Discussion Paper: The Need for a Comprehensive Reparations Policy and Package

For any post war society grappling with the consequences of past violence and engaged in exploring modalities for transitional justice, reparations is an important tool. Reparations, if designed and implemented in an inclusive manner that factors in the grievances of the victims and affected communities, can be an effective tool in acknowledging and addressing the injustices of the past. It is a bridge between the past and the future, and an integral element in the transition towards reconciliation.

The numerous transitional justice initiatives in Sri Lanka, in the past, have at different times explored the issue of reparations, many in ad-hoc forms with no comprehensive policy yet to be introduced that meets basic international standards. Past commissions of inquiry (COIs) including the All Island Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal and Disappearance of Certain Persons of 1998 (Disappearances COI) and the more recent Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recognized the need for reparations and made some useful recommendations including legal and policy reform and assistance to victims. There have also been government circulars and programs to award compensation and issue death certificates including the work of the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA). This paper discusses some of these initiatives, some which continue to be relevant and necessary today, and provides recommendations that should be examined and implemented without further delay.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) reiterates its advocacy over the years for truth, justice, reparations and institutional reform. In the post war context, CPA has done considerable work in documenting trends and patterns of ongoing violations and advocated reform including legal and policy reform. CPA has also called for action in terms of the four arms of transitional justice and has initiated dialogues among the different stakeholders on the areas that require reform. In this regard, CPA will produce several policy documents to feed into the design and implementation of processes and mechanisms of transitional justice, which will generate a wider discussion on transitional justice and related issues. This is an initial paper on reparations, which will be followed by several other initiatives.

Download the discussion paper here.

The Need for a Comprehensive Reparations Policy and Package

Benchmarks and Issues to Consider when Exploring Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka

Several reports in 2015 indicate to the possibility of establishing a ‘credible domestic process’ in Sri Lanka. This comes in a context of failed attempts in the past to address truth and justice in Sri Lanka and the ongoing protests by victims, families of the disappeared and affected communities for greater action. Recent protests also made specific reference to the developments at the 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the decision of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to defer the tabling of the report by the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL). The reports of a ‘credible domestic process’ also come in the context of the OISL report being tabled at the 30th Session of the UNHRC and pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to deliver on plans that address past violations and introduce reforms.

Key benchmarks and issues must be discussed when designing and subsequently implementing domestic processes and mechanisms. In this regard, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has produced this short note to initiate a discussion among the different stakeholders as to the different elements that must be part and parcel of any process/mechanism.

Download the discussion paper here.

CPA Benchmarks and Issues March 2015

Legal and Policy Implications of Recent Land Acquisitions, Evictions and Related Issues in Sri Lanka

Land has a central place in the post war debates involving resettlement, reconstruction, development and the search for a political solution. With the ten year anniversary of the tsunami nearing and more than five years after the end of the war, many questions regarding land issues persist including continuing challenges to individuals being able to fully enjoy, access and use their lands and reside in their homes, due to restrictions placed in the name of security and development. Furthermore, Sri Lanka has a complex framework for legal and possessory rights, covering both State and private land. This framework is meant to provide tenure security for individuals residing and using the land and safeguards to prevent arbitrary displacement and eviction. The legal and policy framework, despite its shortcomings and the need for reform in specific areas, is a basic starting point of a governance system as well as constituting recognition of the rights of those owning and in possession of land. Unfortunately, present practices and recent policy decisions undermine the framework in place and demonstrate a deliberate disregard and/or ignorance of what is in the books. These challenges are highlighted in the present brief with recommendations provided for immediate reform.

Download the policy brief here or read it online here.


Policy Brief: Politics, Policies and Practices with Land Acquisitions and Related Issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka

The Centre for Policy Brief (CPA) in its most recent policy brief titled ‘Politics, Policies and Practices with Land Acquisitions and Related Issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka’ issued today draws attention to several disturbing trends of land acquisition and related issues in the North and East. The brief makes the case that since the end of the war, instead of using land policies to further reconciliation, the Government of Sri Lanka has abused provisions within the Land Acquisition Act among other pieces of legislation to take over thousands of acres of land in a manner that predominantly affects minority communities and facilitates entrenched militarisation in the North and East.

The brief documents how the Government through land acquisitions has shown clear disregard for the law, often acting outside the parameters of the Land Acquisition Act and avoiding the inherent responsibilities of the Act itself, which requires that land only be taken where it is for a “public purpose”. The brief examines three specific cases, Jaffna, Sampur and Weli Oya, to highlighted problems related to acquisitions and alienation of land and how the present practices raises concerns of ‘land grabs’ in the area.  Another disturbing trend with respect to land highlighted in this brief is the dominant role of the central government and military actors in the administration of land.

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The brief comes at a time when there is increased attention on Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was recently held in Colombo where several issues related to human rights and reconciliation were raised including ongoing problems related to land. There is likely to be attention on these issues in the coming months and leading to the United Nations Human Rights Council session in March 2014. This brief focuses on land acquisitions and related issues because they serve as an important reflection of government policy and attitudes towards meaningful reconciliation. As the Government continues to blatantly disregard legal standards and pursue initiatives that can constitute ‘land grabs’, they further alienate minority communities and contribute to perceptions that the Government only caters to the majority community. The questions raised in the policy brief have far-reaching implications for devolution and governance in the area, begging the question of whether trends of further centralisation and militarisation regarding land issues are signs of things to come and accordingly key impediments to reconciliation and unity. It is time to take stock of ground realities and initiate reform. 

Download as a PDF here or read online here (or below).

Available in Sinhala and Tamil as well.

Short-Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-War Sri Lanka

30 May 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to release it’s latest report, Short-Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-War Sri Lanka. The report provides a set of key measures that need to be implemented by the Government in the short term in order to achieve peace and reconciliation. It calls for actions in twelve thematic areas and lists recommendations including those in the interim and final recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and other official documents such as the National Human Rights Action Plan and Universal Periodic Review pledges, as well as those identified by CPA as critical to facilitating the transition from a post-war to a post-conflict society.

While the document identifies twelve thematic issues, several cross-cutting themes such as human rights, justice, accountability, gender, minority rights and vulnerabilities have been treated together constituting an overarching framework.

The document is primarily addressed to the Government in order to strengthen efforts to implement the recommendations of the LLRC and other key initiatives, but also highlights vital areas requiring the attention of political, civil society and other actors.

Short-Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-War Sri Lanka is part of a larger initiative on the part of CPA to generate public debate on reconciliation and explore modalities in moving forward.

Download the report as a PDF here.

A List of Commissions of Inquiry and Committees Appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka (2006–2012)

12 March 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has produced a table that contains basic information pertaining to Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) (1) and committees appointed by the Government since coming into power in November 2005 (2). Section I of the table examines the CoI and Section II contains information pertaining to key committees established during the specific time period (3).


  1. The Commissions listed in this document does not include those established by the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.
  2. The commissions and committees listed in this document are limited to those where information is publicly available.
  3. As of 9 March 2012.

Access the full table online here, where you can also print or download it as a PDF.