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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2423

UN Sec-Gen to Sri Lanka: Stop celebrating, heal wounds with national reconciliation

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

New York, N.Y. 06 June (Asiantribune.com): Following theUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon United Nations Security Council informal interactive discussion on the situation in Sri Lanka on humanitarian assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons in the north of the country, a collateral product during and after the military battle between government forces and Tamil Tiger outfit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon facing the media here said that the time has come for this South Asian nation to take steps to heal the wounds through national reconciliation rather than enjoy all this triumphalism in the wake of the end of conflict.

"I would like to take this opportunity to warn against the risk of triumphalism in the wake of victory, after this military conflict. This will really hinder the ongoing efforts by Sri Lankan Government and people, and international community, in helping heal the wounds. It is very important at this time to unite and heal the wounds, rather than enjoy all this triumphalism in the wake of the end of conflict, the UN Secretary-General told the media gathering.

He further gave an assurance that "the United Nations stands ready to continue providing humanitarian assistance and we also remain ready to facilitate ongoing efforts by the Sri Lankan Government in healing the wounds through national reconciliation and through inclusive political dialogue."

Inquired about the three medical doctors who had given treatment to the trapped civilians in the conflict zone during the offensive and now under government custody Mr. Ban said that he raised the issue with Sri Lanka President and Foreign Minister and the assurance was given "to look after these three government doctors who are detained while they were engaged in humanitarian activities. The Foreign Minister assured me that he would look into this matter. I will continue to follow-up this issue."

He underscored the Herculean task every concerned party has toward helping Sri Lanka: "I am very grateful for all the very kind support and comments made by the members of Security Council for the continuing role at my level, as well as the United Nations humanitarian agencies. The challenges still remain huge and enormous. This requires international assistance and help."

The Secretary-General outlined the role UN will play in his media briefing in New York on Friday, 5 June 2009.

Mr. Ban said: "I have just briefed the members of the Security Council on my visit to Sri Lanka. As you know, and as I have already briefed the members of the General Assembly, I had three objectives in my visit two weeks ago.

First and foremost, to provide all necessary humanitarian assistance to more than 300,000 displaced persons and also urging the Sri Lankan Government to allow unimpeded access by the international humanitarian workers, including the United Nations agencies. I am told by Sri Lankan Government that the situation has improved since my visit, and the restrictions have been eased.

"Secondly, to help those displaced persons and the Sri Lankan Government in their efforts to re-settle them to their original home provinces, and including the de-mining activities.

"And thirdly, more fundamentally, to help the Sri Lankan Government to reach out to minority authorities, including Tamils and Muslims. This will be much more important in the longer term. And also I would like to ask the Sri Lankan Government to recognize the international call for accountability and full transparency. And whenever and wherever there are credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law, there should be a proper investigation.

"And, again, I would like to take this opportunity to warn against the risk of triumphalism in the wake of victory, after this military conflict. This will really hinder the ongoing efforts by Sri Lankan Government and people, and international community, in helping heal the wounds. It is very important at this time to unite and heal the wounds, rather than enjoy all this triumphalism in the wake of the end of conflict.

"I am very grateful for all the very kind support and comments made by the members of Security Council for the continuing role at my level, as well as the United Nations humanitarian agencies. The challenges still remain huge and enormous. This requires international assistance and help. And the United Nations stands ready to continue providing humanitarian assistance and we also remain ready to facilitate ongoing efforts by the Sri Lankan Government in healing the wounds through national reconciliation and through inclusive political dialogue. Thank you very much."

Question: The three doctors that were taken by the Government, that were in the conflict zone – they have now said that they are all going to be put on trial - there was a BBC report. And also, that some people are being taken from the camps. What's the UN going to do about those two issues?

Secretary General: I would like to urge, again, to the Sri Lankan Government to follow-up [on] the agreement which had been made during my visit, which was stated in the joint statement. I raised this issue to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister [Rohitha]Bogollagama separately, and also at a joint meeting, to look after these three government doctors who are detained while they were engaged in humanitarian activities. The Foreign Minister assured me that he would look into this matter. I will continue to follow-up this issue.

About pledges given by Sri Lanka during his visit to that country Mr. Ban said: “It is crucially important that the Sri Lankan Government follow-up on all the promises that they have made. Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective. I have been urging the Sri Lankan President on this matter. He assured me that he will institute the necessary procedures to ensure the transparency and accountability of this [process].

