More of Rajiva on Shanie
I am delighted that Shanie has now decided she has no wish to prolong her exchange with me. I am only sorry that she began it all, by making unwarranted attacks on my integrity as well as my work as Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat. She also chose to make unwarranted attacks on the police with regard to the investigation into the murder of Joseph Pararajasingham, and has still not responded to my simple request to substantiate her allegations.
I must however seek the indulgence of your columns, on what I hope is the last occasion I will need to reply to her, for dealing with her suggestion that I need to examine my conscience, in terms of her insinuation that I am not "doing enough to coordinate and advance the Peace Process, to protect human rights and to uphold the rule of law in our country".
She seems to think rather that I am issuing statements "on matters that have little relevance to his position as the Secretary General of the Secretariat for the Coordination of the Peace Process, and as Secretary to the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights", and that, if I am doing any positive work, "I should also be creating public awareness on these issues".
I believe that, in the present context, perhaps, the main role of the Peace Secretariat is building up confidence in the government’s positive democratic pluralistic vision, and also that that confidence needs to be built up not amongst the chattering classes, but amongst the people most affected by the conflict. I will not take up too much space in recounting what we have done, but perhaps Shanie has a point, and it may be helpful if some at least of her ilk know something of what we are doing, so that they too can assist in the process.
For instance, Shanie might like to contribute to the ‘Learn and Lead’ scholarship programme that has been initiated by the Business for Peace Alliance. She might, noting that the problem of child soldiers has now been almost completely resolved (with untiring work by some of our staff), choose to assist with the rehabilitation programmes that are such a crying necessity now. She might assist with the Civil Society initiatives to build up dialogue forums to work on practical initiatives for livelihoods and social harmony.
She might also note the initiatives SCOPP took to get the A9 to the North open recently, and our work in promoting business initiatives and promoting discussions with the security forces so as to facilitate interaction whilst not detracting from security considerations, even more urgent in the present context.
She will note from all this that, whilst we work actively with civil society that has as its aim the improvement of the situation of people, we do not think it necessary to indulge (whilst always willing to engage with them, and delighted to discuss matters with the many who responded to our initial invitations, whilst not regretting those who turned these down) what are termed advocacy organisations, some of which need desperately to perpetuate their own existence. Sadly, because of the damage that such organisations do to the confidence of ordinary people, much of my own work has been in dealing with their plaints. I believe I have shown that, while there are certainly human rights issues that demand more attention, the vast majority of charges against the government are fraudulent – indiscriminate attacks on civilians, complicity in the recruitment of child soldiers, lack of concern for internally displaced persons, are all canards which have now been laid to rest.
At the same time, since she has noted the concern, even while we have to deal firmly with terrorism, with also overcoming its root causes, exemplified recently by the attention paid to the events of July 1983, it may have escaped her notice that it was the SCOPP website that first began commemorating them through the relevant week. It was SCOPP that first drew the attention of editors to the need to publish part of the record, a process that began in the ‘Sunday Island’ with the text we sent of the description of the event and its aftermath by Kethesh Loganathan, former Deputy at this Secretariat, killed by the LTTE two years ago. I was grateful to those editors who did publish what we sent, and even more grateful to those who had sought fresh accounts of what happened in those dark days.
Since Shanie also brings up my second position, as Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, let me note that under the exemplary leadership of the Minister and with superb support from his Director General of the Disaster Management Centre, much work has been done which Shanie has not even noticed. In my own case, I have managed since I took over to fast forward some of the Minister’s initiatives, including the appointment of Coordinators for Confidence Building and Stabilisation Measures, the expansion of the Minister’s Advisory Group of Civil Society Representatives, the activation of a project to develop a National Action Plan for Human Rights, including close coordination with the National Human Rights Commission, procedures to clear the backlog, dating back to the eighties, of those reported as disappeared to the UN Working Group in Geneva, and much else.
I should note that I cannot take credit for any of this, since the initiatives were not mine, just as much of the positive work of SCOPP was due to my excellent directors, whose evocation, monitoring and nurturing of productive initiatives may be seen in the latest SCOPP Newsletter. I only wish Shanie would read that, would travel to the East and talk to the productive civil society groups and educationists whose plans we are trying to forward, would assist in raising funds to help them. That would be a better way of promoting harmony in Sri Lanka than the endless nagging she thinks the country needs, citing authorities such as Martin McGuinness forsooth, instead of the quiet heroes of Sarvodaya, Sewa Lanka, CHA, BPA, who are making a difference for people so long oppressed by terrorism.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process