War is messy, leaving in its wake, not just death, injuries and destruction, but persistent distrust. To heal, there needs to be communication, understanding, and above all a sense of righting wrongs. In this, Sri Lanka’s Government is faltering, despite promises to its own people, as well as to the international community.
Sri Lanka’s three-decade war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed an estimated 100,000 civilians, left many more injured and displaced, and widened a seeming unbridgeable rift between the minority Tamil and Muslim communities, and majority Sinhalese communities.
After an October 2015 pledge to the United Nations Human Rights Council to address justice and accountability, Sri Lanka’s Government in 2016 embarked on a nation-wide consultation to find ways to deliver answers.
The Government entrusted the task to an 11-member Consultation Task Force (CTF), representing a cross-section of Sri Lanka’s ethnic, regional, and religious groups. Nearly half the team, including the head of the CTF, were women.
The consultation process was a complicated one. The CTF recruited representatives of local civil society, political, feminist, healthcare and religious leaders as Zonal Task Force members (ZTF), who could conduct consultations on the ground across the various districts and provinces. Several ZTF members told Human Rights Watch that it was a difficult process, with little support or outreach from the government. Worse, they said people turned up for meetings despite intense fear of security force surveillance. ……….