Witness Protection Act not required to ensure LLRC’s credibility – Govt.

*UNP disagrees, wants legal protection for witnesses

by Zacki Jabbar

The government says that the procedures adopted by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission were transparent and there was no need for a Witness Protection Act.

Acting Cabinet spokesman and Environment Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, when asked at Wednesday’s Cabinet Press Briefing in Colombo, if a Witness Protection Act, as requested by the UNP, would be enacted, said that the need for such a mechanism had not arisen, since the LLRC was doing a "good job".

He said that no country has complained that the absence of a Witness Protection Act, was hindering the LLRC’s work.

Critics of the LLRC should be patient until its report was released, Yapa said.

However UNP MP Laksman Kiriella told The Island that the credibility of the LLRC rests on the enactment of a Witness Protection Act, the absence of which has resulted in important information not forthcoming.

There are many people who would fearlessly come forward and reveal what they had seen and heard during the LLRC’s mandated period from February 2002 to May 2009, but the lack of legal protection, has resulted in the Commission not benefiting from such evidence, he said.

Kiriella said that the LLRC had been established to learn lessons from the past and ensure that they are not repeated, but if it was not able to find out the truth, the objective of reconciliation cannot be achieved and the proceedings would turn out to be a waste of time.

"If there was to be genuine peace, the whole truth has to be revealed, mistakes admitted and serious pledges made not to repeat the past. This is the essence of reconciliation and the only way that Sri Lanka can break free from the shackles of the past and move forward as a united nation."

The eight-member LLRC was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 15, 2010 to report on the lessons to be learnt from events during the period of February 2002 to May 2009, their attendant concerns and to recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence of such a situation.

The Commission has also been charged with reporting whether any person, group or institution directly or indirectly bears responsibility in this regard. It is also required to report on measures that need to be taken, to prevent the recurrence of such concerns in the future and promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities.

The Commissioners appointed under provisions of Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (Chapter 393) are C. R. de Silva- Chairman, Rohan Perera, Karunaratna Hangawatta, Chandirapal Chanmugam, H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, Manohari Ramanathan and Maxwell Paranagama. They have been asked to report back to the President within six months from the date of appointment.

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