Visaka Dharmadasa

Visaka Dharmadasa

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Visaka Dharmadasa has designed and facilitated Track II dialogue processes in Sri Lanka, bringing together influential civil society leaders. Working to end the civil war that has gripped Sri Lanka for the last 20 years, she educates soldiers, youth, and community leaders about international standards of conduct in war and promotes the economic and social development of women across conflict lines. When talks were foundering and leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam refused to speak with members of the Sri Lankan government and Norwegian negotiators, they asked Ms. Dharmadasa, founder of Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action and the Association of War-Affected Women, to carry messages to the government.

In January 2004, Ms. Dharmadasa authored an analysis on the unraveling of the current peace efforts, which she presented to Yasushi Akashi, Japanese special envoy for the Sri Lankan peace process. That year she also initiated a lawsuit against the Government of Sri Lanka to force DNA testing on soldiers’ remains, which would enable families to confirm the death of a loved one in combat—a particularly meaningful success since she has a son missing in action. For this and other work, the President appointed Ms. Dharmadasa to the National Commission Against Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms; she is also a member of the South Asia Small Arms network, working against the misuse of light weapons.

Last Updated: October 2015