For Level 1 type land issues, the core challenge is the dramatic increase in land disputes due to population return, which is likely to overburden existing administrative and judicial bodies. The latter therefore need support in their capacities to tackle pending cases through an acceptable fast-track mechanism. Such fast-track mechanisms could, for example, deal with minor land disputes surrounding residential land and/or boundary disputes.
For Level 2 type conflicts, inter-ethnic conflict resolution mechanisms on community level need to be encouraged and strengthened. The challenge for community-based inter-ethnic dispute resolution mechanisms is that in the context of the conflict-affected areas, they will need to involve the two combatant parties in the ethnic conflict at some point in the resolution process. If the support from the involved communities for these mechanisms and the involved actors is strong, their leverage power vis-à-vis the combatant parties and political interference will be more pronounced. One may also consider establishing neutral ombudspersons as facilitators if such an involvement is considered appropriate and helpful by the concerned dispute parties. Since Level 2 type conflicts can easily become more politicized, it is advisable to search for mechanisms, which keep out political spoilers and which are based on pragmatic resolution of disputes rather than political bargaining.
To establish and strengthen their authority, such alternative mechanisms of dispute resolution need to be appropriately legitimized and capacitated for their responsibilities. In the case of fast-track mechanisms for minor dispute resolution (Level 1 type conflicts), the Sri Lankan government would need to pass appropriate legislation to grant special conditions for these particular dispute cases and define the exact powers and responsibilities of such a fast-track mechanism. Further, it would need to be clarified whether or not decisions from such fast-track mechanisms are substituting the right of dispute parties to file their case to the courts afterwards. Such legislation would need to be based on a consensus among the major political stakeholders, including the LTTE and Tamil parliamentary parties, to gain effective credibility. These fast-track mechanisms could entail district-wide committees with representatives of different ethnic (and political groups) and a technical support team, which would map out the different cases, gather the evidence and make suggestions for their resolution. This procedure would allow transparency and accountability in the process and ensure political backing of decisions.
For Level 2 type conflicts, there often exist some informal mechanisms of inter-ethnic dispute resolution on the ground. However, many of these committees and mechanisms are either defunct, lack enforcement capacity or are politically biased and therefore, prior to any engagement with existing mechanisms, such biases need to be carefully investigated. On local or regional level, there are often a number of respected “leaders”, often religious clergy or influential business persons, who have gained the confidence of a particular community. Establishing independent committees for dispute resolution will require the consent from all important stakeholders, including combatants, politicians and government officials, but the latter should be discouraged to stand on such committees, because this is likely to polarize the dispute resolution process.