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The road towards meaningful and inclusive reconciliation in Sri Lanka

The promise of meaningful and inclusive reconciliation might remain an ephemera of the past if efforts are not made by the government

Andrea González

The Global Pluralism Monitor: Sri Lanka report underscores the need for meaningful reconciliation which includes all ethnoreligious groups — a process that has been denied to many due to the “victor’s peace” ushered in by the government in 2009. Although recent progress towards this goal signals a renewed commitment, broken promises of reconciliation have set an unfortunate precedent.

In response to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution (A/HRC/51/5) passed in October 2022 regarding redressal of human rights violations, which was rejected by the Sri Lankan government, President Wickremesinghe established the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Reconciliation. The Sub-Committee is investigating northern province-specific issues, national unity, and exploring the possibility of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The focus on the problems faced by the people in the North East regarding disappearances, resettlement and land is key in respect to TRC processes, as North East territories are majoritarily populated by Tamil and Muslim minorities.

Despite engaging in talks with implicated parties, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in January 2023, these talks were less than successful.  Rather, the TNA expressed skepticism, as previous governments have made similar promises over many years, to no avail. Rather, significant concerns are raised about the risks of re-traumatization of survivors and exposure to further violence if survivors come forward to share their stories. Other opposition groups and civil society have likewise raised concerns about the lack of credibility of this initiative.

In March 2023, the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry and the Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms, Dr. Wljeyadasa Rajapakse went on a working visit to South Africa. The purpose of this trip was to learn about the establishment and work of the South African TRC, in the spirit of informing and promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka. While lessons learned from South Africa will remain significant in the field of transitional justice, the field has signficantly expanded in the past thirty years.

To learn more about why meaningful and inclusive reconciliation is needed in Sri Lanka, read the Global Pluralism Monitor: Sri Lanka report.