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