Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Leadership required for successful Reconciliation and Development in post conflict Sri Lanka

By Pushpi Weerakoon (MA Conflict Transformation)

It has been argued that there are six phases in the evolution of conflict situations – malaise, incipient crisis, denied conflict, open conflict, war, and reconciliation and reconstruction. Of these, arguably the most challenging and complex are the last. Tensions easily arise between reconciliation needs, development ambitions and politics in a post-conflict state. Hence managing a post-conflict environment in a state requires exceptional leadership.

Therefore, in the immediate aftermath of an election – with a clear mandate from the people, and a manifesto which emphasised the need for reconciliation and engagement of all communities – the time is right for his Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa to articulate and deliver on a new style of leadership.

There is the delicate task of finding a way to balance issues such as truth and justice so that the slow transformation of behaviour, attitudes and emotions between victims and perpetrators can take place. The pragmatic work of building relationships and confidence needs to work in tandem with the restoration of communities, infrastructure and livelihoods.

From the outset, a clearly articulated vision is needed – one which acknowledges the past, depicts the future, and both recognises and responds to the needs of all communities. And this vision needs to be both appropriate and achievable. As seen in Eritrea in the 1990s, reintegration was only successful when planned and implemented within the broader context of rehabilitation, which in turn is seen as part of a long-term development concept. The leadership needs to demonstrate, and deliver on, a relevant and well-planned strategy. Moreover, that strategy needs to be integrated, recognising how development can be used as a vehicle to enable reconciliation. Another example would be the Municipal and Economic Development Initiative (MEDI) of Bosnia and Herzegovina. MEDI was designed to create democratic, non-profit associations serving a variety of community needs – including small business development, and improvements in quality of life and financial services – and in so doing, it increased tolerance and cooperation between people who had been polarized around ethnicity and brutalised by war through a programme of economic development. Not dissimilarly the setting up of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development (CMRRD) in Sierra Leone was predicated on formally coupling the proceeds of economic gain with reparation for victims – establishing a special Treasury account for proceeds from transactions involving diamonds and other natural resources to be reinvested back into society, such as by providing compensation to those incapacitated by war – so progressing the mutual goals of development and reconciliation.

Leadership in a post-conflict environment needs to be not merely well-planned and integrated, but unprejudiced too. It needs to acknowledge all communities and their needs, and to demonstrate empathy and benefit for each of these communities – and for the state as a whole. Not just the powerful or the majority. There are countless examples of how leadership can be abused. Among them the land occupations in Zimbabwe stands out.

Sri Lankan leadership style is traditionally authoritarian, posing the danger that – if translated through to the post-conflict leadership map of Sri Lanka – development might be purely macro in nature, and any reconciliation initiatives imposed on the country. The leadership must draw on other facets of Sri Lankan culture – such as a collectivist and participative approach to reaching consensus. Such a style would naturally tend to be a more participative developmental approach and would suggest that all elements of society have the same underlying desire for stability.
Whilst Sri Lanka has a history of authoritarian leadership, it has also set precedents of participative approaches, with leadership delegated to, or at least shared at, a micro level. Vidler’s (2000, The Rise and Fall of Government – Community Partnerships for Urban Development: Grassroots Testimony from Colombo) account of community partnerships for urban development, for example, tells of a radical break from conventional, top-down approaches within the government’s Million Houses Programme during the late 1980s and early 1990s. ‘Community development councils and a participatory methodology known as community action planning meant that residents and community leaders worked with government officers to identify problems, set priorities and develop solutions’. Such a precedent, applied in a different context, is perhaps precisely what Sri Lanka needs in driving forward its ambitions for both development and reconciliation.
In this regard, the international community has an important role to play in helping to establish a post-conflict environment which is conducive to effective reconciliation and development, and supportive of responsible leadership. This requirement is highlighted by Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic in his article World Bank, NGOs and the Private Sector in Post-War Reconstruction (Newman, E & Schnabel, A 2002, Recovering from Civil Conflict: Reconciliation, Peace, and Development) in which he argues that the international community’s engagement in economic reconstruction and development cannot be viewed in isolation, and that greater appreciation of broader factors are required if entities driving economic development are to engage effectively. Foremost of these is a greater understanding of socio-political change underlying contemporary conflicts and the effect this may have on both the roles and the rules of engagement of developmental and private sector bodies.

