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Thursday, 05 August 2021 11:20

Dialogue Initiated with Government Leaders

The prospect of moving from a divided past to a shared future is an alluring one that needs to be realized on the ground through a more all-encompassing dialogue. With this goal in mind, a group of civil society members met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardene, Minister of Justice Ali Sabry, State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya and Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group included members of NPC’s governing council and board of directors Bishop Asiri Perera, Hilmy Ahamed, Visaka Dharmadasa, Rohana Hettiarachchi, Professor T. Jayasingam, Dr. Joe William and Dr. Jehan Perera.

At the outset of the meeting Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that this meeting is to help to understand the expectations from the government side and that the common intention is to democratically take the country forward. Justice Minister Ali Sabry said that they wished to obtain the views on how to face the challenges both nationally and internationally and emphasized the need to balance competing interests. Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage made a sober and rational point by point response to the memorandum presented to the government team by the civil society members.

The discussions that followed took place in an environment of equal treatment and mutual respect. The civil society members welcomed the opportunity to engage with members of the government on topics of post-war reconciliation, civil society space and governance. They emphasized the need for the government to view civil society as a partner in resolving national issues and to be consulted.

They called on the government to take meaningful and concrete stops to address emblematic human rights cases, repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, uphold civil society space, establish District Reconciliation Committees and form a parliamentary caucus on reconciliation, among others. The government members affirmed their commitment to getting the participation of civil society in development and post-war reconciliation and ensure that any prospective law with regard to NGOs
would be discussed with them.

The government members also stated their conviction that government policy was to treat every citizen equally, to consider diversity to be a blessing rather than a liability and that the provincial council system would be sustained, and the elections would be held when technical issues are sorted out. They pointed out that institutions set up for reconciliation, including the Office on Missing Persons, the Office for Reparations and the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation would work in coordination in the future. The need to make the appointment process a more inclusive one was made. The meeting concluded with the prospect of future dialogue and engagement, with the civil society members calling on the government leadership to inform the general public about its position on issues of post-war reconciliation in particular and obtain their support.