TNA Report to Parliament exposes Negative Peace

Dr. Jehan Perera | Published on October 31, 2011 at 10:20 pm

The government has laid much emphasis on the behavior of the LTTE over the course of the past three decades in justifying its conduct during the war to the international community. Much of what the LTTE did was indefensible from a human rights perspective. Although there was a high level of destruction of life and property in the course of eliminating the LTTE, this cost has been justified on the basis that it ended the war restored peace to the country. All societies have found ways and arguments to justify the wars they wage and win. However, the absence of military battles and the ravages of terrorism alone is not peace.

The world renowned peace scholar Johan Galtung has said that peace is not only the absence of war. According to him, peace that is limited to the absence of war is only negative peace. Negative peace refers to the absence of violence. When, for example, a ceasefire is enacted, a negative peace will ensue. It is negative because something undesirable stopped happening, such as the violence stopped. Positive peace is filled with positive content such as restoration of relationships, the creation of government systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict. Positive peace therefore exists where people are interacting non-violently and are managing their conflict positively, with sympathetic attention to the legitimate needs and interest of all concerned.

After a protracted and very costly war as occurred in Sri Lanka it is absolutely necessary to start with political reconciliation between the different ethnic communities and also between the government and the minorities. Such reconciliation is a pre-condition to strengthen social relationships and economic development. It is not easy to heal the wounds of war inflicted on the people especially the loss of lives caused during the war. This cannot be achieved unless there is healing action among the people of different communities, the government and political parties. The political and civil society leaderships need to consciously undertake to change the systems and patterns of thought that existed during war and work towards an era of peace and justice in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, there is growing skepticism today whether these conditions that make for positive peace actually exist in Sri Lanka.


A statement tabled in Parliament by Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran can be taken as a serious indictment of the treatment of Tamil citizens especially those living in the North and East of the country where the war for separation was fought. There is nothing healing about this type of behavior that is reported. As the MP is also a leading lawyer and unlikely to put his name to a document he cannot stand by without facts, and also since the TNA which he represents is the country’s third largest political party in Parliament, it is necessary for the government to take this report seriously. At the present time a TNA delegation is holding talks with top US officials in Washington and its travel itinerary includes visits to Canada and Britain. The report is likely to be a topic for discussion at these meetings.

The charges in the report relate primarily to the difficult circumstances of the people’s lives and uncaring treatment inflicted upon them that could not be anticipated with the passage of over two and half years from the end of the war. The continuing militarization of the Northern and Eastern provinces demonstrates that the situation is not peaceful in its positive sense. Social hardships include special registration of people, having to keep the security forces informed of guests to their homes, requiring even religious communities to inform the authorities in advance of the meetings they propose to have, and the practice of impunity where there is wrongdoing by government or military officials. With regard to economic hardships, there is the continuing keeping of large tracts of land as high security zones, giving land away to former military personnel and 200,000 people still remaining in transit camps or with relatives and not resettled, although they are out of the main welfare centers.

Some of the charges leveled against the government in the Sumanthiran report are not new ones. An earlier report by the MP was tabled in Parliament in July. But this time there is more detail that gives an indication of the scale of the problem. The report states that “Out of a total land mass of 65,619 sq km, Tamil people inhabited 18,880 sq km of land in the North and East, but after May 2009, the defence forces have occupied more than 7,000 sq km of land owned by Tamil people. There is one member of the armed forces for approximately every ten civilians in the Jaffna Peninsula. The heavy presence of the military continues to be the most serious concern in the North and East.”


Another serious concern relates to the continuing military control over people’s lives, apart from their physical presence. The report states that “Families must inform the army of the guests they receive, their relationship, and the reason and duration of their visit. Any family gathering to celebrate the birth or naming of a child, attainment of puberty of a girl, a wedding or even a death, requires prior permission from the nearest police post. Every village has a “Civilian Affairs Counter” managed by the armed forces where anyone entering a village is required to register themselves.” This is akin to life under a totalitarian regime, not in a democracy that is trying to heal the wounds of war and restore normalcy to the lives of war victims.

The report also makes a serious charge that “Most disturbing are the increasing number of sexual assaults carried out against women and girls in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts, often by government officials and the military. The brutality with which these assaults are carried out is especially disturbing. Women and girls also face a serious threat due to the labour force from the South being brought in for work on projects taking place in the North. Incidents are reported of women being raped by soldiers, and the victims and their families being too ashamed and afraid to make complaints or file charges. Doctors are being forced by the army to record that perpetrators are ‘unknown’ or ‘unidentified’ persons even though complainants have identified perpetrators, often where the involvement of army personnel is alleged.”

