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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2223

JVP opposes any attempt to open human rights monitoring office in Sri Lanka! - Somawansa Amarasinghe

Colombo, 18 October, ( Somawansa Amarasinhe Leader of the JVP told the visiting Ms. Louise Arbour, UN Commissioner for Human Rights that their Party opposed your visit of her to Sri Lanka e and demanded that she shouldn’t be allowed to come here as a result of a statement she had earlier mad against Sri Lanka.

The JVP leader when questioned about the view of his party regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka? Do they occur? Whether there are no human rights violations in Sri Lanka, he categorically stated, “We don’t say there aren’t any human rights violations here. We are extremely vigilant about it. We were in the forefront in the opposition when Tamils in lodging houses in Colombo were indiscriminately sent to the North and the East. This is only one example.”

A meeting between a delegation of the JVP including its leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and a delegation led by Ms. Louise Arbour, UN Commissioner for Human Rights was held at the JVP head office at Pelawatte on the 10th of this month.

At the inception of the meeting Ms. Arbour stated that she was in Sri Lanka with the permission and invitation of the Sri Lanka government. She also stated her visit was to study the situation in Sri Lanka after meeting with the President, senior members of the government and other civil organizations. Following is an account compiled on the discussion that took place between the two parties.

Given below are the excerpts of the conversation between the Leader of the JVP Somawansa Amarasinghe an Louise Arbour, UN Commissioner for Human Rights:

Somawansa Amarasinghe: We thank you for meeting us. I should also directly say that we expressed our opposition to your visit to Sri Lanka. Ours is a party that entertains diverse views.

We are prepared, on a democratic basis, to discuss with anyone agreeing not to agree in instances where we could not agree. We opposed your visit here and demanded that you shouldn’t be allowed to come here as a result of a statement you had made. Also, it was as a result of statements made by UNO officials like Allen Rock.

After leaving Sri Lanka Mr. Allen Rock had stated that Sri Lankan Security Forces abduct children to be handed over to armed groups to be trained as child soldiers. We see this as an attempt to tarnish the image of not only Sri Lanka but that of its Security Forces as well. There has never been such a situation in Sri Lanka. Then we saw a statement alleged to have been made by you.

According to this statement you had said that Human Rights Commission of the UNO expected to open a field office to monitor human rights violations said to be taking place in Sri Lanka. We oppose even making of such a statement. We vehemently oppose establishing such an office in Sri Lanka. We consider it as a violation of sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Also, it would demonstrate that government of Sri Lanka has failed to stop violations of human rights. The UNO doesn’t have a mandate for such a move.

Ms. Louise Arbour: What is the view of your party regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka? Do they occur?

Somawansa Amarasinghe: We don’t say there aren’t any human rights violations here. We are extremely vigilant about it. We were in the forefront in the opposition when Tamils in lodging houses in Colombo were indiscriminately sent to the North and the East. This is only one example.

However, there aren’t any conditions to open a UNO field office in Sri Lanka. We have a justifiable suspicion that the UNO is working according to an agenda of declaring Sri Lanka a failed state. We directly tell you what has to be told. These are not private matters. We are a party that unhesitatingly stands on behalf of sovereignty of the country. We don’t tolerate even the slightest threat to our country. We would oppose such acts. When there was a threat from India we stood against it. When compared with human rights violations in Iraq and places where there are conflicts, UNO has nothing to talk about any such happening in Sri Lanka. It is in Iraq that monitoring offices should be put up.

Ms. Louise Arbour: We never act to violate sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

Somawansa Amarasinghe: Thank you. To talk about this further, a vicious suppression against our party was launched from 1983 onwards. In 1989 more than hundred thousand citizens of this country were murdered. Our party leaders were murdered.

Fortunately I am alive today to apprise you of the happenings. We wrote to the UNO then. However, we didn’t see any response from the UNO regarding that suppression. At least there wasn’t even a statement made. The UNO can’t have double standards.

Ms. Louise Arbour: What’s the view of your party regarding the situation in the East?

Somawansa Amarasinghe: There are no tiger controlled areas in the East now. Security forces have liberated the Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and other people from the clutches of the tiger terrorist movement. Now, we could see an acceleration programme of re-settlement of displaced people. We have pressurized the government to quicken the process. Children attend schools now. Hospitals are functioning. There is a road map that we have proposed. First terrorism should be defeated.

