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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2732

“UNESCO does not have either the competence or the mandate to express views,” Sri Lanka Ambassador

Paris, 23 December, (Asiantribune.com): The Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, has been told politely not to express views on the subject on which UNESCO does not have either the competence or the mandate to express views.

Sri Lanka Government has categorically emphasized to Koichiro Matsuura, that the conflict in Sri Lanka Lanka is a complex political issue on which UNESCO does not have either the competence or the mandate to comment.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Paris Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara has rightly pointed out that though UNESCO represented in the Counter Terrorism Implementational Task Force and has made a contribution in inter-sectoral activities in the various domains of the United Nations aimed at fostering the dialogue among peoples and countering terrorism, this does not give a carte blanch to the Director General to comment on specific situations of Member States.

Sri Lanka Ambassador has further underlined in a letter written to UNESCO Director General, that the important factor is that any activity of UNESCO should fall within the “UNESCO domain”. The drawing of parity between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in the context of a domestic peace process would not, by any stretch of imagination, fall within UNESCO’s contribution to the Counter Terrorism Implementational Task Force.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara has written a letter dated 21 December, to Koichiro Matsuura in response to his statement of 7 December in which, he instead of retracting his previous statement made on 03 December, condemning the Sri Lanka Government for bombing and destroying the clandestine Voice of Tigers Radio station of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and killing the journalists and civilians in that incident has tactfully avoided and made comments uncalled for from him in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

Given below the full text of the letter by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in France, Mrs. Chitranganee Wagiswara address to Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of the UNESCO in Paris:

21 December, 2007

H.E. Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General
United Nations Educations, Scientific
And Cultural Organization

Your Excellency,

I wish to thank you for the three meetings we have had over the last two weeks on the statements issued by you on the aerial attack on the Voice of Tigers (VOT), the radio station of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which has been designated as a terrorist organization by several Member States of the United Nations and by the European Union.

We have discussed at length the entire issue. I need to repeat however that the Voice of Tigers is the radio station operated by the LTTE which you, yourself have acknowledged. We have also sent you a secret document prepared by the Ministry of Defence which gives you ample evidence that the Voice of Tigers is not a civilian radio station nor could the people working at this clandestine radio station be called civilians. The fact that the Director of VOT is also thanking you for the Statement issued, through the pro-LTTE website the Tamilnet.com, is further proof of the inextricable linkage between the VOT and LTTE.

Accordingly, the targeting of the VOT clandestine facility would not contravene any national or international norms relating to protection of civilians, in armed conflict. The radio station, as I have stated, forms part and parcel of the infrastructure of the LTTE and is specifically designed to propagate the terrorist activities of the LTTE such as child recruitment, glorification of the “Black Tigers”, the suicide cadres of the LTTE and provides a channel for incitement and promotion of terrorism which has been internationally condemned in Security Council Resolutions.

In your Second Statement you condemned acts of terrorism of the Tamil Tigers and therefore the operation of the VOT which facilitates such acts should also be condemned.

However, in paragraph No.2 of your statement of 7th December 2007, which you insist you are only quoting UNSG Ban Ki Moon’s Statement of 28th November 2007, we note that you have not accurately followed what the UNSG had stated, by specifically naming “the Government forces and LTTE”. While we take strong exception to the fact that you are placing a democratically elected Government on an equal footing with a terrorist organization, it is regrettable that you have given a different connotation to the original statement of the UN Secretary General.

The conflict in Sri Lanka is a complex political issue on which UNESCO does not have either the competence nor the mandate to express views.

While it is acknowledged that UNESCO has been represented in the Counter Terrorism Implementational Task Force and has made a contribution in inter-sectoral activities in the various domains of the United Nations aimed at fostering the dialogue among peoples and countering terrorism, this does not give a carte blanch to the Director General to comment on specific situations of Member States.

The important factor is that any activity of UNESCO should fall within the “UNESCO domain”. The drawing of parity between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE in the context of a domestic peace process would not, by any stretch of imagination, fall within UNESCO’s contribution to the Counter Terrorism Implementational Task Force.

Although you have explained to me that you do not have any intention to give any parity of status to the LTTE, it is our view that this error needs to be rectified as a Statement coming from the Head of an UN Organization such as UNESCO gives unwarranted credibility to the LTTE.

Your Excellency, as a member of the UNESCO as well as the Executive Board, we are deeply distressed that these ill-advised statements have come from you. As your pronouncements have created a difficult political situation in Sri Lanka, a country struggling to eradicate the menace of terrorism and to create space for democracy, I urge that you make a statement to rectify the prevailing misconceptions so that we may lay to rest this issue.

I am taking the liberty of releasing this letter to the media.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Chitranganee Wagiswara
Ambassador and Permanent Delegate
Of the Democratic Socialist
Republic of Sri Lanka to UNESCO

- Asian Tribune –

Also Read:

1. UNESCO Director General skillfully avoided apology and retraction

2. Sri Lanka: UNESCO Chief condemns bombing of the Voice of Tigers radio station

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