  5. Slowing down of foreign direct investments, at a time high growth targets require significant FDI flows, especially in the wake of domestic savings being inadequate to meet supportive investment targets
  6. Insecurity led slowing down and significant disinvestment out of and repatriation of capital from  securities listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange
  7. International bond holders of Sri Lanka Government Securities (Government Bonds and Treasury Bills) discounting bills in the secondary markets at discounts prior to maturity and repatriating capital. If a significant portion of the government securities are discounted, the foreign reserves of the country can be significantly eroded and lead to foreign currency reserves available to support future imports being drastically reduced. Such an eventuality can even lead to foreign exchange restrictions being imposed to avert a potential balance of payments crisis.
  8. If the UNHRC report were to make specific negative references and raise valid charges accusing the state and / or high officials of continuing post war ethno religious persecution, discrimination and targeting of minorities, (especially the Muslim Community), it may trigger a slowing down of employment opportunities for Sri Lankan expatriates in Middle Eastern Countries and even give rise to key trade embargos and boycotts significantly impacting on the balance of trade and balance of payments of the country.
  9. If charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and continuing persecution of minorities are raised in the report and accusations are leveled against leaders in governance and the armed services, Diaspora groups and other parties, especially those belligerent groups in South India, EU, USA, Canada, Britain, Australia and some middle eastern countries, ( ie. Those who have led the voices of advocacy and even legal challenges) who are against the actions of the authorities, may launch effective advertising and promotional campaigns in key export destinations to boycott the imports and services from and travel to the tagged “blood stained nation”. Such a campaigns, where successfully implemented, (as done against imports from and travel to other targeted destination countries), could have disastrous economic consequences. Such campaigns and boycott actions can slow down the growth of tourism, tea, apparel, gems& jewelry, spices, ITC, entrepot and shipping/aviation sectors of Sri Lanka.
  10. As a consequence of 9 above the financial media, risk assessors/managers analysts and rating agencies will impose amber signals in their communications and reports dealing with Sri Lanka
  11. As a consequence of 9 above, trade chambers, shipping/aviation, transportation and logistics support service entities and customs, quarantine, inspection and quality control entities in import / export destinations, may discriminate, slow down, impose added conditions and even boycott services support, essential for effective trade and services.
  12. If American and European Banks, finance houses and global insurers/re-insurers down grade the country risks and join even in a marginal way in supporting the call of opposing parties as stated in 9 above, this could have disastrous consequences for trade and services credit, documentation, payments and settlements
  13.  As a consequence of 9 above, visas and travel restrictions may be imposed not only on those accused persons but also on trade delegations and business persons visiting Sri Lanka as well as overseas.
  14.  There may even be the imposition of bi-lateral country sanctions and boycotts
  15.  The PR image of Sri Lanka as a destination for trade, commerce, services, investment and travel could be tarnished, with long term adverse consequences and possibly leading to classification of Sri Lanka marginally above some of the failed states, in investment, trade and travel friendly states listing international indices.


With such risks as those listed above, looming overhead in the external environment is it the time today to;

