Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka looking beyond terrorism: A road map to peace
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka - Geneva - Switzerland
08th October 2007
Address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama at the Johns Hopkins University-School of Advanced International Studies on October 4
Sri Lanka continues to be confronted by, what terrorism expert and Chief Scientist at the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, Dr. Magnus Ranstorp has described as, “[LTTE is] probably the most sophisticated terrorist organization in the world.”
Only two weeks ago the Sri Lankan Navy assisted by the Air Force was able to detect and destroy 03 large LTTE ships carrying arms and ammunition in the high-seas about 1200 km (600 nautical miles southeast of Sri Lanka’s southern most tip of Dondra) thus foiling the LTTE’s latest attempt to smuggle lethal weapons into the country.
The full magnitude of the danger posed by the LTTE, which is proscribed throughout the European Union, in India, the US, the UK and Canada and has restrictions placed on it in Australia, is most vividly detailed in the September 2007 issue of the leading London based intelligence magazine Jane’s Intelligence Review.
A special report by John Solomon and B.C. Tan titled “Feeding the Tiger - how Sri Lankan insurgents fund their way”, makes several important revelations to the world, about the operatives, their modus operandi, and the current level of threat posed by the LTTE, both to the territorial integrity and security of Sri Lanka, and to the security of the international community.
The report states and I quote;
- “The Tamil Tiger’ financial and procurement structure is well organised and strategically positioned around the globe. Unlike the decentralised jihadist movement, the LTTE is a centralised, hierarchical organisation commanded and controlled by its founding leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran”.
- “Irrespective of the correlation between the LTTE’s financial situation and the longevity that has cost more than 60,000 lives, the activities of the LTTE abroad- including extortion, narcotics trafficking and credit card fraud- have a negative impact on the countries and societies that host its presence”.
- “the Tamil Tigers generate an estimated US$ 200 to 300 million per year”, and “after accounting for its estimated US$ 8 million per year of costs within LTTE-administered Sri Lanka, the profit margin of its operating budget would likely be the envy of any multinational corporation.”
You would agree that the implication of these comments is that the international community should take tough action against the LTTE and its global terror network as it would amount to be an act of self interest by members of the international community, to eradicate terrorism.
2. Significance of US support to Sri Lanka in meeting this challenge
In our struggle against LTTE terrorism, Sri Lanka has considered the U.S. to be a steadfast friend.
I speak to an audience of a country which:
* Besides India, which proscribed the LTTE in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the U.S. was the first western country to recognize the potential threat that could be posed by the LTTE and took steps to proscribe the organisation in 1997.
* The U.S. has supported Sri Lanka in many ways in its effort to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country at crucial points. Over the years in its fight against terrorism Sri Lanka has sought and has received military assistance from the U.S. in many forms.
The U.S. administration has supported Sri Lanka considerably, enhancing the capability of the Sri Lanka Navy in defending our territorial waters, and the exclusive Economic Zone (of 1.2 million square miles 21 times the size of the country) particularly to prevent smuggling of weapons and ammunition by making available a coast guard cutter USS “Courageous”, which plays a pivotal role in help protect the maritime security of our vast exclusive economic zone. Given the significance of the Colombo Port as a major transhipment point the U.S. has also contributed significantly toward enhancing surveillance of our waters through support to modalities under multilateral initiatives such as the Container Security Initiative, the Mega Ports Initiative and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, and in supporting Sri Lanka’s entry to the ASEAN Regional Forum.
* Among our military purchases to fight terrorism, U.S. companies have been important suppliers. At present Sri Lankan armed forces receive training in the U.S. your facilities, and let me add that Sri Lanka has contributed to the UN Peacekeeping operations in Haiti.
* The U.S. administration was also the first to pro-actively take tangible action to thwart the macabre designs of the LTTE to harm ? Sri Lanka, when in a sting operation launched by the FBI in August 2006 not only nabbed a number of key LTTE activists, but also has unearthed a wealth of information regarding the modus operandi of the organization in that country.
Thirteen persons with close links to the LTTE, including “Waterloo” Suresh alias Suresh Skandarajah, from Buffalo, New York, San Jose, California, Seattle, Washington and Connecticut were arrested following the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) and FBI probe into the allegations that LTTE sympathizers in North America for seeking to purchase surface to air missiles, missile launchers, AK-47s, and other weapons to be used by the LTTE against the Sri Lankan military missiles and move terror funds.
