May 15, Colombo: Sri Lanka's reconciliation process between the majority Sinhala community and the Tamil minority is "not going well" since the government is not focused on reconciliation, according to a ruling party legislator.
Ruling party parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinha has said that five years after ending the war in 2009 May, the situation has become much worse.
"Polarization has increased in the absence of clearly focused efforts at peace-building, while the negotiations between the government and the main Tamil political party broke down," Wijesinha said in an interview with Ana Lehmann of Deutsche Welle.
The government, expecting the reconciliation to come automatically through development, had focused on infrastructural development and is not paying enough attention to the needs of people in the former war zones, Wijesinha noted.
Explaining government's approach, the legislator said that Colombo has engaged in much development work in the predominantly Tamil-populated north by building roads, schools, hospitals and by providing electricity, all of which the government believes should promote reconciliation.
"However, Colombo has failed to engage in consultation with the people," he said.
He placed the responsibility for the failure on the officials, who the President entrusted for the task, for ignoring the guidelines laid down by the President.
"Although the government has achieved much in terms of infrastructure, there has been too little attention paid both to the people and the development of local institutions. Both factors are necessary to involve the population in the development process," the MP said.
According to the lawmaker, a Draft National Reconciliation Policy prepared in 2012 by his office has noted the need for establishing a multi-stakeholder institutional mechanism charged with promoting and monitoring the reconciliation process. A Parliamentary Select Committee should review the work of this mechanism which should cease to exist at the end of three years unless parliament decides otherwise.
However, his draft has not yet received any response form the government.
Speaking of the resolution adopted by the UN to investigate human rights violations committed during the civil war, Wijesinha said the government is right to criticize the proposed international investigation because it has seen how issues have been prejudged by those pushing for such an investigation, in particular certain Western governments.
However, he said the Sri Lankan government has not pursued its own investigations in a transparent and convincing manner.
"Doing that properly, with advice from countries that have not been unfairly critical, would do much to promote reconciliation," he said.
Discussing the government's initiative to consider the example of post-apartheid South Africa to establish a Truth and Reconciliation, Wijesinha expressed doubts since the first delegation, sent to South Africa to study the issue, "achieved nothing as it failed to provide a report on the way forward," while the second delegation "didn't seem serious."
He noted that Nimal Siripala de Silva, the second most senior member of the ruling party in Parliament and the "best person to bring the discussions forward", wasn't accompanied by any other senior colleagues, especially those who enjoy the trust of all communities, such as the Minister of Human Resources Development DEW Gunasekera or the Minister of National Languages and Social Integration Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
"With the support of such people we could make maximum use of the South African government's willingness to help. But unless the president puts some solid structures in place, this initiative, too, will be without purpose," he said.