  1. Ignore and boycott with arrogance and articulated acrimonious statements the UN HRC process, already initiated and proceeding for targeted completion
  2. Not defend the Country and the Armed Services by effective diplomacy, advocacy and raising valid objections to evidence and submissions before the panel
  3. By words spoken and by actions taken deny /discourage access to the panel and not allow them entry to Sri Lanka, which may give rise to negative perceptions
  4. Argue that the UN HRC process is illegal and canvass international support to deny access and space for the panel to operate in other countries
  5. Argue about sovereignty of Sri Lanka bring violated
  6. To highlight double standards of those leading and supporting the UN HRC Process
  7. To allow an exparte trial, listing of unchallenged evidence and publication of an uncontested report
  8. To remain silent on questions as to why some LTTE leaders are entertained in high political posts and given freedom with protection and unhindered access
  9. Deny to family members of open access to records,  centres of detention and information on processes to confirm the dead and find the disappeared
  10. To not effectively support the process of resettlement of  Muslims who were chased out by the LTTE and
  11. To place restrictions on free access to religious sites, and cemeteries but allow new religious and sacred sites to be established for the majority community
  12. To ignore the charges of not speedily supporting processes for reparation, restoration of assets, gold, jewelry and bank holdings of families taken over by the LTTE and later recovered by the Armed services and the State
  13. To not support the processes for effective closure by those with family members grieving over dead, and disappeared
  14. To not to provide for truth and justice to be facilitated to the satisfaction of the impacted families
  15. To not provide for psycho social support and long term care for the war injured and persons with shrapnel
  16. To not address the purported allegations of land grabs, expanding high security zones, militarization, civilian administration being dissolved and replaced by military administration, and
  17. To ignore charges of failure provide essential resettlement of displaced, and need for establishing livelihood options, housing , water and sanitation  for impacted families
  18. To delay the implementation of an effective power devolution process
  19.  To fail to engage in resolving the ethnic crisis by classifying the seeds of the conflict as terrorism or a language issue
  20.  To not effectively engage with the political groups that have gained due recognition following an election in the Northern Province
  21.  To not have in place an effective long term programme for investment and employment generation, and
  22. To not have in place an effective process for rapid restoration of education, training and empowerment, health and in dealing with women’s issues, especially of war widows and single women headed households
  23. To not have in place an effective process for repatriation back to Sri Lanka of those living in camps in India and displaced persons in other parts of the island wanting to return to the North
  24.  Failure to effectively and comprehensively deal with issues raised by the LLRC to be addressed by specific independent investigations as well as its general and specific other recommendations
  25. The need to address some of the truth and justice issues raised by the civil society activists and organizations, including issues connected with extra judicial killings, rule of law failure, continuing post war ethno religious hate speech, incidents targeting segments of society and minorities, some of which are openly created by identified members of society, who freely participate in such actions with impunity.


Further is this the time for an “Alternative Narrative “ from high Intellectual Civil Society Groups;

  1. Where the conflicting and contradictory previous narratives are highlighted
  2.  Where the unfortunate and unacceptable procedures are highlighted that made it impossible to gain access to available full evidence in making effective judgments by UN Sec Gens panel and IPEC
  3. To  define an acceptable definition of a ‘Combatant’, a ‘Terrorist’, a ‘Civilian’, ‘ civilian population’,  ‘take direct part in hostilities’ and a ‘No Fire Zone’
  4. To argue on the numbers dead or disappeared in the war against terror, the last stages of the war, once surrender process commenced and after the war effectively ended with the decimation of the LTTE Terrorists
  5. To reflect how the international community had not at any stage contested the strategy leading to the operation to defeat the LTTE and to liberate the land and administration illegally taken over by the LTTE.
  6. To highlight how the international community remained silent in the wake of the eastern province liberation war, ie after Mavil Aru and even provided thereafter tactical and intelligence support and even at times access to necessary military infrastructure and thereafter change their attitudes in the last stages of the war and post the completion of the war.
  7. The serious flaws, the validity of the evidence and material to support the findings in the UN panel of Experts and IPEC reports.
  8. To challenge the views opposing the validity of the objectives/planned intent  of the government and armed services in conducting operations in the Northern theatre in the last stages with the intent of rescuing the civilian hostages fought on the lines of a humanitarian operation , and classify that it was not a rescue operation aimed at minimizing civilian casualties,
  9. To question the role of the NGO’s who operated in the Northern front and highlight that evidence dictates that in fact they aided the LTTE and made available tactical material and support to them,
  10. To question the methodology of determining and the specific numbers of dead and disappeared civilian (casualties in excess of 40,000).
  11. Highlight to failure to recognize the conditions created by the LTTE in the last stages of the war that led to the outcomes and call to examine the war crimes created by the LTTE
  12. To question the validity of charges of indiscriminate and excessive bombing and targeting hospitals and no fire zones, without tracking the origins of and sources of intentional acts of the LTTE that preceded and necessitated such action
  13.   To charge that the panels of Under valuing the beneficial role of the Armed forces in rescuing civilians, receiving IDP’s and surrendering combatants and humane treatment and rehabilitation efforts that followed
  14. Highlight that the LLRC did not find against allegations of large scale torture rape and sexual violence as valid
  15. Stress that the POE report as being a prosecutors brief on war crimes by the Government and armed services
  16. Contest the evidence connected with Allegation of intentional denial of food and medicines to civilians trapped in “enemy Territory”

