Centre for Policy Alternatives on 12 February, 2014

Commentary on the Progress Achieved in Implementing the National Plan of Action to Implement the Recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

Categories: DocumentsPolicy Briefs

Download the commentary/introduction to the full report, published below, as a PDF here.

Download the comprehensive report in table form as a PDF here or read online here.


The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was established in May 2010 and the report of the Commission (LLRC Report) was presented to the President in November 2011, with its subsequent tabling in the Parliament in December 2011. At the outset there were concerns, amongst others, about its limited mandate to investigate violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and to address the root causes of Sri Lanka’s conflict[1].

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) welcomed the release of the­­­­ LLRC Report but cautioned that that there were several shortcomings related to both process as well as substantive recommendations.  CPA called on the GoSL to implement the LLRC recommendations without delay and with sincerity and commitment, whilst noting that the LLLRC report constituted the initiation of a process of reconciliation and not the end of it.[2]

Confusion persists as to the Government’s overall stance on the LLRC, including whether the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) endorses its findings and recommendations.[3] In March 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling on the GoSL to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. Subsequently the GoSL drafted the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC (LLRC Action Plan). The Action Plan was approved by cabinet in July 2012.[4] In March 2013 the UNHRC adopted a second resolution entitled Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka and in July 2013 the GoSL added a further 53 recommendations made by the LLRC to LLRC Action Plan.

With Sri Lanka fast approaching the 5th year anniversary of the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May of this year, the sources of the conflict are still being sustained and even reproduced.  The situation in respect of Human Rights protection warrants urgent attention.

As flagged during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Colombo in November 2013, dissent is met with hostility from the GoSL.[5] Continued attacks on the media, threats against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), incidents of arbitrary arrests and detention, reports of torture, gender based violence, institutionalized militarization, grave concerns regarding the independence of Judiciary and Police continue to seriously undermine the rule of law and by extension the reconciliation process.  In addition, the past year has seen an increase in the number of incidents of attacks against places of religious worship- most of which have been conducted very publicly with near total impunity. All these factors reinforce the critical need to focus on the protection of Human Rights, the rule of law and the reversal of the culture of impunity in moving towards the goal of reconciliation, unity and democratic governance in Sri Lanka.[6]

Given the record of unsatisfactory outcomes of previously appointed Commissions,[7] the lethargic prosecution of issues of accountability and the importance of implementing the recommendations of the LLRC as a first step towards reconciliation and a sustainable peace, CPA has conducted a critical study on the GoSL’s progress -up to February 2014- in respect of its LLRC Action Plan, based on information available in the public domain.

The table thematically lists out the recommendations of the LLRC as they have been adopted by the Action Plan, the progress with regard to the implementation of those recommendations as per the progress updates in January 2014 on the GoSL’s dedicated LLRC Action Plan website[8] and finally, a commentary column that is dedicated to CPA’s concerns on the progress or lack thereof, in the implementation of the recommendations’ thus far.  This commentary does not substantively address all of the broad issues highlighted by the Report, nor does it aim to do a complete situational analysis of GoSL’s reconciliation efforts. In the absence of Right to Information legislation – a recommendation of the LLRC- CPA relied on information gathered by civilians and non – state actors on the ground and on information publicly available to ordinary citizens.  That challenges in obtaining information needed to assess progress made on implementing the LLRC Action Plan were clearly demonstrated in the course of this study, thereby highlighting one of the key setbacks of an islandwide reconciliation programme: the lack of accessibility, transparency and the availability of information.

Some of the key areas of concern are as follows;

Disparity between Proposed Activity and Update: There are several instances where there is a mismatch between the LLRC recommendation and suggested activity contained in the LLRC Action Plan.[9] These continue to persist even in the progress report on the implementation of the LLRC Action Plan, which renders the progress achieved meaningless.

Lack of genuine interest to involve and accept the support of civil society, local and foreign agencies: The GoSL in certain areas has neglected the expertise of organizations that can support their activities. For example civil society and public consultation should be done on matters relating to legislation and public policy. These organizations can also provide the GoSL with financial and human resource assistance to expedite the activities.[10]

Lack of Clarity/ Unreliability of statistics provided; There are contradictory statements from the GoSL regarding the extent of the military presence in the Northern Province. As far back as June 2012 the GoSL claimed that the number of troops in the Jaffna peninsula had been reduced from 27,000 in December 2009 to 15,600 in June 2012.[11] In September 2013 and January 2014, President Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that the number of troops had been reduced to between 8,000 -12,000.[12] However it was reported recently that the Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga had stated that the number of security forces personnel in the Northern Province as at October 2013 was 80,000.[13]

The numbers mentioned by the Secretary to the President are still quite conservative as when compared to the number of existing security forces battalions[14] and land being acquired for the construction of military cantonments in the Northern Province.[15] They do highlight an important and serious concern with regard to the credibility of statistics provided by the GoSL.