They are also accused of attempting to use LTTE front organizations, including the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) to bribe State Department officials for obtaining classified documents containing information relating to the organizations.
Among those arrested was a British doctor, Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy alias Dr. Moorthy, a senior LTTE intermediary, was also arrested in New York for aiding the LTTE. They are currently awaiting trial.
* At the same time in a case filed by the US Government in Baltimore, four LTTE agents, including three foreign nationals, were arrested for seeking to provide material support to the LTTE, a designated foreign terrorist organization in the US.
Of them, on 5th April 2007, a Singapore national, Haniffa Bin Osman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the LTTE, while Haji Subandi and Erick Wotulo, both Indonesian citizens, pleaded guilty to attempting to illegally export arms for the LTTE.
On 10th May 2007 Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, a Sri Lankan citizen, pleaded guilty in a US court for conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE and attempt export of arms and ammunition.
According to the plea, from April to September 29, 2006, Varatharasa conspired with Haji Subandi, Haniffa Osman and Erick Wotulo to export state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other military weapons to the LTTE not only conducted but has convicted four persons in Baltimore.
* On 25 April 2007, the US based leader of the LTTE, Karunakaran Kandasamay alias Karuna, and four others were arrested by the Joint Terrorist Task Force of the federal law enforcement agency, in the New York suburb of Jamaica, Queens on the charge of providing material support for the LTTE by fund raising. The process of preparation for trial we understand is currently underway.
* Earlier this year US based INTELSAT took action to terminate the illegal use of one of its satellites by the LTTE to illegally broadcast the LTTE’s so called official TV channel, ‘National Television of Tamil Eelam’ (NTT) launched in 2005 and originating from northern Sri Lanka and beamed across Europe and Asia.
3. Sri Lanka’s road map to peace
Sri Lanka does have a road map to peace.
On our part, it is the firm conviction of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the present conflict in Sri Lanka cannot be solved through military means. The government is fully committed to finding a lasting negotiated political settlement to the conflict.
Upon assumption of office in November 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his very first address offered to meet the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, face to face.
Consistent with his view that building a ‘southern consensus’ among the political parties in the south was pivotal to arriving at any negotiated political settlement, the President also convened the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) in January 2006.
Since then the APRC has gone through a painstaking process aimed at developing a set of proposals to resolve the present conflict that would have broad acceptability. The APRC is now reaching the final stages of its deliberations.
Our Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, together with the party leaders, is participating in the APRC process. The APRC is currently in the process of finalizing the proposals and President Rajapaksa is on record stating that he would accept whatever the consensus that emerges from the APRC.
I trust you are aware, that within two months after assuming office, President Rajapaksa revived the process of negotiations with the LTTE that had broken down since April 2003, and participated in talks with the LTTE arranged through the Norwegian facilitators on three occasions during 2000.
Having been a member of the delegation of these talks, I can say with authority that the LTTE did not demonstrate the slightest inclination to resolve any substantive issue, but were merely intent on extending the opportunity opened to them since signing of the Ceasefire Agreement to re-arm, re-group and to try to restore its badly tarnished image in the West, which in the post 9/11 context saw the LTTE for what they were - a group of terrorists.
The LTTE’s position is nothing new, since 1985, when the Government of Sri Lanka held its first negotiations with groups dominated by the LTTE, successive Sri Lankan administrations have also engaged in talks in 1987, 1989, 1994, and 2002.
The LTTE has exploited those periods to bolster its armed capability and single handedly torpedoed the efforts at peace and walked away from the negotiating table.
Despite all these efforts at peace, less than two weeks after the President’s assumption of office, the LTTE unleashed a brutal killing spree against the security forces installations and personnel- including a failed attacked by a LTTE female suicide bomber on the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and carried out the assassination of his third in command Major Gen. Parami Kulatunga, followed by attacks against civilians.
The government desisted from taking any significant retaliatory action despite these provocations.
However, in July 2006, when it became clear that the LTTE was intent on disrupting civilian life in the Eastern Province, through cutting off water supply to a large area, and subsequently targeting the strategic naval port of Trincomalee, the government was compelled to clear the LTTE from the Eastern province.
The objective of our effort over the past year in militarily engaging the LTTE in the Eastern Province, was to convince the group that it cannot expect to achieve a military victory and that a solution to the conflict needs to be found at the negotiating table.
Today, the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, which was until recently terrorized by the LTTE, has been rid of that menace. The security forces and other agencies of the Government of Sri Lanka have worked hard to secure the area, to restore normalcy and to resettle people, who had been temporarily displaced from their homes.
