SRI LANKA LOOKING BEYOND TERRORISM: A ROAD MAP TO PEACE
Address by the
Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka
at the Johns Hopkins University-School of Advanced International
04 October 2007
1. The challenge of democracies facing
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
• 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
• 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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
04 October 2007