Simultaneously the people’s issues should be addressed. The task of establishing democracy should occur parallel to this.

At least the local government elections should be held first and allow people’s representatives to address the needs of the people. We have told the government to announce the date to hold provincial council elections. Yesterday a minister announced that the provincial council elections will be held in February, 2008.

For the last 20 years, tiger organization has deprived the people of the area of everything. Now, that situation is over. The government should invest large sums of money and develop the area. If the local government elections first and then provincial council elections are held the people will be encouraged to be independent of the tiger organization; the security forces would get good support from the people of Wanni.

In the North and in Wanni the Security Forces are engaged in defeating terrorism without bringing any harm to civilians. Sri Lankan Security Forces have become professionally competent. We have not heard of any complaint of rape or theft by our armed forces. We too monitor very closely. Security Forces could be professionally advanced. They are prepared for that. Look at Jaffna peninsula. Can the American army move freely among Iraqi people? They can’t. However, our Security Forces in Jaffna are with the people. Their rapport with the people is on a very high level. You would be able to see this.

Ms. Louise Arbour: I will tell you something about the UNO. It is in a state of reform. At times it lags behind. These should be changed.

Somawansa Amarasinghe: Regretfully we should say this. We too see that the UNO is in the process of changing. But it is not towards righteousness. UNO was founded to solve issues justifiably; to act pluralistically instead of unilaterally.

However, it is not so now. Our observation is that the UNO is acting on behalf of certain western countries and carrying out their agendas. We notice that it is implemented in a worse manner now as there is only one superpower. This is indeed regrettable. The UNO should carry out its business fair by everyone and it should be perceptible to everyone.

Ms. Louise Arbour: Do you think tiger organization could be absorbed into the democratic process?

Somawansa Amarasinghe: No way. They despise democracy. Their agendas don’t tally with democracy. We have a good experience. Our party was banished from the democratic process by the then existing government. From that moment onwards we longed to enter the democratic process. We did everything to achieve this. We joined the democratic process at the first opportunity we got. However, tiger organization did not change. It will never change. They can’t change. All governments gave them opportunities that were not given for us. However, in all such instances, with all ceasefire agreements, they got ready for the next conflict.

They are a part of the issue not a party to the solution. What we say is proved every moment. Hence, tiger organization should be defeated. The problem cannot be solved by division.

There is high level of tolerance in our society. This is due to our long history of 2500 years. Shall I give you a good example? In which country were priests of one religion allowed or invited clergy of another religion to conduct their religious rights in their religious place? It was in Sri Lanka. When the Dutch defeated the Portuguese in Sri Lanka, the invader enforced restrictions on Catholic religion. Catholic churches were closed down. It was our Buddhist priests who allowed these priests and Catholic devotees to practice their religions in their temples.

More than 50% of the Tamil population in this country doesn’t live in the Northern and Eastern Provinces but in other areas. They live in harmony with other communities. We cannot go towards dividing the country. Then the issue would be worsened.

Ms. Louise Arbour: Sri Lanka has signed several UNO charters and agreements of human and political rights. There is a very amicable atmosphere and an intelligent population in this country to safeguard human rights.

Somawansa Amarasinghe: Your observation is very correct. I thank you for that. We have signed several human rights charters and agreements not to deceive anybody. It’s because democracy is practiced in a very high level in our country.

That’s why we say the UNO or any other country need not intervene in our country. We have the capacity to stop all unwholesome matters; at least we could minimize them. We don’t think human rights violations wouldn’t crop up or they could be completely stopped when an armed conflict exists. However, they could be definitely minimized for a tolerable level. For that there are capable political parties in the country. Specially, we believe in our party. There are trade unions. The civil society is very alert. Hence, you could have confidence in that.

Ms. Louise Arbour: I would have been happier if we could prolong this discussion. However, my officials who are watching the clock, give me signal that the time is over. I should stop now. I thank you for giving this opportunity to meet you.

Somawansa Amarasinghe: I thank you all for coming to meet us. However, I have two final questions. I would like to have answers for those. According to our observations certain officials of the UNO act according to an agenda to depict Sri Lanka as a failed state. Do you follow suit?

Ms. Louise Arbour: I don’t think our officials would resort to such things. It won’t happen.

Somawansa Amarasinghe: This is the final question. Do you take action to open a field office of the Human Rights Commission of the UNO in Sri Lanka?

Ms. Louise Arbour: Only if the government agrees.

- Asian Tribune -

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