There needs to be a break with the past. Unless people are treated with respect and the rule of law prevails, and unless positive peace with justice is made real, there is the danger of resentments spilling over into renewed conflict. What happened during war has no place in a time of peace. Unless investigated and remedies found, there is also the danger of an expansion of abuse of power into other parts of the country also. Totalitarian practices in one part of the country are bound to spread to other parts, which is why effective systems of checks and balances are of primary importance. Preserving Sri Lanka’s gains, within the country and internationally, require the rule of law in the present and political will for reform, whatever might have been the past.

8 Comments to “TNA Report to Parliament exposes Negative Peace”

  • I would like to inform it was INGO Lady field officer(Western) who advised widowed families of four young girls married only having one husband (others died in conflict) to have safe sex to prevent AIDS forgeting our culture in 2009. These westerners do not worry of our culture. They know that once they destroy our culture our community will be without strayed in different directions. This what they are doing in Jaffna. Even the Europe experienced the same after 4 years of war, this is after 30 yeras of mistrust and conflict.Please leave us alone to solve our problems.The west has forgeten times that they kept eastern europe young girls for weeks by just giving a pair of jeans and a calculator !!!NEWSWEEK)What are these moral values!!10US$s shame

    • You should not shock to hear that LTTE as a trsroriet group because they are trsroriet. I want to say that you are covered with a myth. They are not reprsentatives off tamil people. LTTE is destroying all young life and young tamil generation by doing this war. They force children to join this war(I have practical experiences). All people suffer not because of government but of LLTE. Because of this trsroriet, lost so many valuable tamil and sinhala life. Prebakaran only think about his power. Can you guarante if prebakaran win this he won,t use his wepons to dominate people. At north east more than 300 000 sinhala and muslim people were displaced and their lands are occupied by LTTE. They have killed so many innocent sinhala and muslim people. Onnce near welikanda, LTTE killed all villagers in a sinhal village. They have killed prengant women and a 2 months child not even shooting but using axes(CUTING). More than 10 000 sinhala people have killed by LTTE. They do not want anything else but ruling power of north.(They already lost east) LTTEs first attack was dore appa one great tamil leader. They not only killed sinhala leaders but so many tamil leaders too. They killed any person who talk against them. People in north fear to talk aginst LTTE if they do so their families and life will go to heven as standing for truth. LTTE and their suppoters lie whloe world. They took advantages of some misleading politicain to gain their power.It doesn’t mean all them are same. Solution for this problem is finsh all trsroriet and give political solution to tamil people(not to LTTE). I can remember once they kill about 60 buddhist monks at aranthalawa while traveling on a bus. I am dissapointing to mention them as rebels they are truely trsroriet,creatures. LTTE must wipe out from sri lanka. All foreign nation should help sri lankan army to finish this war. Any tamil people can go any where of country but not sinhala and muslim people. They can even set foot northen people. LTTE killed so many sinhala people while occuping norhern area.Still they are doing so by bomb blasting at other areas of the country. Tamil people at north suffer o poverty because of LTTE as they don’t let goverment to devolop this areas. If they let they surely know not a single people stay with them. what they want is to let people to suffer and take advantage to join trsroriet.All must get together to wipe out LTTE and let all inocent tamil people to live free.Proud to be a sri lankan.Yours,Niranjan,(Totaly Sri lankan)

  • This is stupid, Country is trying her best to reconcile after 30years. It is stupid these TNA MP’s who supported LTTE now talk of freedom. No security minded person can allow enjoy total western freedom for LTTE sympathisers thinking nothing happen in the past and forget the past. We suffered most from the ethnic conflict and we Know how to get friendly with Tamils living in Sri Lanka more than the expatriate pundits.Please donot try to teach us how to live with minorities in our country. We know their culture and needs more than others.We will win the hearts and minds of our Tamils in Sri Lanka.Diaspora please keep away

  • Sumanthiran should be careful now he will be the next target

  • great stuff this

    • David,I think you raise some very significant qetouisns. Christians seem a bit too confident in their ability to objectively evaluate what it means to obey God.We have the Scriptures as our guide, but far too often we read what we want into those words rather than allowing those words to read into our lives.I start with Jesus – What was he really trying to say to us about obeying God? If he was the very incarnation of God, then his words and his actions are the ultimate objective evaluation of obeying God. Some of us, however, have a long way to go in our authentically seeking to follow our Lord. The good news is that we are not a finished product; we are all still in the process of transformation… none of us have arrived yet. The bad news is that far too many of us Christians are not living as if this were the case, living as if we have already arrived (and anyone looking at us can see that this is obviously not the case!).But please be patient with us – there can always be mid-course adjustments!

  • yes this is true Jehan, i quite agree with you , we really value your opinion but sometimes you seem to be scared of the Rajapakses or buying into their false policies . But then again you may be only safeguarding your family and who can blame you

  • Spot on. It is negative peace indeed.

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TNA Report to Parliament exposes Negative Peace

The government has laid much emphasis on the behavior of the LTTE over the course of the past three decades in justifying its conduct during ...