Original Document (as scanned pages) - www.tiny.cc/ONURpolicy2017
On 2nd May 2017, in a historic move, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Government of Sri Lanka approved Sri Lanka’s first National Reconciliation Policy.
The process for developing the National Reconciliation Policy was initiated in September 2015 by the Office for National Unity & Reconciliation (ONUR) chaired by Former President Her Excellency Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
After a one-year comprehensive consultation process with multiple stakeholders including Government officials, ministries, departments, members of provincial councils, civil society, academia, and experts and grass-roots activists, the National Reconciliation Policy was submitted by His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena in September 2016 to Cabinet of Ministers for discussion. In his accompanying note to the Cabinet, His Excellency stated that the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) had drafted the National Policy in a “manner that reflects that reconciliation is a whole-of-government effort and a multi-stakeholder endeavour.”
At this Cabinet Meeting in September 2016, Hon Minister Mano Ganeshan, Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue & Official Languages, requested a few amendments to the document. Hence, the Cabinet directed the Secretary to the President to discuss these concerns with ONUR, who had prepared and drafted the National Policy on Reconciliation, and with Ministers and Secretaries of relevant Ministries and present a final version of the National Policy on Reconciliation. The Ministry of National Coexistence, Dialogue & Official Languages sent in amendments comprising paragraphs regards two matters, namely, language policy and coexistence. The rest of the original document as was prepared and drafted by ONUR was agreed to by the Ministry National Coexistence, Dialogue & Official Languages and other relevant Ministries.
Accordingly, ONUR prepared the final version of the National Policy on Reconciliation and it was this final version of the document prepared by ONUR that was adopted by the Government at the Cabinet of Ministers’ meeting held on 2 May 2016.
ONUR held further discussions and consultations with stakeholders and the revised final version of the National Reconciliation Policy & Coexistence was resubmitted as a joint Cabinet Memorandum by His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena and Hon Mano Ganeshan, Minister of National Coexistence, Dialogue & Official Languages, to the Cabinet of Ministers on 2 May 2017 for adoption.
The National Reconciliation Policy declares that will “serve as the State policy on reconciliation” and “provide direction to the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka.” Further, it says that it will “provide a guiding framework to all stakeholders working on reconciliation in order to achieve coherence in reconciliation initiatives.”
The National Policy on Reconciliation is set to fill a long-standing vacuum due to the absence of a consolidated National Policy on Reconciliation. The National Policy on Reconciliation will aim to satisfy the need of the country for an over-arching vision on reconciliation and a broad, coherent framework to steer and direct the process of national reconciliation. In this regard, it declares that, “Acknowledging that while several reconciliation initiatives are underway, there does not exist an expressed declared policy by the Government of Sri Lanka on the subject; hence this National Policy on Reconciliation aims to bridge this gap.”
This National Reconciliation Policy has laid down a set of “Policy Principles” which it defines as “A set of actionable principles and long-term goals that will form the basis for making rules and guidelines, and to provide overall direction to planning and development for national reconciliation. These include Equality, Human Rights, Justice and the Rule of Law, Transitional Justice, Inclusivity and Diversity, Sustainable Development, Civic Consciousness and others. The National Reconciliation Policy also lays down guidelines for stakeholders and actors implementing reconciliation programs and has identified the following as critical to it, namely, Conflict Sensitivity, Cross-Cultural Awareness, Victim-Centredness, Gender Responsiveness, Foresight and Innovation, Leadership and Sustainability, Efficiency and Effectiveness, Coordination and Complementarity and Clear and Consistent Communication.
The National Reconciliation Policy includes an Implementation Strategy which has stated as follows: “Mainstream the values defined in the National Policy on Reconciliation within government institutions and existing national initiatives through annual work plans; Develop a National Programme and Action Plan for Reconciliation; and Launch public awareness and education campaigns on the National Policy on Reconciliation and the National Programme and Action Plan on Reconciliation.”
The Policy Document in English, Sinhala and Tamil can be downloaded via the link: www.tiny.cc/ONURpolicy2017
The Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation declared this week that a "National Integration & Reconciliation Week" would be observed every year from 8th to 14th January following a cabinet approval.
The Main aim of this initiative is to promote among communities of different ethnic, religious, cultural and regional diversities about the unity, peace, affection and brotherhood.
