Friendly countries will support Lanka at UNHRC – Foreign Secretary


Friendly countries will support Lanka at UNHRC – Foreign Secretary

Foreign Secretary Karunatilaka Amunugama

The international community must support Sri Lanka’s domestic
mechanism of reconciliation and efforts to help rebuild battered lives
of the conflict affected, instead of talking about adverse resolutions
at the UNHRC, External Affairs Secretary K. Amunugama said at an
interview with the Sunday Observer .

Secretary Amunugama welcomed the statement of his Australian
counterpart Kevin Rudd commending the LLRC recommendations adding that
this should be the attitude of the members of the international
community if they wished a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.

He said, ”Some blame our embassies for not countering the adverse
propaganda. But our missions do their best, it’s just that this ‘best’
is not good enough to reach out to millions of people and thousands of
law makers all over the world.

About Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva’s appointment to UN Secretary
General’s advisory panel on peacekeeping and the protest lodged by UN HR
Chief, he said.

“It is not Ms. Pillai who decides but the representatives of the
Governments, that who should represent Asia. The Asian group which
represent a set of very powerful Ambassadors have decided that Maj. Gen.
Silva is the best person to represent them at this particular
committee.”

Q: Maldives is in turmoil for the past few weeks following the
resignation of Mohammed Nasheed, former President. A Considerable
population of Sri Lankans work in the Maldivian hospitality industry.
What is being done to ensure safety of the Sri Lankans living and
working there?

A: We are in touch with our High Commissioner in Male as well as the
Maldivian HC in Colombo. So far there are no reports of Sri Lankans
being affected. We have directed our high Commissioner to liaise with
the Maldivian Government to ensure their safety.

The Maldivian Government has assured that they will provide
protection to Sri Lankans to continue with their professions, in
Maldivian establishments and hotels.

Q: Most of the Sri Lankans are in the hospitality industry and they
are not based in the mainland?

A: There are Sri Lankans in the mainland working in hotels and
factories but so far we have not received anything to indicate that they
have been affected.

As I mentioned, we have informed the Maldivian HC here, we are
constantly in touch with him. We receive updates from our mission in
Male informing the developments taking place in the capital as well as
the situation of Sri Lankans.

Q: Will there be an evacuation plan if the situation do not improve
in Male?

A: No. We have not come to that stage yet. I think so far Maldives is
a safe place. There are some disturbing incidents but I don’t think it
has come to a stage to merit an evacuation.

Q: There were indications in the statements by visiting US Assistant
Secretary of State Robert Blake and US Under Secretary for Civilian
Security for Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero that a resolution
may be moved against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming UN Human Rights
Sessions in Geneva?

A: It will not be to the best of interests of Sri Lanka if such a
thing materialises at the UNHRC sessions. We informed our friendly
countries and our international partners that there are a lot of other
forums, that we can discuss this issue.

The issues they talk about are purely internal matters and we have
explained extensively to the International Community what has happened
during the humanitarian operations and then about post war development,
rehabilitation process and reconstruction. And how we have rehabilitated
the LTTE combatants.

The International community including their Ambassadors based in
Colombo and the visiting parliamentarians from many countries including
Canada, Britain, EU and Australia, are happy with the progress and our
achievements. In fact they were shocked at the disparity between what
they heard in their respective countries and the actual situation here.
They expressed delight and surprise. Many of them travelled to Jaffna
and other parts in the North.

Many of them met the press and expressed their feelings and
impression of what they saw before their departure and some held further
press conferences in their respective countries to inform what they have
seen and the ground situation in Sri Lanka.

We know LTTE’s disinformation and misinformation campaign is very
strong. They are meeting members of INGOs, law makers and politicians
and feed them with a lot of misinformation. We want everyone who speak
critical of Sri Lanka to visit here and see for themselves the actual
situation on the ground. They can come and see, and then make an
assessment. But drawing inferences based on unverified and
unsubstantiated information is highly unethical.

On our invitation Canadian, British, EU and Australian
Parliamentarians toured the country recently.

The LTTE remnants and sympathisers claim that the Government is doing
a tailor-made program for the visiting delegates. I want to emphasise
that External Affairs Ministry does not arrange any tailor-made trips to
North. Many of the programs are being arranged by the respective
embassies and High Commissions here. What we do, is assist them.
Whenever there is a request to facilitate a tour, we provide protocol
assistance to facilitate meetings with Government officials and
Ministers.

Recently, over 60 ambassadors and representatives from New Delhi came
down to attend Independence Day celebrations. We arranged a program on
their request to take them to Jaffna on February 5. They wanted to speak
to senior officials. I accompanied them to Jaffna. They spoke freely to
people on the street. Jaffna is a busy town now. They went to Nallur
temple and had lunch at Gnanam Hotel.

They witnessed how people get about their daily chores and how the
agriculture and paddy farming is picking up, now that the LTTE is no
more to terrorise the people.

Some of the Ambassadors were very vocal and criticised certain
Western governments and media for being biased and giving wrong
interpretation to the situation here.

It is unfortunate that many of those who criticised the Government
show little or no interest to come down to see the truth.