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, does this show a level of impudence on the United Nations part, that you are continually going to the Sri Lankan Government as a petitioner? There doesn't seem to be any 'right to protect' being asserted here – you are coming late to the conflict – there are allegations that there may be excesses of 20,000 people who died. If the other side of triumphalism is impudence, what is the lesson about the United Nations that we have learned from your experience in Sri Lanka?

Secretary General: First of all, I do not agree with your point that the United Nations came late. From the beginning of this crisis, I have been constantly in contact with the Sri Lankan Government leadership, including at the level of President Rajapaksa . I have been making many telephone calls, all the time, even until just right before and after this conflict. And this is important that the Sri Lankan Government should take the necessary follow-up measures. And he committed to me that he would take all necessary procedures to follow-up on all this and to address all the remaining challenges. As I said, challenges still remain huge, and they cannot do it themselves. Therefore, that is why the United Nations will continue to provide the necessary assistance, humanitarian and in other areas. It is also important that they should do their own work in reaching out, in healing the wounds which happened during the military confrontation.

Question: How is the UN going to follow-up, I guess, on the joint statement, and the commitments that the Government made?

Secretary General: At this time, I am asking the Sri Lankan Government to take the necessary measures. And there are some areas which the United Nations and I, as the Secretary-General, have to do, as I said. And all these issues, political facilitation and accountability, I hope that the Sri Lankan Government will follow-up to implement the promises they made. Thank you very much.

Following is the joint statement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations at the conclusion of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Sri Lanka on May 22-23:

(Begin Text) At the invitation of the H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Ban Ki-moon paid a visit to Sri Lanka. During the course of his visit, he held talks with the President, Foreign Minister as well as other senior leaders of Sri Lanka. During his stay, he also consulted other relevant stakeholders, members of the international humanitarian agencies and civil society. The Secretary-General visited the IDP sites at Vavuniya and overflew the conflict area, near Mullaitivu that was the scene of the conflict.

President Rajapaksa welcomed the Secretary-General as the highest dignitary to visit Sri Lanka in the post-conflict phase. This was a reflection of the close cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United Nations as well as Sri Lanka’s commitment to work with the UN in the future. President Rajapaksa and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed that following the end of operations against the LTTE, Sri Lanka had entered a new post-conflict beginning. In this context, the Government of Sri Lanka faces many immediate and long-term challenges relating to issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation. While addressing these critical issues, it was agreed that the new situation offered opportunities for long-term development of the North and for re-establishing democratic institutions and electoral politics after 2 ½ decades. The Government expressed its commitment to ensure the economic and political empowerment of the people of the North through its programmes.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development. The Secretary-General welcomed the assurance of the President of Sri Lanka contained in his Statement in Parliament on 19th May 2009 that a national solution acceptable to all sections of people will be evolved. President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.

President Rajapaksa and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed a series of areas in which the United Nations will assist the ongoing efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing the future challenges and opportunities.

With regard to IDPs, the United Nations will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the IDPs now in Vavuniya and Jaffna. The Government will continue to provide access to humanitarian agencies. The Government will expedite the necessary basic and civil infrastructure as well as means of livelihood necessary for the IDPs to resume their normal lives at the earliest. The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Government expressing its intention to dismantle the welfare villages at the earliest as outlined in the Plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs and call for its early implementation.

The Government seeks the cooperation of the international community in mine-clearing which is an essential prerequisite to expediting the early return of IDPs.

The Secretary-General called for donor assistance towards the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) jointly launched by the GOSL and the UN, which supports the relief, shelter and humanitarian needs of those in IDP sites.

President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General recognized that the large number of former child soldiers forcibly recruited by the LTTE as an important issue in the post-conflict context. President Rajapaksa reiterated his firm policy of zero tolerance in relation to child recruitment. In cooperation with UNICEF, child-friendly procedures have been established for their "release and surrender" and rehabilitation in Protective Accommodation Centers. The objective of the rehabilitation process presently underway is to reintegrate former child soldiers into society as productive citizens. The Secretary-General expressed satisfaction on the progress already made by the Government in cooperation with UNICEF and encouraged Sri Lanka to adopt similar policies and procedures relating to former child soldiers in the North. President Rajapaksa informed the UN Secretary-General regarding ongoing initiatives relating to rehabilitation and re-integration of ex-combatants. In addition to the ongoing work by the office of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, a National Framework for the Integration of Ex-Combatant into Civilian Life is under preparation, with the assistance of the UN and other International Organizations.

Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations. The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government will take measures to address those grievances. (End Text)

- Asian Tribune -

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