This is a "nation building" effort that lays foundation for united, strong, reconciled and prosperous nation which recognizes “Unity in Diversity”
A Press Conference was held at the Government Information Department on Friday the 06th of January 2017 to announce the National Reconciliation Week programmes and initiatives.
The Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) notes with concern, the rise of hate speech in Sri Lanka in the recent past, which challenges the initiatives being taken by the government to heal our country after decades of bloodshed and destruction.
Hate filled expressions and actions by groups with vested interests, resulting in demeaning, denigrating and inciting violence against fellow citizens of various ethnic, religious backgrounds has no place in Sri Lankan society.
For the first time in contemporary Sri Lanka, the Government has a stated vision to build One United Nation by promoting Reconciliation and a lasting Peace. The Government is working towards bringing about reconciliation among all communities, making it the highest priority.
This is in contrast to the years before 2015 where power brokers in the state fomented communal and ethnic hatred, shielded by a culture of impunity, thereby inciting racism and violence against fellow Sri Lankans.
The Government and the people of Sri Lanka are presently engaged in the noble task of rebuilding a society in which Good Governance prevails. The challenges faced in realising this are immense. Yet, the new opportunities that have opened up and the favourable socio-political context created since January 2015 must be seized.
The active participation and leadership of ALL patriotic Sri Lankans is essential for the achievement of Reconciliation, Peace and honest, effective, people friendly Governance if we are to attain political stability, economic growth and progress we so richly deserve as a Nation. We must work towards acknowledging the differences and celebrating the richness of diversity in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious country.
Short, medium and long term efforts are underway to address the grievances of all communities and to build a sense of respect, equality and pride in every citizen, living in an inclusive Sri Lanka where each person has the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms that are the right of all citizens.
The strictest action must be taken without delay, against persons or groups who act to provoke disharmony by creating divisions among citizens along ethnic and religious lines. President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickrmasinghe and the entire government have categorically reiterated that hate speech will not be tolerated.
We welcome the proactive actions by civil society and religious leaders in countering the attempts to spread hate by very small yet vocal groups.
ONUR, while appreciating the arrest of two individuals from two different communities, accused of hate speech and for inciting racism, urges the relevant authorities to take appropriate action against all such incidents regardless of the social status, ethnic / religious background or political affiliations of the perpetrators.
We note that there are numerous complaints against hate speech and incitement to racism where strong evidence is available yet investigations and prosecutions are pending for some time. We urge the law enforcement authorities to take early action on all these incidents.
We welcome His Excellency the President and the Hon. Prime Minister’s unequivocal statements that we cannot permit racist or extremist elements from any community to challenge or imperil our chosen path to a stable, prosperous and plural Sri Lanka.
We appeal to all Sri Lankan's to engage with the Government to realise this goal.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
Chairperson, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation
Education to play a major role in reconciling Sri Lanka
The Office for Unity and Reconciliation, along with the Provincial Education Departments has initiated a programme to strengthen reconciliation at school level across the island.
The first in a series of facilitator trainings took place in Anuradhapura this year with 3 more held involving officials from then Eastern, Central, Southern, Western and Northern Provinces.
The Follow up student exchange camps titled "Sahodara Pasal - Sahodara Padasalai" were held last week in Batticaloa bringing together schools in the Eastern and Southern provinces, which have been paired to continue reconciliation activities amongst the provinces. Another camp was concluded in Central Province under the same initiative for the diverse student population within the province. This programme will also be held between schools of the Western and Northern provinces, and between the other provinces in early 2017.
At these camps, hundreds of students representing diverse ethnicities, come together for a 5 day residential camp where they will learn to live together, about diverse subjects related to Reconciliation, engage in activities and plan for an Action Plan to follow up before heading to their respective communities to work towards Reconciliation. A teacher education programme runs in parallel with all these programmes being conducted by the trained provincial facilitators.
The key objective of this programme aims to create a pool of facilitators among teachers and education officials in the provinces while connecting thousands of students to become change makers in their communities. This approach is taken as ONUR's medium to long-term plan for the education sector where these initiatives evolve into a long term plan to foster relationships between the provinces and wider student communities, in a sustainable manner.
The inaugural camps in Dambulla and Batticaloa were attended by the Chairperson of ONUR former president Chandrika Kumaratunga along with provincial officials.