The new commission appointed to investigate events related to one of the most widely reported South Asian insurgencies will hold its proceedings in camera in the coming months, its chairman and former Attorney General C. R. de Silva said yesterday.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), constituted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa last weekend, will not allow public viewing of its interviews with a large number of people including politicians, diplomats and armed forces personnel.
|C. R. de Silva
“There are no provisions for public sittings. We will record all evidence in camera,” Mr. de Silva said.
In a notification to LLRC members, President Rajapaksa had asked them to primarily investigate the circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement of February 21, 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to the end of war in May last year.
“And I do thereby direct that such part of any inquiry relating to the aforesaid matters as you may direct in your discretion determine, shall not be held in public,” President Rajapaksa told the LLRC through this notification.
From his notification, it appeared that the President allowed the commission to decide on the nature of its proceedings. Mr. de Silva’s interpretation of the notification was that the public should not be permitted access to the proceedings.
As to who would be interviewed, Mr. de Silva said, he felt many people would be eager to appear before the commission. “However, we will have to consider only persons linked to happenings during the period mentioned in the President’s
in the President’s notification,” he said.
A permanent ceasefire agreement was signed between the then
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the LTTE on February 22, 2002. When asked as to why the last seven years were chosen for the inquiry, Mr. de Silva said, “This is a matter of government policy and I cannot answer.”
While the LLRC is expected to submit its report to the President before November 15 this year, an extension of its term thereafter did not seem unlikely given the volume of work it is expected to undertake.
Mr. de Silva was also asked if the creation of an internal panel was in response to international pressure on the government to deal with allegations of human rights violations and war crimes. “The commission has to insulate itself from all these,” he said.
Earlier this month, the International Crisis Group, an INGO based in Brussels, had in its report on Sri Lanka, raised doubts about the LLRC’s effectiveness. The US government, though, has welcomed the move.
According to the Presidential media unit, the LLRC has been fashioned (in some ways) after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa and the Iraq Inquiry of Britain. The TRC was launched in Cape Town in 1995 following the end of Apartheid, to study South Africa’s troubled history (from 1960 till 1994). And, the Iraq Inquiry that began in London in July last year has been investigating Britain’s involvement in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Both commissions had started their proceedings in camera but pressure from civil society groups later made them go public.