I am sure, those of you, who are familiar with the difficulties faced in carrying out military as well as ‘hearts and mind’ operations in areas dominated by terrorists, would appreciate the magnitude of the challenge, which has been successfully completed by the Sri Lankan security forces.
Having done so, today, with the assistance from the international community, the UN agencies as well as international and local NGOs, the government has embarked on a programme to bring about sustainable development in the Eastern Province and to hold elections at an early date.
It is our hope that this exercise will serve as a model in post conflict development and I urge the cooperation of those, who are in a capacity to do so to help make this process a success.
Through the Nagenahira Navodaya Programme (Reawakening of the East) the humanitarian situation in the conflict affected areas has improved, especially after gaining full control of the areas in the Eastern Province, which have been under LTTE dominance.
This has also contributed to a sharp de-escalation of the conflict in the Eastern Province, which would facilitate a comprehensive programme in infrastructure development and the conduct of local and provincial level elections in the near future..
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have recently acknowledged that the voluntary resettlement of IDPs in the East has been undertaken in keeping with international standards. In the Eastern Province, most IDPs have returned to their homes and the remainder will be resettled, after clearing the remaining areas of landmines.
Arrangements for improvement of the law and order situation are underway. New police stations have been established while existing stations are being strengthened to provide a better service to the community. 2000 Tamil speaking police officers are being recruited to serve the province. Restoration and strengthening of the civil administration is underway with the provision of office buildings and recruitment of new staff.
Majority of the displaced persons have been resettled and measures are currently underway to resettle the remaining displaced persons as early as possible. Resettlement is being carried out with the support and cooperation of UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies. The Government, with the assistance of the World Food Programme, provides food rations to the displaced families and returnees.
Livelihood assistance programmes to the local populations are underway with the collaboration of UN Agencies and INGOS. A major challenge the Government is facing in the Eastern Province is rebuilding the damaged infrastructure for which we have requested assistance from the international community
At present there is a vibrant debate in Sri Lanka as to the nature and extent of devolution of power that should be offered as a solution to solve the present conflict.
In a statement issued last week, the Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) Prof. Tissa Vitarana on “present status of APRC” stated “following the understanding reached at the discussions of the Government Party Leaders held under the Chairmanship of the President, and thereafter the Prime Minister, the APRC has been meeting every week in a cordial manner. Subject areas, which had not been discussed previously, are now being covered and a common position is being worked out.”
At the moment agreement has been reached on most of the areas. Discussion is going on at the moment on the devolution of powers and is focused on the National List, Provincial List and the Local Government List. I am happy to say that with the cooperation of the representatives of the SLFP, JHU, MEP, EPDP, SLMC, CMC, NUA, National Congress, CWC, UPF, CP, WPF and the LSSP steady progress is being made and we hope to finalize the common document as early as possible.”
It is also noteworthy that it appears that the United National Party (UNP) has in a statement issued through a spokesperson indicated that there would be a change in party policy with respect to devolution of power and that “our solution is broad devolution not federalism”.
We appreciate the recent sentiments expressed by the U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake at an event in Colombo on 21st September 2007, where he noted “the Government of Sri Lanka has achieved some important victories in the last several months.
The expulsion of the LTTE from the east and the recent sinking of several LTTE ships carrying arms and other provisions mark important military successes, but these tactical successes should not tempt the government to reconsider whether Sri Lanka’s conflict can be won by military means. It cannot”.
At the same time, Ambassador Blake, while urging the government to ensure a successful APRC outcome has noted that “we hope that all parties in the APRC will frame the final APRC proposals in a manner that avoids the use of divisive, emotive terms like “federalism” and “unitary”.
I can assure you that the Sri Lanka government’s intentions are not at all at variance with the views expressed by the U.S. Ambassador in Colombo. In fact, I would say that we share the same view.
4. Recent developments in U.S. Congress
It is in this context that Sri Lanka finds the recent amendment proposed by Senator Patrick Leahy to the Department of State Appropriation Bill for FY 2008 that introduces restrictions on defence co-operation with Sri Lanka on account of alleged human rights related issues, unreasonable.
