The Lessons Learned Committee
The West wants a committee to investigate how the war was conducted; the people want a committee to investigate the root causes of the ethnic conflict and figure out ways of preventing it from ever happening again; but the Rajapakse administration, it seems, wanted a committee to investigate just how justifiable their own personal ‘war against terror’ was. And what the Rajapakse’s want, the Rajapakse’s get. And so the Lessons Learned for Peace and Reconciliation Commissionwas born.
At today’s hearing the former head of the Peace Secretariat Mr. Bernard Gunatilleke was testifying on the history of the peace and mediation process between the successive government’s of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. His basic consensus? The peace process was messed up. Numerous efforts failed and it was pretty clear that the LTTE was never too interested in prolonged peace.
To add to that, the assassinations of Rajiv Ghandi, R. Premadasa and an attempt on the life of Kumarathunga were results of LTTE misgivings against the peace process. The process initiated by the mutually antagonistic Ranil-Chandrika partnership was doomed to fail for many reasons, not least of which was prevalent political tension in Sri Lanka’s government. In addition, there was a ‘priority to get along with signing the agreement’ as fast as possible, and minimum attention was given to the fine print; another nail in the coffin of the peace deal.
By April 2006, the Tigers had violated the agreement more than 3000 times and the government roughly 2-300 times. Leaving no choice but to drop all semblance of friendship and start fighting.
Personally and in retrospect, i think the war was inevitable. The LTTE were too far gone to be viable partners in a peace agreement. They somehow seemed too bloodthirsty, too eager for power. But far greater are my concerns of the underlying social factors that contributed to the ethnic conflict in the first place.
So imagine my surprise when Bernard Gunatilleke says that the conflict was ‘a military one, and not an ethnic conflict’. That may have been true perhaps during the latter stages of the war. But it cannot be denied that the root causes for the conflict lie deep in ethnic ill feeling.
The Committee, to their credit, appeared to dispute his judgement. But they asked several leading questions often loaded with judgement biased to the argument that the peace process was bunkum. So from my first impressions, I can’t really say they appear very objective. And i can’t really say if they are searching for anything useful. But, assuming that genuine reconciliation efforts sanctioned by the President’s office have a better chance of succeeding, i hope they are.