In order to establish these off-shore relationships and to enable reconciliation and post-conflict development an effective leadership which could not only be be trusted by the local but also the international community is undoubtedly essential in Sri Lanka. Certainly, this applies at the macro level; for as Funabashi (2003, Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific) states, ‘whatever vision is pursued, the process of reconciliation over the past will not move forward without appropriate political leadership of a high intellectual and moral calibre’ Yet it also applies at a micro level; since it is up to the local communities the individuals to rise up to make the most profound democratic transformation of the social order which would bring about lasting peace. The fact that a ‘silent nation, silence the nation’ should not be forgotten by us Sri Lankans.

May the blessing of the almighty triple gems and god guide our president, his Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa in the right direction to lead our country through a successful reconciliation and development process as he did the military war!

Pushpi Weerakoon

Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery UNDP- New York
MA Conflict Transformation -
Rotary Peace '07 & Ambassadorial '09 scholar


Anonymous said...

Could not help noticing the unwanted and convoluted religious sentiments at the end of the article "blessing of the almighty triple gems and god". This is trying be "religiously" correct and making a mess of it. "Almighty" is not a proper suffix for "Triple Gem" (not gems) and Triple gem and God in the same sentence only shows you are trying to appease religions and nothing more. This unwanted religiosity in Sri Lanka is actually a problem. See

Earl Martin said...

One draws hope that if the kind of thinking in this article -- inclusive of all parties, integration of development and reconciliation -- prevails, we can anticipate a more peaceful and just future for the people of Sri Lanka.

Anonymous said...

I think the author is wishing for the goodwill of the country using her religious believes. Unfortunately, the previous commenter has been offended by it and cites a website which does not identify whose running it; their objectives; or contacts info but has just one article, "Religion and Governance in Sri Lanka." The site seems to be bogus and set up with an agenda.

Anonymous said...

will tell u what the problem is srilanka is governed by bunch of ill educated , selfish idiots who are in both parties. and all the others are idiots who vote what country people kill each other to serve (work) people??? people who have worked for people have lost their property (mother Theresa). now they come to earn (99% of them and 1% get caught trying to do that).
"the saying too many cooks spoil the soup" that's what happen to sl leaders there are too many leaders in srilanka. some 120 odd i guess .so there are no and there will be no leadership in srilanka in the near future (at least next 50 years))
sooner or later sl will face hyper inflation (currently zimbabwe is facing it "browse google and see") at this rate its near future. then those so called leaders have earn for their families like for 7 generations and they will say its "PEOPLES debt" and say bye bye and go to some other country.
before that use brains and go to some other country.the bottom line is people who talk don't work, people who work don't talk. srilanka its only talking no work.

Anonymous said...

Good Comment.. leadership is not earning for them selves.. but in srilanka leadership is filling their pockets using peoples money. its vain. i dont know why this author boasting abt the current president that much.. author better go to srilanka and better to get a understand of the current situation of the country rather boasting about this unsuccessful leader.. he is a good leader for leading for the development of his family but not for the country..

Anonymous said...

i love you

Anonymous said...

to add some for a previous posting.i did not specifically said M.R i said both, that covers all the idiots surrounded by the "diyawanna oya" aka parliament.
she talks about his excellency blah blah because its a strategic move. to do something in SL first of all we have to get the acceptance of the so called leaders. there are three ways u can do it first and famous one "$$$$", woman, alcohol from the back door.
second one is to make hundred zillion documents and get it passed through couple of dozen ministries. in SL there is a ministry for basically everything.
what i think she try to do here is to market her idea.if marketing is a hush word lets say make awareness. to do that she has to get the approval from the top. if she try to write the article like me then MR or his clan will never accept. :p so i think her move is a timely made strategic move towards her goals.
the author tries to compare boznia, sierra etc with the SL situation. that's cool but its like comparing rice and spaghetti. though they were cooked same way. the outcome is different. each case is unique in each country.

some examples: Switzerland makes the finest chocolate without having a single cocoa tree. japan most of the areas are mountains, still one of the leading developed countries even after a atomic bomb blast. Singapore was a jungle till Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles started the British port and made it one of the leading countries.
why can't SL? answer my friend is leadership. our leaders create followers. great leaders make leaders not followers. so be a leader do the best you can.leadership should flourish from everyone. change should happen within ourselves.
Einstein once said “Only a life lived for others is worth living”
true leaders live for others. take Mahathma Ghandi first the leader followed his own rules and become the example to others.
if i write more it becomes a article not a comment so, i wish auther courage and competence to be with her on her future endeavors.

උදිත said...

Do you really mean what you write? Do you believe in your own writings? Or this is just a crap you have to write for living