I wish to focus on each of the three issues Senator Leahy wants Sri Lanka to satisfy, if it is to avail of U.S. funds appropriated under the heading “Foreign Military Financing Programme”.
i. The Sri Lankan military suspends and brings to justice members, who had been credibly alleged to have gross violations of human rights including extra-judicial executions and recruitment of child soldiers.
ii. That the Sri Lankan Government has provided unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations and journalists to the Tamil areas of the country.
iii. The Sri Lankan Government has agreed to the establishment of a field presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
But before that I want to make two broad observations:
First, unfortunately the information on which the amendment was based is a result of dis-information and mis-information. Some of it is wrong, while much of it is based on dated information.
Second, the amendment in its totality seems to ignore the context in which successive governments in Sri Lanka have faced, as do all democracies grappling with the scourge of terrorism.
It ignores the fact that if Sri Lanka is to fail in containing and finally defeating the terrorism of the LTTE, given the LTTE’s well known links to other terrorist organizations such as ULFA, the Afghan Mujihideen. the PKK, the Maoists Abu Sayaf, MNLF and to Al-Qaida, its contribution to ‘copy cat’ terrorism through suicide bombing technology, maritime capability, nascent air-strike capability, that the LTTE could offers its services to other groups should not be discounted.
Over the past four days, in meetings with members of the Congress, as well as leading INGOs - Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group etc. I have explained in detail the developments in Sri Lanka, and why the stipulations made in the amendment are not reasonable. At this point, when the budget is yet to be finalized, I thought it is incumbent upon me to share with you our perspective on the specific issues raised.
A) Alleged Human Rights Violations, Child Soldiers and the question of impunity.
As noted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the UNGA on 25 September, “Sri Lanka believes, as one of the founder members of the Human Rights Council, that human rights are too important to be used as a tool to victimize States for political advantage. It is essential that international action to facilitate compliance with human rights standards is fair and even handed. Human rights have to be protected and advanced for their own sake, not for political gain,”
Alleged human rights violations
- Sri Lanka is a country that has a Ministry of Human Rights. It is an acknowledgement of the significance we associate with promoting and protecting human rights. Sri Lanka is party to almost all core UN human rights conventions.
- The work of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which has been investigating into a number of high profile cases of violations of human rights, is being observed by an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), which is a unique structure that has not been found anywhere else in the world, where there is an ongoing conflict with one of the ruthless terrorist organizations in the world.
- The speed of work of the COI compares very well with the speed with which the Yugoslav Tribunal or the Cambodian Tribunal began their work with millions of Dollars of UN funding.
- A Witness Protection Bill is to be introduced to the Parliament in the next two months. Recommendations made by the IIGEP have been taken on board. in drafting the bill.
- Critical information relating to the deaths of the 17 ACF workers has been unearthed through tracking of cellular phones used by the victims.
- According to the latest ICRC figures, there has been a significant reduction in the number of alleged disappearances and abductions in Sri Lanka, especially during quarter (April - June, 2007). The Government has aggressively mounted operations against a number of groups operating in Colombo arresting mainly who had been responsible for abductions and extortions.
- The killer of the two Red Cross workers has been identified and a reward of Rs. 1 million has been offered for information leading to his arrest.
The Government of Sri Lanka does not recruit anyone under 18 years to its armed forces. According to UNICEF, the LTTE has recruited 5800 child soldiers since the CFA in 2002.
With regard to recruitment of child soldiers, in view of the allegations that certain members of the armed forces had colluded with the Karuna Group, in August 2007, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, in keeping with a commitment given to the U.N. Security Council Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, appointed a committee to inquire into the allegations of abductions and recruitment of children for use in armed conflict headed by the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice & Law Reforms and included the Secretaries to the Ministries of Justice & Law Reforms, Child Development and Women Empowerment, Foreign Affairs, Disaster Management and Human Rights, Representatives of the Attorney General’s Department, the three armed services and police, the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process and the Chairman of the Child Protection authority to examine the charges and report on measures to be taken.
- 55 indictments have been served against 95 members of the Sri Lanka Police since 2004 for human rights violations committed prior to 2004. Their crimes include abduction, abduction and disappearance, murder and illegal detention.
- 28 members of the Sri Lanka Police have been arrested since 2004 and pending arraignments for conspiracy to murder, torture and murder.
- 14 members of the Sri Lanka Police have been indicted since 2004 for torture.
- 04 members of the Sri Lanka Navy have been indicted on charges of torture and murder of two persons in March and April 2001.
- 03 members of the Sri Lanka Army have been indicted for abduction and murder of one individual on April 11, 2004, which case has been referred to High Court. (One of the accused committed suicide while in custody).
