Responsibility, Autonomy and the Geneva Resolution (2015)
The resolution co-sponsored by our government at the United Nations
Human Rights Council is a mutual agreement entered into by Sri Lanka, as
a sovereign member state of the UN, which recognises our responsibility
to embark on a process of reconciliation among communities that will
foster peace and prosperity.
This resolution is an opportunity to do what is right, by ourselves
and for ourselves, and for our future generations. Over many decades,
including the post-war period, there have been assassinations,
abductions, torture, and conscription of children and sexual violence
perpetrated on women.
These realities have often been denied by most politicians who have
tried to promote racist and divisive ideologies to achieve short term
gains. In this environment we citizens must support efforts to establish
an impartial investigation, probing the events that are perceived
differently, so as to arrive at a consensus on what happened, and what
needs to be done. It is only in this way that we may achieve a common
understanding of a troubled era in our history.
The joint resolution is a reminder that truth-seeking and justice,
however complex, ensure social integration, and that their absence is
detrimental to civic order and the rule of law.
Prudent investment of resources in critical areas of national life
such as education, health, protection of environment, strengthening our
institutions and the media, and wise and responsible political
leadership, will be our best chance to detect and resist recurrence of
injustice, discrimination and impunity for violence and abuse of power.
If we are serious about a non-recurrence of the human rights abuses
of the past, we should acknowledge that those guilty of criminal
behaviour under our law must be brought before the courts, and held
This is an issue of individual accountability for unlawful conduct,
and must not be thought of as punishment for heroism or as political
We cannot condone impunity or amnesty for brutal acts of violence and
The prosecution process must also respond to individual suffering,
and support victims and people who come before the courts as witnesses.
Psycho-social support is required for these people both during and after
If we want to ensure that we never sink again into the decades long
conflict we have emerged from, we must put in place a political
framework that upholds the rights of individuals to their personal
dignity and security on the one hand, and the rights of groups and
communities to equality and non-discrimination on the other.
This will necessarily include devolution of power to the regions and
power sharing between the central government and the regional bodies
responsible for governance."
Extremism, adversarial and divisive politics, and the cynical
exploitation of sectarian fears and insecurities, obstruct our common
search for truth, justice and reconciliation.
If we can rise to this challenge and ensure that the victims of
violence of all communities receive justice and are accorded dignity, a
reciprocation of trust, forgiveness and amnesty is likely to be
Our common history records periods of cordial coexistence among our
ethnic communities during times of normalcy as well as tension. This is
the goal for which we as a nation must strive."
For and on behalf of:
Prof. Savitri Goonesekere and Bishop Duleep de Chickera on behalf of
the Friday Forum