UN Special Rapporteur notes trust deficit in Sri Lanka

ohchr-minorities-featuredThe UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, today noted that there is a trust deficit vis-à-vis the State as well as between the communities in Sri Lanka.

This, she says, is understandable and it is apparent that and large people from all communities do recognize the need for everyone to come together and re-generate trust at all levels of society.

Rita Izsák-Ndiaye expressed these views while speaking to the media at the conclusion of a visit to Sri Lanka.

“The Sri Lankan identity and the notion of nationhood must be strengthened to foster a stronger sense of belongingness and togetherness of all Sri Lankans. And while the country is undergoing an important reconciliation process with constitutional reform, transitional justice and policy-making, the devastating impact of the war and violence on psychological well-being cannot continue to be ignored. Past acts of repression of culture and expression, ethnic intolerance and discrimination have severely damaged social and cultural norms and feelings of identity, belonging and trust,” she said.

Rita Izsák-Ndiaye said the Government of Sri Lanka, while implementing truth-seeking, reconciliation and accountability measures, should also consider supporting psychosocial programs, counselling and support interventions, and symbolic forms of healing for the population as a whole, especially in conflict-affected areas.

She says it is imperative that war-affected communities, especially women, benefit from specialized psychosocial support without further delay, to help them overcome the trauma which often manifests in complex and intertwined physical, emotional and mental health complications.

“Truth-seeking, reconciliation and healing takes time and cannot be done overnight. However, at the same time, in order not to lose the momentum gained by the new administration in 2015, the Government must put in place some urgent, important and concrete measures to clearly demonstrate its political will and commitment to better protect Sri Lanka’s minorities. This includes continued return of land to their owners, charging or releasing all security-related detainees, making progress in finding disappeared persons and taking visible steps to gradually transfer military powers to civilian authorities,” Rita Izsák-Ndiaye added.

She says she firmly believes that the Government and provincial offices, law enforcement bodies, the armed forces, the education and health institutions, if truly reflective of the diversity of the Sri Lankan people with the inclusion of members of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, can make significant progress in addressing the overwhelming sense of marginalisation felt by many communities, as well as conferring trust and legitimacy in the governance of Sri Lanka.

She also urged the authorities to consider a review of all personal laws, especially the 1951 Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, in line with international human rights standards and in consultation with the Muslim community including Muslim women’s groups. (Colombo Gazette)