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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2831

Democracy will Flourish after Fascism is Defeated in the North, Foreign Minister Bogollagama Tells BBC

By Walter Jayawardhana

London, 05 April, ( Sri Lanka’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama predicted that before long Sri Lanka would wipe out Fascism from the island nation’s Northern Province and re-establish democratic institutions there. Sri Lanka’s visiting Foreign Minister told British Broadcasting Corporation’s Asia Today TV channel that similar to our flushing out terrorists from the island's sprawling Eastern Province and re-establishing democratic institutions there, the North will also see the dawn of freedom from terrorism. Our goal is to establish a pluralistic society by defeating Fascism.

Replying the presenter of the program Nick Gowing, the Foreign Minister said Sri Lanka would never tolerate the recruitment of children by the LTTE, armed for their sinister purposes. The entry points in Wanni are now open for those seeking protection from the Sri Lankan armed forces and churches. There are many passing the so-called borders seeking refuge. “We want to reach to the young people who have been captured and also been subjugated by the Tigers. Now is the time for them to leave the fold of the Tigers," the Foreign Minister emphatically stated. Many have responded, he enthused.Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met with Minister of State for the Home Office Tony McNulty on 2nd April 2008 in London.Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met with Minister of State for the Home Office Tony McNulty on 2nd April 2008 in London.

The following are some excerpts from the TV interview:

Presenter Nick Gowing: I am joined by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama. Welcome Foreign Minister.

It is now two months since the Sri Lanka ’s Government formerly withdrew from a six years old cease fire agreement with the Tamil Tiger rebels which had effectively failed anyway. The government said that it will destroy the insurgent threat by next December. In the latest fighting the army says that it killed nearly 60 Tamil Tiger rebels in the North of the Island over two days. The rebels say they lost only one fighter and killed 25 soldiers. There is no independent confirmation. Why should we believe that you are making progress against the Tamil Tigers? We know you keep on giving us figures but actually we do not ant independent sources for verification?

Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: I think the recent developments would have shown you how much of a progress we have made both in the Eastern front as well as the Northern front. Today, the Eastern front has embraced democracy and we are just ready for a major election to take place in the month of May. So th e present picture shows what we have said in the past has come true now. And similarly, in the North we are making a good progress and the military engagement is very much on a target basis taking on the Tigers.

Nick Gowing: But I have to ask you- it is very interesting that you went on to the Eastern elections very quickly- because my question was about the military operation which you said would smash the Tigers by the end of December.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: Still December 2008 has not come and we are now in end of March and quietly into April and the progress we are making is significant. And, that is why we became very optimistic -because we have got the facts very much in our favor. With that I will show you the progress we are now making in the East. That is why I say that defeating terrorism, restoring democracy and achieving a pluralistic society as our paramount goal.

Nick Gowing: One of the accusations you make against the LTTE is that the Tamil Tigers are recruiting young people and forcing them to take guns and go out and become cannon fodder. What about the ethical and the moral position here where young girls have been given guns by the Tamil Tigers and you are using them as part of your body count.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: Not at all. What we have done is- we have now opened up a major, so called entry point for any one to leave the Tiger camps. The government is prepared to assist them. This is something that we are discussing seriously in terms of the rehabilitation process on those who are leaving the Tiger camps. This is something we have seen and this is something we are addressing very seriously today and I am very happy to announce, the number of young people who are leaving the Tiger camps and arriving to churches, to mosques and find their way across the so called borders, which is something very encouraging. The government doesn’t want to miss out on this and we want to reach to the young people who have been captured and also been subjugated by the Tigers and tell them that time has come for them to leave.

Nick Gowing: Let me pick up at your first point- about the local elections. Do you believe in any way that you are splitting the Tamils? Your aim has long been -since the end of the ceasefire-to persuade more moderate Tamils to come into the process.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: There is no splitting of Tamils. Tamils are an important community in Sri Lanka. But we want to separate the terrorists from the other Tamils and in that exercise I think we have succeeded well in having the Eastern Province providing for election as you consider as early as what we did.

Nick Gowing: But the fact is that the TMVP is still carrying guns. They are still using children who carry guns. Are you comfortable with that?

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: Not at all. I will deny the accusation said about TMVP carrying guns and we are all out to prevent that from happening. In the event that they are doing it is because they were being part of the Tamil Tigers earlier and they were a breakaway group. And everybody knows that about our exercise that our total attempt is to see that the TMVP is not being allowed to carry guns. We want to see to that.

Nick Gowing: You are under very tough accusation at the moment from the US State Department from Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch about Human Rights. And you now have the Independent Group of Eminent Persons, the IIGEP that is pulling out; that it doesn’t believe that your government is investigating human rights abuses, particularly the massacre at Muthur 2 years ago.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: I will take all three separately. On the US State Department report that came out - I have already responded to , on 31st of March, and again their response to my reply has come and reached me today- in fact it has reached my address in Colombo and it has been redirected to me in London. Their position is that they want to have a continued engagement in order to see how we can improve the situation in line with my response.

There are two things here. The matter where the investigations are on and the other is where it did happen. Now, the two areas we have covered. In fact the IIGEP – the mandate was in order to oversee the Commissions of Inquiry that are on. We can’t rush where evidence is hard to come.

Nick Gowing: Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama thank you for joining us.

- Asian Tribune -

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