Seminar on “From Winning the War to Winning Peace: Postwar Rebuilding of the Society in Sri Lanka”
Colombo, Sri Lanka
“I welcome the opportunity to engage in a discourse on an issue of critical importance to Sri Lanka with a distinguished and erudite group of academics, analysts and professionals who are present here on this occasion. Your choice of topic is of immediate relevance and the convening of this seminar is timely and, indeed, necessary. It is time that we reflect on where we are as a country and where we want to go from here, now that the military capabilities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been completely degraded. This demands dispassionate analysis and impartial comment.On this occasion, the combined talents and strengths of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo and the Centre for Security Analysis of Chennai, have created an opportunity for us to engage in just such an exercise. This is not an opportunity that we should let slip from our grasp. I sincerely appreciate the invitation extended to me by the Executive Director of the RCSS, Professor Amal Jayawardane, to join you on this occasion and share with you some thoughts on the Government’s vision and programmes for the future of the war-affected areas which will, in turn, affect the fortunes of the entire Sri Lankan nation,” said Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, in the keynote address he made inaugurating the Seminar “From Winning the War to Winning Peace: Postwar Rebuilding of the Society in Sri Lanka,” jointly organized by the Centre for Security Analysis (CSA) in Chennai, India, and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) in Colombo. Prof. Tissa Vitharana, Minister of Science and Technology and Chairman, All Party representative Committee (APRC) of Sri Lanka, made Opening Remarks at the commencement of the Third Session of the Seminar, on “Political Accommodation.” Outlining the action taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to prepare the final solution to the North East problem, Minister Vitharana referred to the work of the APRC and stated that the summary of the APRC proposals prepared at the conclusion of the meetings, would recommend “a home grown” solution to the concerned issues. The two day Seminar which took place on 28 – 29 August 2009, at Hotel Taj Samudra in Colombo attracted leading government agencies, think tanks, experts, the media and members of the diplomatic corps and international agencies. “Voices from Across the Palk Strait” joined “Voices from Sri Lanka” to lead the deliberations of the seminar. In his opening address at the inauguration of the seminar, Prof Amal Jayawardane, Executive Director, RCSS, acknowledged Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Keynote Speaker at the inaugural session, and Minister Tissa Vitharana, for his Opening Remarks at the commencement of the Session on Political Accomodation and welcomed the large number of participants present. He outlined the background of the seminar organised by RCSS in collaboration with CSA in Chennai and emphasised its objective to reflect on reconstruction and peace building activities in Sri Lanka that would allow the long-term social, economic and political stability to take root in the aftermath of the military defeat of the LTTE. He offered his thanks to General Raghavan for the opportunity made available to work together with CSA in staging the event and expressed the hope that it would be the beginning of a fruitful partnership with CSA. Making introductory remarks on the Seminar Concept, Lt. Gen. V. Ragahavan, President, CSA, explained the convening of the seminar as a timely activity with the participation of friends of Sri Lanka in India, particularly those in Chennai, and introduced the themes Economic Reconstruction, Socio- Ethnic Cohesion and Political Accommodation, under which panel discussions would take place during the working sessions of the Seminar. The first session of the Seminar on Economic Reconstruction was chaired by Prof. W.D. Lakshman, Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance and Planning & Chairman, Presidential Commission on Taxation with three experts presenting papers. A presentation was made on Strategies to Accelerate Infrastructural Development in Sri Lanka by Dr. Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi; on Economic Development and Reconstruction of the North-East: Problems and Prospects by Dr. Saman Kelegama, Executive Director, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka; and on Economic Freedom: The Path to Economic cum Political Empowerment of the Conflict Region by Dr Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, Principal Researcher, Point Pedro Institute of Development. Ambassador Sumith Nakandala, Additional Director General, UN & Multilateral Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chaired the Second Session on Socio-Ethnic Cohesion with three eminent experts making presentations. Mr. B. G. Verghese, Visiting Professor, Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi spoke on Reconciling Ethnic Diversities; Prof. R. A. Ariyaratne, Director, RCSS focused on Conflict-Induced Displaced Population of Sri Lanka: Challenges for the Future; and Deshabandu (Mrs) Jezima Ismail, Founder Co-ordinator, MWRAF, presented the third paper on Transformation of Conflict with a Focus on Stabilizing and Rebuilding of Relationships. The final session on Political Accommodation was chaired by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) V.R.Raghavan, President, CSA. A paper on Some Parameters of Political Reforms in Wining Peace after the War was presented by Professor Laksiri Fernando, Professor, University of Colombo; a presentation on Postwar Rebuilding: Constitutional Recipe for Political Accommodation made by Mr. N. Selvakkumaran, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo and bringing the seminar to a conclusion a paper on Testing the Waters and Testing the Will was presented by Mr. N. Sathiya Moorthy, Director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. The papers presented at each session led to a vibrant discussion of the respective themes and positive recommendations emerged at the end of the two-day event.