National Peace Council
of Sri Lanka
12/14 Purana Vihara Road
Tel: 2818344,2854127, 2819064
E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
INDEPENDENCE DAY PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY FOR RECONCILIATION PROCESS TO COMMENCE
On February 4, Sri Lanka will be celebrating its 67th year of independence. This Independence Day celebration will be significantly different from those of the recent past. It will be led by a new government that comprises the spectrum of political parties in the country, and also its ethnic and religious diversities. The National Peace Council welcomes the government’s decision to express sympathy and reach out to the victims of the country's three-decade long war at this year’s Independence Day celebrations. We wish to highlight this action that binds the people of the country together in recognizing that war and violence are a tragedy to all.
The government will mark Independence Day with a special Statement of Peace at the ceremony. President Maithripala Sirisena and his Cabinet of Ministers have approved a proposal by Acting Foreign Minister Ajith Perera and Minister of Home Affairs Joseph Michael Perera to make a special statement expressing solidarity and sympathy with all victims of the 26-year long civil war. The Ministers, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the previous government, have proposed to express sympathy and cooperation with the war-affected people in the country and to pledge that it will be dedicated in unity to prevent recurrence of such situations in the country in the future.
The LLRC recommendation 9.284 noted that "Leaders of all sides should reach out to each other in humility and make a joint declaration, extending an apology to innocent citizens who fell victim to this conflict, as a result of the collective failure of the political leadership on all sides to prevent such a conflict from emerging." The LLRC also recommended that a "separate event be set apart on the National Day to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the tragic conflict and pledge our collective commitment to ensure that there should never be such bloodletting in the country again."
The National Peace Council is mindful that those sections of the people who were victims of the war have urgent concerns that include locating missing or detained persons, being restored their lost land, property and livelihood opportunities, and obtaining justice and accountability for crimes committed against them. While the government takes steps to find solutions to these problems which may take time, we also urge the government to take whatever immediate actions it can, even those at a symbolic level, to reassure the ethnic minorities that they are equally valued citizens of Sri Lanka.
The LLRC Report warned that banning the national anthem being sung in the Tamil language, as was done by the previous government would “create a major irritant which would not be conducive to fostering post-conflict reconciliation”. The Commission’s recommendation 9.277 argued that “the practice of the National Anthem being sung simultaneously in two languages in the same time must be maintained and supported.” The Tamil and Muslims ethnic minorities living in Sri Lanka are primarily Tamil-speaking. The constitution does not state anywhere that the anthem should be sung in Sinhala only or that it cannot be sung in Tamil. We believe that singing the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil languages on Independence Day can become one of the first steps in the process of confidence building and national reconciliation.
In conclusion, it is essential to recognize that no single political party, institution, sector or group, regardless of its stature, can be expected to singularly shoulder the enormous burden for creating sustainable peace in Sri Lanka. The building of peace and reconciliation is, by necessity and definition, an inclusive, representative and participatory process. It needs ultimately to be a collaborative and inclusive effort which is recognized and promoted as we celebrate the 67th Independence Day of Sri Lanka.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.