Furthermore the progress update provided by the GoSL states that military involvement in civilian administration does not occur. However, reports from the Northern Province indicate that the military remains involved in the daily lives of civilians.[16]  Furthermore the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, development and security in the Northern Province (PTF) continues to play a prominent role in activities conducted in the Northern Province, including being the key agency tasked with the responsibility for implementing several activities as per the LLRC Action Plan.

Action Plan does not include activities: There are an alarmingly high number of instances where no Activities are proposed in order to achieve a recommendation included in the LLRC Action Plan,[17] whilst in several others there is no mention of the key responsible agency or time frame or key performance indicator in order to evaluate the implementation of the recommendation[18]. In some instances none of these components have been included.[19] A majority of such cases relate to recommendations added to the LLRC Action Plan in July 2013. This raises serious questions as to the bona fides of the GoSL in including these recommendations in the LLRC Action Plan.

Key implementation mechanisms being stalled: Several mechanisms[20] included in the LLRC Action Plan to deal with a number of important recommendations have not even begun functioning. CPA had previously indicated that these mechanisms could be used as a “delaying tactic”.[21]

Independent Institutions have been undermined: The LLRC Report placed particular emphasis on the need to strengthen independent institutions and made several key recommendations to this end. The Progress reported suggests almost all of these recommendations have been implemented.[22] However considering the provisions of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the power it confers on the Executive President, none of the supposedly independent institutions (that are presently in operation) are actually ‘independent’.[23]

Investigations of Violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law: The LLRC did not adequately address issues regarding violations of human rights and international humanitarian law with criticism leveled against its findings.[24]

The role of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and other government actors in investigatory processes involving incidents implicating the military raises questions as to the impartiality and independence of such investigations. Furthermore the key reports cited in the government update both raise more questions than they answer with the report of the Army Court of Inquiry not being made public and the Report of the Army Board of Inquiry recommending the appointment of further commissions in order to investigate the same allegations.[25]

The current situation with regard to the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, against the backdrop of two resolutions on Sri Lanka in the UNHRC focusing on this, underscores the critical importance of civil society and international attention to issues of human rights protection and accountability in Sri Lanka.  Faced with augmented and persistent challenges, democratic governance, durable peace, reconciliation and unity in Sri Lanka require that it be reinforced.

[1]Daily News, “Mandate of Lessons Learnt”, 16 August 2010, (Available at http://archives.dailynews.lk/2010/08/16/fea02.asp).

[2] Centre for Policy Alternatives(CPA), Press Release, “Release of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report”, January 2012, (Available at https://www.cpalanka.org/final-version-release-of-the-lessons-learnt-and-reconciliation-commission-llrc-report/).

[3] Cabinet Spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella stated that the government could “implement the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) only according to a road map as spelled out earlier and the government could not implement the report in its entirety without having a dialogue with all the stakeholders.” (Kelum Bandara, “Can implement LLRC recommendations only according to road map: Keheliya”, Daily Mirror, 6 January 2012) ; Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva the Leader of House in the Sri Lankan Parliament and a member of the Government delegation to the 19th Session of the UN HRC stated that “The LLRC has gone beyond the mandate given to it by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at certain points. The government has to consider what parts of the recommendations can be implemented immediately and what parts of the recommendations need further attention, in depth study etc and how they make an impact on the country’s future.” (N.G, “‘Constitution allows state to hold referendum only for single reason’, Daily News, 27 March 2012); Acting Media Minister and Cabinet spokesperson Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana stated that the “Government is committed to implement Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations deemed acceptable to Sri Lanka but will not give in to undue pressure.“ (BBC Sinhala.com “Parliament to decide LLRC implementation”, 5 April 2012, last accessed on 21 August 2012, (Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2012/04/120405_yapa.shtml).

[4]News.lk, “Cabinet Approves National Action Plan to implement LLRC recommendations”, 27 July 2012, (Available at http://www.news.lk/news/sri-lanka/2676-cabinet-approves-national-action).

[5] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Human Rights and Democracy 2012: The 2012 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report”, (Available athttp://www.hrdreport.fco.gov.uk/human-rights-in-countries-of-concern/sri-lanka/quarterly-updates-sri-lanka/?showall=1).