Failure of the panels to recognize how the war was fought by the LTTE, the atrocities and accountability of the LTTE , the accountability of the International Community , UN and its agencies

  1. Inadequacy of an genuine and credible process of assessments to determine the proportionality of the Governments military action
  2. The failure to give due emphasis to the LTTE actions in preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone
  3.  The need for changes in IHL, IHRL and R2P doctrine in the face of tactics and strategies adopted by the LTTE


By turning to what the Buddha taught and Emperor Asoka’s Edicts is the strategy of the State and civil society in line with what the Thathagatha preached and What ancient emperors practiced, especially;

  1.  “ Nahi Verani Verani”as articulated by Sri Lanka post World War ii-“ Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law
  2. Dammapada Verse 223; Conquer Anger with love, Conquer evil with Good, Conquer stinginess with giving and conquer lies with the trust
  3. In the wake of the enmity between the Sakhya and Kholi over river water sharing, the Buddha preached “Value life more than Water” and placed a message that looking beyond the proximate cause and immediate challenges as the Cause and focusing on the bigger picture will be the strategy to bring lasting beneficial results.


In the wake of above can a new path charted by leaders caring for the sustainable future of this nation and people, move forward to actively canvass and seek global leaders like the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and nobel laureate like Amarthya Sen and Abdul Kalam along with Justice Weeramantry to bring together all stakeholder, victims, Complainants, representatives of Diaspora, UN/ UNHRC mediate over grievances, accountability and agree a common non acrimonious process and find an alternative path to assure what was articulated in para two as the objective.

Under Siege: Sri Lanka In Geneva, March 2014

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Political correctness or the fear of it makes Sri Lankan commentators on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka as well as the calls for an international inquiry at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva blame the Government, the West (‘imperialism’) or the Tamil Diaspora. This uni-dimensional analysis fails to regard the thing holistically, and neither traces the chain of causation nor unearths the root of the matter.

While it is the myopic and misplaced post-war policies, national and external,  and the sheer crassness of the discourse, of the incumbent administration that has left us wide open to an intrusive resolution for an international inquiry, that alone is not an accurate answer to the question that many, if not most Sri Lankans are grappling with today. That question is ‘why Sri Lanka?’ Why is Sri Lanka under far greater scrutiny than many other states, for far less heinous sins? Why is the ‘international community’ that did not get on the LTTE’s case with the same degree of sustained purpose during decades of daily terrorism, targeting Sri Lanka?

The answer is the geostrategic weight and comparative geostrategic advantage of the Tamil community in the world system, enhanced, indeed multiplied by the backwardness of the Sri Lankan state.  In the global matrix, the Sri Lankan state is backward in every sense, while the pan-Tamil secessionist vanguard is more advanced.

The Sri Lankan state — and the Sinhalese— are no longer internationally competitive, while the Tamils are increasingly so. To spell it out, because of the specific character of the Diaspora, the Tamils punch above their weight in the world community while the Sri Lankan state and the Sinhalese punch far below their own earlier weight because of the anachronistic character of the official discourse and the deterioration of the quality of human resources of the Sri Lankan state, stemming from decades of substandard social policies.

This diagnosis is confirmed in a new and indispensable book on Sri Lanka’s war by Prof Paul Moorcraft, Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis, London, and more pertinently a former senior instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College. An internet search shows that he worked in Corporate Communications in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall and is a crisis management consultant to Shell, British Gas, 3M, and Standard Bank.  He also worked for Time magazine and the BBC as a freelance producer/war correspondent. He has worked in 30 war zones in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Balkans, often with irregular forces. Most recently he has been working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine/Israel and Sudan. Prof Moorcraft writes that:

“In some countries the Tamil community stood next to the Jewish Diaspora if not in wealth, perhaps in organization; it was less assimilated too. It was much smarter at playing on tender hearts in the host community while funding an insurgency back home. It outdid the Kurdish, Irish, Kashmiri and even Palestinian diaspora in this regard…

