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National Unity and Reconciliation Bill Sparks Concerns Over Civil Society Oversight

In a bid to foster national unity and reconciliation, the government has proposed the establishment of an Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) through an Act of Parliament. The draft law, known as the ONUR bill, aims to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens across economic, social, cultural, and political spheres, while preserving individual identities and promoting inclusivity.

The ONUR bill, currently under review by the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Reconciliation and National Unity, has drawn attention from the National Peace Council (NPC). The NPC appreciates the Committee’s openness to suggestions for revisions from civil society. However, concerns have been raised regarding the lack of public awareness surrounding the proposed law.

The NPC specifically expresses reservations about the ONUR’s potential role in guiding and overseeing peace and reconciliation programs conducted by local organizations, including community-based entities. There are apprehensions that such authority may lead to the oppression of civil society, as seen in previous legislation.

Furthermore, the NPC highlights concerns about the process for appointing the decision-making body of ONUR. The current draft suggests that the minister overseeing ONUR will select and the president will appoint the 11 committee members. Critics argue that this process may risk unilateral decision-making and political bias, contrary to the intentions of the 21st Amendment, which sought to prevent such occurrences.

Emphasizing the importance of non-partisan representation, the NPC urges the government to engage with opposition political parties, especially those representing minority ethnic and religious communities. The call is for a multi-partisan consensus that aligns with the spirit of the 21st Amendment and ensures a true reconciliation process for national unity.

As the ONUR bill awaits further scrutiny, there is a growing demand for increased public discussion to raise awareness and address the concerns raised by the NPC and other stakeholders. Achieving national unity and reconciliation, it is argued, necessitates a collaborative and inclusive approach that encompasses diverse perspectives.

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