[6] Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2014”, (Available athttp://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/sri-lanka?page=1); Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “Human Rights and Democracy 2012: The 2012 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report”, (Available at http://www.hrdreport.fco.gov.uk/human-rights-in-countries-of-concern/sri-lanka/?showall=1).

[7]CPA, Background Paper Document, “A List of Commissions and Committees Appointed by GoSL (2006-2013)” January 2014, (Available at https://www.cpalanka.org/a-list-of-commissions-and-committees-appointed-by-gosl-2006-2013/); Law and Society Trust, “A Legacy to Remember; Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry 1963-2002” (Edited by Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena), September 2010, (Available at http://www.lawandsocietytrust.org/PDF/a%20legacy%20to%20remember%3B%20sri%20lanka’s%20commissions%20of%20inquiry.pdf).

[8]National Plan of Action for the Implementation of LLRC Recommendations, (Available at http://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/); International Humanitarian Law Issues (Available at http://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/images/International%20Humanitarial%20Law%20Issues.pdf); Human Rights (Available at http://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/images/Human%20Rights.pdf); Land Return and Resettlement (Available at http://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/images/Land%20Return%20and%20Resettlement.pdf);  Restitution/Compensatory Relief (Available athttp://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/images/Restitution.pdf); Reconciliation (Available at http://www.llrcaction.gov.lk/images/Reconciliation.pdf).

[9] See LLRC Action Plan – Progress Report, January 2014, 9.57, 9.73, 9.81, 9.111, 9.270

[10] [10]See LLRC Action Plan – Progress Report, January 2014, 9.59, 9.115 a-c, 9.115e,9.144,9.148, 9.270, Interim recommendation 1(b)

[11] Defence.lk, “Troop strength in Jaffna drastically reduced”, 17 June 2012, available at http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=troop_strength_in_jaffna_drastically_reduced_says_defence_secretary_20120617_01

[12]Groundviews, “The Al-Jazeera Interview- Calling the bluff, 29 September 2013, available at http://groundviews.org/2013/09/29/the-al-jazeera-interview-with-mahinda-rajapaksa-calling-the-bluff/ ; Colombo Telegraph, “President Rajapaksa claims 12 00 soldiers left in North”, available at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/president-rajapaksas-lies-claims-12000-soldiers-left-in-the-north-but-reality-is-more-than-150000/

[13] Colombo Telegraph, “Lalith Weeratunge rebuts president on Northern troop numbers” February 2014, available at  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/lalith-weertaunge-rebuts-president-on-northern-troop-numbers/

[14] Colombo Telegraph, “President Rajapaksa claims 12 00 soldiers left in North”, available at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/president-rajapaksas-lies-claims-12000-soldiers-left-in-the-north-but-reality-is-more-than-150000/

[15] Land acquisition brief p 43- 47

[16] See Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, Northern Provincial Council Election 2013 – Communiqué No 1, 13th September 2013, available at http://cmev.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/northern-provincial-council-election-2013-e28093-communiquecc81-no-1.pdf; Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, Northern Provincial Council Election 2013 – Mullaitivu District Situation Report, 20 September 2013, available at http://cmev.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/northern-provincial-council-election-2013-mullaitivu-district-situation-report/

[17] See LLRC Action Plan, 9.70, 9.93, 9.98, 9.99, 9.100, 9.105, 9.112, 9.139, 9.144, 9.145, 9.147, 9.148, 9.165, 9.221, 9.222, 9.230

[18] See LLRC Action Plan, 9.57, 9.115e, 9.14, 9.55, 9.58, 9.65, 9.70, 9.80, 9.93, 9.94, 9.95, 9.98, 9.99, 9.100, 9.105, 9.112, 9.139, 9.144, 9.145, 9.147, 9.148, 9.165, 9.220, 9.221, 9.222, 9.230

[19] See LLRC Action Plan, 9.22, 9.26,

[20] Parliamentary Select Committee, The 4th Land Commission.

[21] Centre for Policy Alternatives, Bhavani Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan, Mirak Raheem, Commentary on the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee, August 2012, (Available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/103800519/CPA – Commentary – on – LLRC – Action – Plan).

[22] See Table 9.57, 9.215, 9.218, 9.219

[23]Rohan Edrisinha and Aruni Jayakody (eds), “The 18th Amendment to the Constitution: Substance and Process”,  2011

[24] The LLRC reached its conclusions without examining specific information including the chain of command and the authorities’ prior knowledge of the ground situation. They also seemed to have relied heavily on Government sources for their analysis, disregarding important information available with those who were witnesses of the last stage of the war. (See CPA, “Release of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report”, 4 January 2011, available at: https://www.cpalanka.org/release-of-the-lessons-learnt-and-reconciliation-commission-llrcreport/)