The Tigers’ International Secretariat established a worldwide system of weapons procurement, financial, and political support and media outlets. Much of the network survived intact after the defeat of the insurgency in Sri Lanka itself… After the LTTE was banned in the US and the EU, various front organizations were set up in fifty four locations in thirty two countries. The LTTE contained some brilliant propagandists who established a range of TV and radio stations, websites and printed media. The front organizations worked assiduously on foreign politicians as well as the approximately one million Tamil exiles, notably in Europe and North America. …Hundreds of Tamil schools were set up in the Diaspora regions (350 in Europe alone) to inculcate third generation children in the cause. Often these children were mobilized on behalf of pro-LTTE protests…

…around ten percent of Tamil exiles were active radicals. They were often successful business people and highly capable of organizing vote banks in regions and cities where their numerical concentration could sway the local votes and thus secure a ready ear from politicians. In Britain the LTTE (under a political and legal guise) formed dedicated organizations to liase with both the Labour and Conservative parties…” (Pp.103-105, ‘The Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers’, Pen & Sword, UK, 2012)

Bad as this picture is, it leaves out the enormous weight of yet another factor: Tamil Nadu, with its 70 million strong population. Today Tamil Nadu is bidding to play the same role in Delhi’s policy towards Sri Lanka that a near hysterical Cuban community in the state of Florida used to play for decades in Washington’s policy towards Cuba.

Thus Sri Lanka is in a far worse situation internationally than almost all states, especially democratic ones, which have won a war against a ruthless non-state actor because the community that sustained that non-state actor through all its fascistic depredations is far more significant than the communities which sustained just as ruthless or even far less ruthless non-state actors in other conflict situations.

Faced with a foe of such international capacity, the Sri Lankan state had —and still has— one of three ways to go.

1. It could have increased its dependence on, compliance with and capitulation to the West. This is the neo-Kotelawalan ‘Bandung Booruwa’ line of the UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe (and the ex-SLFP Mangala Samaraweera).

2. It could have relied almost exclusively on strengthening its ‘hard power’ grip on the island, most especially its North and East — which is what the Rajapaksa regime sought to do, driven by its Sinhala hard-line faction and/or dominant impulses.

3. It could have judiciously reinforced its leadership of the island (the DS Senanayaka strategy) while expanding its space and increasing its competitiveness globally. With variations, this is the line of SWRD and Sirima Bandaranaike, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Lakshman Kadirgamar. Somawansa Amarasinghe and Tilvin Silva can attest, as can Nirupam Sen and I, from long conversations with an alienated and anxious Lakshman Kadirgamar, that this was not the line of Chandrika Kumaratunga in the last (PTOMS) years of her presidency.

It is the third perspective listed here that was also the policy practice that enabled Sri Lanka to prevail decisively in Geneva in May 2009 while Westminster was blockaded by thousands of Tamil demonstrators and the traffic in Geneva was snarled up by tens of thousands of Tiger flag waving demonstrators blockading the Palais de Nations (one of whom immolated himself in full public view).

The multiple yet interconnected strategic blunders of the present administration were:

a. To forget the political potential of the international reserve army of Tamil secessionism ( embedded in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Diaspora)

b. To believe that it could be countered without either the political empowerment of the government’s own Tamil allies or a political rapprochement with the admittedly inconsistent and volatile moderates of the TNA.

c. To believe that the global geostrategic weight of the offshore Tamil community could be countervailed without maintaining the wartime alliance with Delhi and indeed while reneging on the pledges made to India during the war and just after it.

The Tamils forgot both the geostrategic weight of the Sinhalese on the island and the existential reality that they had nowhere to retreat, and took them on frontally in war. The Sinhalese forgot the geostrategic weight of the Tamils off the island and sought to reorder the political space of post war Sri Lanka in manner that went beyond a natural and legitimate reinstatement of Sinhala leadership but sought to impose Sinhala-Buddhist domination outside their natural demographic and cultural zone.

