Unreleased Nawaz Commission report may hold key to acceptable Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Saturday, 8 June 2024 00:04 –      – 41

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The National Peace Council (NPC) in a statement said the unreleased Nawaz Commission report may hold the key to acceptable Trust and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).Following is the full statement of the NPC.

During a recent visit to the North, President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that the Government would be establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to address human rights issues that arose out of the three-decade long war. He said that the legislation was nearly finalised with the main remaining question being whether the power to prosecute war crimes should be given to the commission or to a special court. The President said, “We’re deliberating whether the TRC should wield judicial authority or if a separate court should be empowered based on TRC recommendations. This decision is paramount, and I’ve tasked relevant ministers, in consultation with parliamentarians and ambassadors, to draft legislation for parliamentary review.”

An example to be followed would be the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission where the process of formulating its mandate and membership was very transparent. Indeed, the members of the commission were selected via a consultative process through an open countrywide nomination process and publicly interviewed by an independent selection panel comprising representatives of all the political parties, civil society, and the religious bodies in the country. In Sri Lanka there have been several important efforts at consultative processes which have been documented in the findings of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (2011) and the Consultation Task Force (2016).

It is appropriate in this regard that the Government refers to the findings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate the findings of preceding Commissions and Committees headed by Justice A.H.M.D. Nawaz which was appointed In January 2021 by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa where the answers to questions relating to dealing with the past over a long period of time may be found. In the synopsis of the Nawaz Commission’s interim report issued in February 2023, the Commissioners referred to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and stated that the contours of the Commission would be set out in due course when the final report was submitted.

The Nawaz Commission submitted its final report to President Wickremesinghe in January 2024.  Speaking in Jaffna and making reference to the Nawaz Commission report the President said that “Moving forward, we must prioritise reconciliation efforts, address concerns regarding missing persons, and devise mechanisms for compensation and truth and reconciliation. I think this is the time now we have to deal with all these issues.” The National Peace Council calls on the Government to release the full report of the Nawaz Commission to the public so that the people of the country will be apprised of its findings and be better able to understand the issues pertaining to a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) and the contribution it can make to sustainable peace with justice in Sri Lanka.