- Six members of the armed forces and police personnel (both retired and currently serving) were arrested in June 2007, for a series of abductions for ransom, and murder. The Attorney General of Sri Lanka will be consulted on completion of investigations to file indictments against the suspects who are still in custody. Sri Lanka has sought the support of the Interpol to arrest a Chief Inspector of Police (Special Task Force), who is wanted for the same crime.
- Two suspects, an army corporal and a police constable, have been arrested and are currently in remand custody pending indictment in the High Court of Vavuniya, having being charged for murdering five students in Thandikulam on November 18, 2006.
- A wing commander and a flight lieutenant of the Sri Lanka Air Force were charged in the High Court of Colombo for violation of human rights of a prominent journalist, Mr. Iqbal Athas and after a lengthy trial, both suspects were convicted on February 7, 2002 and sentenced to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs.10,000/- each.
- The National Police Commission, which is empowered to entertain and investigate public complaints against a police officer or the police service, has established a Public Complaints and Investigations Division (PCID, with the aim to discipline the police force and to punish wrongdoers. The PCID has received a total of 1216 complaints from January to July 2007.
The majority of the complaints received relates to police inaction followed by misuse of power and partiality. The PCID has already completed 382 of the 1216 complaints. Allegations of torture represent 4% of total allegations, unlawful arrest and detention 7% and death in custody 1%.
The information provided above, helps to establish that when there was credible evidence against errant members of the armed forces and the police for engaging in human rights violations, such as extra judicial executions, disappearances, torture etc., action has been taken consistently over the years to bring the offenders to justice.
B) Unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations and journalists to the Tamil areas of the country.
As to clause 2 of the Leahy amendment, once again the facts on the ground are very much at variance with the stipulation made. It is unfortunate that the Bill uses language such as “Tamil areas of the country”. For, 54% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population now lives in areas outside the northern and the eastern provinces of the country, among the Sinhalese and other communities.
But that apart, with respect to “access to humanitarian organizations and journalists”, I can assure that there are no restrictions of access other than on occasions when military operations are being carried out in specific locations.
As for humanitarian organizations, the Government of Sri Lanka recognizes and has continued to commend the good work done by a majority of the NGOs, INGOs and international humanitarian agencies.
However, as in all situations of foreign presence, in Sri Lanka too, from time to time, we have had issues with regard to the conduct of certain individuals attached to some organizations, which have been resolved after discussion.
The UN has submitted a list of 21 INGOs, who are preferential partners in carrying out humanitarian assistance in uncleared areas. These INGOs have been given approval to work with the UN and ICRC to provide assistance to IDPs and to carry out projects related to tsunami and development.
1. Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTD)
2. Action Contre La Faim (ACF)
3. Caritas Sri Lanka (CARITAS)
4. Care International Sri Lanka (CARE)
5. Christian Children’s Fund (CCF)
6. Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
7. Campaign for Development and Solidarity (FORUT)
8. German Agro Action (GAA)
9. Handicap International (HI)
10. Medecins Sans Frontieres - France, Holland and Spain (MSF)
11. MERLIN - Sri Lanka (MERLIN)
12. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
13. OXFAM Great Britain, Australia (OXFAM)
14. Save the Children in Sri Lanka (SCISL)
15. SOLIDAR INGO Consortium ( SOLIDAR, Norwegian Peoples Aid, Swiss Labour Assistance, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund)- (SOLIDAR)
16. Samaritans Purse International (SPI)
17. Terre Des Homme (TDH)
18. UMCOR Sri Lanka (UMCOR)
19. World University Services Canada (WUSC )
20. World Vision Lanka (WVL)
21. ZOA Refugee Care (ZOA)
The above INGOs have been provided access to the uncleared areas in November 2006, in order to carry out humanitarian operations. There are instances, when these agencies may not be able to work in certain areas due to security advisories issued by the local military commanders, not only to such groups, but also to UN, ICRC etc., as well as civilians. However, you will agree that this does not constitute a denial of access.
On the question of providing “unimpeded access” to journalists, the Leahy amendment appears to be badly misinformed.
From time to time, upon receipt of requests to visit the operational areas, members of media have been provided access to the areas of conflict in the north and the east. The most recent was a five-day visit undertaken by a group of journalists belonging to the BBC, Reuters, Reuters TV, AP, APTV, Al Jazeera, as well as the Daily Telegraph. They visited Kilinochchi and had direct access to the LTTE.
