On June 22nd, Ban Ki Moon announced an independent panel to advise on “accountability issues” arising from the final stages of the conflict between government forces and the Tamil Tigers. The Sri Lankan government responded angrily, stating its ‘sovereignty was being threatened’ and proceeded to set up its own commission of inquiry – Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) – despite the fact that all previous commissions have been slated by international observers for their lack of credibility.

The hearings for the LLRC commenced on July 10th and one of the oral submissions came from Dr Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN Under Secretary General. Controversy arose when the Presidential Media Unit and Ministry of Defence reported Dhanapala’s submission in a selective and erroneous manner. Groundviews exclusively carried Dr Dhanapala’s response to the inaccurate media reports of his submission and details the full series of events that followed.

For the time-poor among our readers, we’ve pulled out some of the pertinent statements from Dhanapala’s submission as detailed below.

The recent history of Presidential Commissions has been a dismal and uninspiring one.

We have the Udalagama Commission which was aborted and we have a number of Commission Reports which have not been implemented.

Nevertheless, the personal stature of all of you as Commissioners and the integrity that is widely respected of yourselves encourages me to appear before you and speak in order that our country can enjoy a future of peace and reconciliation.

May I also say at the outset that I believe that your Commission has been appointed one year too late.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact that your mandate is a narrow one, artificially framed by certain time constraints, I believe that you will rise above the blame game that is common in the politics of Sri Lanka and ensure that a foundation is laid for
a future of a stable, a durable peace and a reconciliation with all segments of our population.”

“I think the lessons that we have to learn from the past are both positive lessons and negative lessons.

I think that the conflict that has ravaged our country is not only the result of the perversity and the venality of the LTTE and its leader Prabakaran, but also the cumulative effect of bad governance on the part of successive Governments in Sri Lanka.

Our inability to manage our own internal affairs has led to foreign intervention but more seriously has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens.

I think we need to rectify this bad governance and the first and foremost task before us is to undertake constitutional reform in order to ensure that we have adequate devolution of power.

We have already missed several opportunities in the past; we have had an APRC functioning for quite some time but its report is still languishing in obscurity and needs to be presented to the public of Sri Lanka for discussion.

We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have – as I said before – devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic
institutions. “

“The other issue that I think important for us to make some kind of innovative move drawing from the experience of having been in conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is the issue of the responsibility to protect concept. This is a concept
that you will recall was embraced in the UN General Assembly’s Summit of 2005, the 60th UN General Assembly when the Heads of States adopted the responsibility to protect concept which basically means that the primary responsibility for the
protection of civilians lies with the Government of that state. But if a Government is either unwilling because it is a dictatorship or unable because it is a failed state to exercise its sovereign authority to protect its own civilians then that authority passes
to the international community but subject to the fact that it has to be approved by the Security Council through a resolution. “