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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2708

Louise Arbour Understood the Complexity of Sri Lanka Problem – Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 21 October (Asiantribune.com): The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, contrary to what the domestic and international media reported, never pressed for the opening of a UN permanent human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka. In fact, she understood the complexity of the problem Sri Lanka is facing, and even the US State Department is beginning to understand which is most encouraging is what Sri Lanka’s Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe told Asian Tribune.Mahinda Samarasinghe :“We invited Human Rights Louise Arbour to Sri Lanka to have an up close and personal observation of the situation. We afforded her to meet a wide range of politicians, the opposition United National Party (UNP) and the main Tamil party in parliament the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)."Mahinda Samarasinghe :“We invited Human Rights Louise Arbour to Sri Lanka to have an up close and personal observation of the situation. We afforded her to meet a wide range of politicians, the opposition United National Party (UNP) and the main Tamil party in parliament the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)."

The Minister, who was attending the 62nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York to participate in the session Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children, gave an interview on the telephone to Asian Tribune. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam was with the minister when he spoke to Asian Tribune.

Minister Samarasinghe made a special statement on the UN agenda item Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children on Wednesday, October 17.

The Asian Tribune asked if the Government of Sri Lanka was confident that the explanations, assessments and interpretations his government was giving to the international community and to international civil servants like Dr. Arbour were being reasonably accepted, the Sri Lanka minister of human rights said with confidence that they understand the enormous struggle his country is facing in combating Tamil Tiger terrorism.

“Our government is having an ongoing and fruitful dialogue with the United Nations, the international community and the officials of the U.S. State Department,” the minister said when asked if they were buying the arguments his government was presenting on the ground situation in Sri Lanka.

Minister of Human Rights admitted that his government, in combating Tamil Tiger terrorism, had to maintain a balance between terrorism, human rights and many national issues confronting this South Asian nation.

“We have not only problems that need to be addressed the three main ethnic communities in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese (74%), the Tamils (12%), Muslims (7%) and plantation Tamils of Indian Origin (5%), but also inequities in regional developments, economic disparities, cultural issues and so on while making an enormous efforts to safeguard national security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation. We are trying to make the international community to understand this situation,” Mahinda Samarasinghe further noted.

Asked whether observers like Asian Tribune could be satisfied that the international community understood the ground situation, the minister very confidently said that Dr. Arbour, on her recent visit understood the complexity of the issues his country was facing.

“We invited her to Sri Lanka to have an up close and personal observation of the situation. We afforded her to meet a wide range of politicians, the opposition United National Party (UNP) and the main Tamil party in parliament the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). We made arrangement for her to meet many civic leaders and activists as possible, the local NGOs and so on. She met civic activists in the northern-most city Jaffna by her self to make her own judgment,” Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister explained.

To our satisfaction Ms. Arbour understood the complexity of the problem,” he told Asian Tribune.

“The mood of the international community is taking a turn in our favor. The UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva did not go through the resolution that would have been critical of Sri Lanka,” Samarasinghe said in response to a question whether the international community and its bodies like the UN are moving toward declaring Sri Lanka a failed state.

“Look, how could someone who comes to Sri Lanka for few days get the whole scenario. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to judge the complex situation within few days of stay in the country,” he explained.

He said a few Sri Lanka-based non governmental organizations (NGOs) endeavor to blow the human rights issue out of proportion, but vast majority of the NGOs are acting very responsibly when asked if the NGOs were partially responsible for the tarnishing of Sri Lanka’s image abroad.

“The government has taken precautionary measures to maintain human rights standards. We act in a transparent manner and every action we take to maintain the rule of law is done with transparency and in keeping with internationally accepted standards,” Samarasinghe noted.

Asian Tribune reminded Sri Lanka’s human rights minister that the major players in the international community who are interested in his country’s national issue has tied the LTTE break-away group led by Colonel Karuna Amman to Sri Lanka military operations, child conscription and other human rights violations, Minister Samarasinghe categorically stated that the military has nothing to do with the Karuna group. “No one knows where Karuna is, and the government has explained to the international community that the LTTE break-away group has no rapport with the armed forces.”

He explained to Asian Tribune President Rajapakse’s national agenda which includes the devolution of power to the periphery. “And, these efforts are being done midst of a battle to combat Tamil Tiger terrorism and safeguard national security,” he said. In the meantime, the minister contended, that the government is acting in a transparent manner for the international community to understand the issues the country is facing.

The Tamil Tiger outfit, the LTTE, designated a terrorist organization in the United States since 1998 and most of the European Union nations, has been militarily fighting successive Sri Lanka governments since 1983 to win an independent state for the 12% minority ethnic Tamils in the country’s predominantly Tamil north and ethnically mixed east accusing that the Tamils are being discriminated against.

Since 1985, there ha been several failed peace talks between the Tamil Tigers and the government. The Tigers on many occasions unilaterally withdrew from talks to renew its military confrontations with the Sri Lankan state.

The Tamil Tigers, who declared themselves as the sole representatives of the Tamil people, lost their grip among the ethnic Tamil minority in recent times. 54% of the Tamils are now living in predominantly Sinhalese districts in other parts of the country. The Tigers do not get the support it received in the past from the Tamil Diaspora living in western nations.

The Norwegian-brokered 2002 ceasefire agreement has fallen apart, and the government led by President Mahinda Rajapakse defeated the Tamil Tigers in the east of the country wresting total control of the Eastern Province. The government is slowly moving toward devolution of power to the periphery under severe international pressure.

President Rajapakse, in an interview with Asian Tribune last month in Los Angeles, California told that the international community should not have any fear that his government will step back from devolving power to the provinces in the event of a military defeat of the Tamil Tigers. He said “LTTE terrorism and legitimate grievances of the Tamil people are two issue altogether. The fear the international community has that we will forget about the Tamil grievances once we defeat the LTTE is unfounded. In fact, all communities in Sri Lanka have socio-economic and political grievances and my government plans to address those issues.”

- Asian Tribune -

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