It is interesting to note that during their visit, while the LTTE publicly claimed that an Air Force attack on a Sea Tiger base was in fact affected innocent civilians, this group of independent journalists who were already in the Vanni at the time, were not taken to the location of the alleged bombing, the most obvious action one would have expected from the LTTE, had that allegation been true.
Similarly, I trust those of you, who watch the developments in Sri Lanka should know the freedom with which these media personnel reported from the Vanni. On the first day, we saw statements being made by the so-called head of the political wing of the LTTE, S.P. Thamil Chelvam claiming in the immediate aftermath of the security forces clearing of the LTTE in the East, that they would attack economic targets to weaken the Sri Lankan government.
The journalists were shown female LTTE suicide cadres preparing to carry out attacks against economic targets. In their reports we also saw the yearning for peace among the common citizens they met in the market place.
There were also reports by the same journalists on how youths living in the Vanni are living in hiding to avoid being forcibly recruited by the LTTE and sent to fight in a war they don’t believe in.
Reuter report of 20th July 2007 titled “Sri Lanka rebels forcing Tamils to join war efforts” had this to say “Families received letters from the Tigers with names of members who must join underlined. Most international aid agencies are having to keep some local staff indoor, some of them have not been able to leave their compounds for months”.
“All the NGOs in the area have great concern towards recruitment policy.
We do experience that staff of all the different NGOs are getting abducted or have tremendous pressure towards them because they want to recruit them”.
In the circumstances it should be clear that other than in instances where there is an actual security threat, the media have access to the operational areas and have reported freely and did not have to face any ramifications as a result, at least from the Government.
C) The establishment of a field presence of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
- Sri Lanka has been maintaining a policy of open and constructive engagement with all UN human rights mechanisms, even under difficult circumstances, due to LTTE terrorism and provocations.
-Besides the considerably high representation of the diplomatic community, many UN agencies including the OHCHR and INGOs are already resident in Sri Lanka and many of them have field offices in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces.
-GOSL also has regular dialogue with the facilitator Norway, the other three Co-Chairs- the EU, Japan and the USA, as well as with India.
-The Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), which meets as an apex body on a monthly basis, is chaired by the Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management.
- Our policy of openness and transparency has encouraged us to invitee the high level UN officials to Sri Lanka. Visiting foreign dignitaries such as Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Humanitarian Coordinator who visited Sri Lanka in August, acknowledged that “the situation which had gone through a bad period, was getting better”.
It is also noteworthy that Mr. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, is currently visiting Sri Lanka, while Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be visiting from 9-13 October and Mr. Walter Kaelin, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human Rights of the IDPs, will visit Sri Lanka from 13 - 21 December.
The very fact that GOSL has invited these high level UN human rights officials to undertake visits demonstrates Sri Lanka to be engaged with UN mechanisms. GOSL hopes that constructive and implementable recommendations will emanate from these visits.
With regard to strengthening of the presence of the Senior Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka and her assistant, the GOSL is ready to listen to the representations that will be made by the High Commissioner on the subject during her visit to Sri Lanka.
OHCHR has sent a number of officials to Sri Lanka from time to time to assist the Senior Human Rights Adviser on many issues, such as witness protection and treaty body reporting. The Ministry of Human Rights has already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the OHCHR on the capacity-building of the Ministry as well as other relevant national institutions. The GOSL looks forward to working closely with the OHCHR in the area of capacity-building of national institutions.
In view of the above, it is the position of the GOSL that at a time when Sri Lanka has been cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms, and there is a multiplicity of international mechanisms and missions, we do not see the rationale for a field presence by the OHCHR in Sri Lanka.
Thus, what we ask of the international community is:
a) To understand us, rather than being deceived by the propaganda spread by the LTTE and others with vested interests. You should bear mind that Sri Lanka is a democracy which has an independent judiciary to maintain the rule of law where citizens individually or collectively could seek intervention of the Supreme Court.
b) To be critical by all means when we do something which you might perceive or might in fact be wrong. But please try to understand the challenge we had to face over two decades due to LTTE terrorism.
c) To be aware that proposals for devolution are in its final stage and GOSL should be encouraged to bring that to a speedy conclusion rather than placing restrictions against it, which may be used by interested parties to hinder that process.
(Courtesy : Daily News)
|Published : Monday, October 08, 2007 11:04:25 AM (Geneva time)|
Main News Page
© 2007 The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva - Switzerland. All Rights Reserved