Thursday, February 22, 2018 01:34:32 PM

The Complexity of Loss

Photo Gallery1 Photo By Dr. Kalana Senaratne - Mon May 30, 4:09 am

Troubled by the burgeoning demands for accountability, the erstwhile Rajapaksa-government developed a homogenous narrative about how to respond to the cries of the war’s victims for truth and justice. Promoted as a ‘Sri Lankan approach’ to transitional justice, this narrative – the construction and promotion of which was ably assisted by key actors of the country’s legal profession – emphasized the importance of ‘restorative justice’ understood as giving prominence to forgiveness and tolerance when dealing with violence, and not to prosecutions of alleged perpetrators of crimes (‘retributive justice’). With a committed reluctance to investigate, the Rajapaksa-government which had successfully executed a war against the LTTE, had no other option but to promote such a narrative. Though less prominent today, its appeal has not yet diminished.


A recently published book effectively challenges this dominant narrative. In Confronting the Complexity of Loss: Perspectives on Truth, Memory and Justice in Sri Lanka (Law & Society Trust, 2015), Gehan Gunatilleke – a human rights lawyer, academic and civil society activist – provides an important account of the complexity of loss and the plurality of the narratives of loss which need to be taken into account in promoting justice to those victims of violence. Gunatilleke’s attempt is “to understand the attitudes of victims and survivors towards truth, memory and justice” (p.the victims of the JVP-insurrection (of the late 1980s); the victims of the war between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the LTTE; and the victims of human rights abuses of the post-war era….

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