In Geneva this month, to quote Malcolm X, “the chickens are coming home to roost”. That however, is neither a cause for grim satisfaction at a comeuppance nor is it the end of the story. The West is on the verge of getting it wrong as it did during the entire period of the Norwegian negotiations and more especially the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA)— just as India did in an earlier avatar. It is one thing to seek to restore equilibrium by containment of the Sinhala triumphalism of the Sri Lankan regime and state. This would require an even-handed approach. It is quite another to shift from containment of Sinhala excess to humiliating roll-back and a manifest tilt towards the Tamils, triggering collective memories of colonial bias and reinforcing older ones of South Indian expansionism.

Just as the island’s South —and the South driven or Southern centric State—resisted and reversed the humiliating retreat of the CFA years, the overwhelming majority will simply not countenance over-lordship by the West, Tamil Nadu, and the Tamil Diaspora lobbies even in the form of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

The latest Channel 4 video with its sickeningly bestial necrophilic sexual abuse, seems authentic to me— but it comes from the same part of the moral Inferno as  the video of US soldiers unzipping themselves and peeing on dead bodies of Taliban terrorists. These crimes must be exposed and punished someday, as they have been from Brazil to Bangladesh— by the society itself at a historical time of its choosing.

Any kind of international inquiry must be regarded as non–negotiable by any Sri Lankan administration. However, the technical support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights may be sought for a robust, credible national process.

If the UNHRC resolution contains the component of an intrusive external inquiry, the mood of the Sinhala majority, with or without the Rajapaksas, will be ‘the resolution be damned!’ The mood shift will be conducive to more radical shades of nationalism. The results of the upcoming provincial council elections will be interesting in this regard, not least as the respective campaigns of the government and the main Opposition are being led from the front, by Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe respectively.

An intrusive UNHRC resolution will see the island state evolve into a hedgehog, however short-lived that avatar may be. Since the TNA and NPC leaders have eschewed the smart option of playing good cop to the Diaspora and Tamil Nadu’s bad cop, openly calling for an international investigation and thereby painting themselves as anti-national and pro-Western (as in the days of the colonial compact), the psycho-political space for dialogue and reconciliation will narrow rather than widen after the passage of an intrusive resolution. This atmosphere and setting will be particularly inhospitable for any attempt at political reconciliation by an incoming administration in Delhi and/or a concerned South Africa.

In Geneva today, Sri Lanka must be realistic above all else. Together with its friends, it must negotiate flexibly, creatively and sincerely, making all compromises necessary to remove any reference to an international or external inquiry by any agency whatsoever. If however, the Resolution is endorsed while it contains such an aggressively intrusive component, there can be no question of compliance or cooperation, certainly with that aspect, whatever the cost. Sri Lanka will just have to take the hit, or, as Elmore Leonard wrote (introducing his hero Marshal Raylan Givens, the protagonist of the TV series ‘Justified’), we’ll just have to “ride the rap; that’s all anyone has to do”.

In 2009, Justice CG Weeramantry rightly warned that a victorious Sri Lankan state must avoid the bad example of the big powers at Versailles who imposed a victor’s peace on a defeated Germany only to witness the rise of Nazism. The Sri Lankan regime ignored his advice and now we have the resurgence of the Tamil secessionist project and the prospect of the encirclement of Sri Lanka. Today, if it capitulates to the international human rights NGOs, the Tamil nationalists, the West will make yet another blunder in its long line of blunders in Asia. A Treaty of Versailles in respect of the defeated was horrific in its results, but to seek to impose a Treaty of Versailles on a victorious side— or to hold a Nuremburg Lite on the equivalent of the victorious Allies rather than the defeated Nazis— would be catastrophic in its consequence. Since the JVP is no longer auditioning for the role of national liberation or resistance movement, the agency of resistance could be the very target of the call for an international inquiry. This time the Southern/Sinhala backlash could shift the centre of gravity to a rather more praetorian patriotism. Unsustainable though it will be as a project, it may serve as a holding action and transition.

It will also be but a symptom of a far more permanent reality which the West and the Tamil nationalists often ignore: the two thirds of a strategically significant island are inhabited by an ethnic community that constitutes two thirds of its populace.