Methodological Approaches to Unpacking Testimonies made to Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
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In this paper, I analyze Tamil women’s testimonies that were made to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in 2010-2011, an inquiry commission set up by the Sri Lankan government to investigate the final stages of the war and initiated in a context of protracted genocide, increasing international scrutiny and calls for war crimes investigations. As my doctoral work and other human rights groups have argued, the LLRC is not methodologically sound or a credible form of transitional justice. Yet, Tamil people testified in large numbers despite a lack of witness protection, threats by the army and paramilitaries; despite having little faith in the LLRC or the government. My paper analyses the content of the testimonies made in the Northern Province within an intersectional analysis of nationalism, and asks: what did people testify about, what were their silences? What kinds of power dynamics are revealed in the testimonies? How did the LLRC – appointed by the Sri Lankan President, who is also accused of committing genocide – respond to and attempt to control Tamil testimonies? I ultimately argue that the LLRC is a form of Sri Lankan nationalism that was used to ‘wipe clean’ the nation after the most horrific phase of the genocide.