For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)
Centre for Human rights (CHR) strongly criticizes preventing journalists from covering the LLRC session in the Boossa Detention Centre today (December, 30, 2010.) the LLRC was to meet around 100 hardcore LTTE cadres detained in the camp.
The LLRC has the ultimate responsibility to make their actions transparent and accountable. It is widely accepted that openness of the process and the accessibility to information is important in achieving reconciliation since it clears away misunderstandings and prejudices. Therefore CHR feels that preventing independent journalists covering LLRC sessions and dousing the voice of a segment of the stakeholders is counter-productive in achieving the professed goal of reconciliation.
It is evident that transparency and accessibility is vital in bridging the gap which has been created between communities during the 30 year old civil war. And as a powerful commission appointed by the President it has the power and ability to assure transparency and accessibility.
Hundreds of suspected LLTE cadres are detained in the Boossa Detention Centre. During the LLRC sessions in Jaffna and Trincomalee it was clear that addressing the issue of detainees is vital in achieving reconciliation. We believe that the session in Boossa was one of the most pivotal and the most sensitive LLRC sitting because the Commission will have the chance to meet a group of young men who have believed in an army struggle, listen to what they have learnt and what they suggest to achieve reconciliation.
Journalists from the BBC, LAKBIMAnEWS, Thinakural, Weerakesari, Reuters and Tamil Mirror arrived at Boossa Detention Centre with the approval of Media Centre for National security (MCNS) Director Lakshman Hulugalle. MCNS Director had assured several journalists on December, 29 that they will be allowed to cover the session however at the last minuet the journalists were informed they cannot enter the Centre without Ministry of Defense (MoD) clearance. After waiting for nearly three hours and numerous phone calls to Hulugalle, LLRC Secretary and the TID the journalists returned to Colombo. For the first time a LLRC session was closed to media and in a few days various rumours on what transpired will start circulating.
CHR would reiterate that transparency and accessibility are pivotal in achieving reconciliation and that the LLRC is responsible for ensuring that. We hope that this would be the last time that the doors of the LLRC would be closed to the media.
Rajitha Keerthi Tennakoon