Some blame our embassies for not countering the adverse propaganda.
But our missions do their best, it’s just that this ‘best’ is not good
enough to reach out to millions of people and thousands of law makers
all over the world, or to compete with the well funded LTTE propaganda
network that is working full time on spreading anti-Sri Lanka
propaganda.

Q: Amidst all these adverse developments, the Australian Government
last week defeated a motion against Sri Lanka, that was brought in by a
Greens member, calling for the establishment of an international
mechanism. It is reported that 11 members voted in favour of the motion
while 30 voted against. How do you view this positive outcome in the
Australian Parliament?

A: This shows the progress Sri Lanka has made is getting world
recognition.

The LLRC report is an independent report done by a commission of
inquiry. It has nothing to do with the Government. But some sections of
the international community was expecting this report to be kind of
biased. When they saw the recommendations of the LLRC, they were taken
by surprise. The commission came out with a strong concrete set of
recommendations.

Even before the LLRC report was tabled there was a meeting by the
Amnesty International to discredit it and question the credibility of
the commissioners.

This shows the prejudiced thinking and mindset of some these INGOs
and certain members of the international community. When finally the
recommendations were put out almost all the countries appreciated and
commended the recommendations.

The latest one we got from Australia, The Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd
has made a special statement in Parliament. Two thirds of that statement
is positive towards LLRC recommendations and the report. He has
requested a time line and modalities of implementation.

LLRC commissioners did not limit their work to Colombo. They
travelled around the country, listening to testimonies of people who
were affected and caught up in the conflict.

Q: The LLRC report is submitted after an in depth and a transparent
process in comparison to the report by the Darusman Panel?

A: The difference between Darusman report and the LLRC report is that
Darusman report don’t reveal their sources and how they gathered
information. There is no proof of evidence. They say it will remain
closed for many years. It is like a fairy tale.

If the evidence is there, we could check if this information is true
or not. That is very vital for the credibility of a report of this
nature.

The LLRC report in contrast is based on direct witness statements and
submissions of the people. The Commissioners have said, if someone wants
to verify information, they are free to do so. It was a transparent
process.

The fundamentals of the LLRC report is very strong but on the
contrary the fundamentals of Darusman Report is very weak. The bottom
line is that many countries have welcomed the LLRC report on a positive
note.

Q: So do you think Sri Lanka will be supported by this positive
thinking block of International community at the UNHRC if an attempt is
made to bring in an adverse resolution against the country, just like
they did in May 2009?

A: We are confident. Our effort is to convince the international
community on what we have done. It has been two months since the LLRC
report was tabled. We have done so much after the end of the war to make
the lives of the affected people better. We have asked time to progress
more. We will be able find ways and means to implement some of the LLRC
recommendations.

No country has been able to implement a set of recommendations within
two months. We are a democratic country.

The fundamentals of democracy is consultation. We have a strong
Parliament. We have to discuss and consult the parties concerned on how
best we could implement these recommendations. To identify the agencies
that needs to be ‘muscled up’.

We don’t want to rush through implementation and then declare we have
to retract due to certain impediments.

The first step towards implementation has been taken today (Feb 15).
The Army Commander has appointed a Court of Inquiry to probe the
observations made in the LLRC report. This is the thing that the critics
cannot understand. We need time and space to continue with our domestic
process. We want to work together with the International community in
our goal to achieve a peaceful and prosperous country. This is our
objective and the objective of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

This is what we have told our American friends. Sri Lanka and the USA
have been old friends and good friends. We have our own differences but
we share friendly relations.

Bringing in a resolution or supporting a resolution at the UNHRC is
not the way of working together. If we have issues we must sit together
and discuss ways to resolve them. This is the message that we have
conveyed to them.

Q: UN Human Rights Chief Navaneetham Pillai has written to the UN
Secretary General Ban ki moon about the appointment of Sri Lanka’s
Deputy Chief of Mission in New York Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva to his
peacekeeping advisory panel. I understand Maj. Gen. Silva was nominated
by the group of Asian countries. In this backdrop what was the purpose
of her protest?

A: I don’t want to draw inferences. She has different views for many
things, particularly when it comes to things related to Sri Lanka.
Appointment of Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva was not done by the Government
of Sri Lanka.

Those who criticize it must understand that.

He is our Deputy Representative with Ambassador rank working at the
Permanent Representative’s office in New York. He has been nominated by
the Asian group. It is not Ms. Pillai who decides but the
representatives of the Governments, that who should represent Asia.

The Asian group which represent a set of very powerful Ambassadors
have decided that Maj. Gen. Silva is the best person to represent them
at this particular committee.

Q: Many LTTE sympathisers and LTTE fronts/INGOs are going to join
forces against Sri Lanka at the HR sessions in Geneva. Can’t Sri Lanka
expose these LTTE figures so that state delegations will stop
patronizing their agendas at the sessions to penalise Lanka?

A: Membership or observer status at the HRC cannot be taken at
anyone’s behest. There is a clearly defined process. We have seen on
many previous occasions, the LTTE sympathisers protest in front of the
UN headquarters. This has little impact.

I think the international community is now aware of the LTTE tactics.
You cannot fool them. They are quite aware of the true Sri Lankan
situation. Many countries have commended the LLRC recommendations. Their
representatives have visited Sri Lanka and seen the ground reality.

What the LTTE remnants are engaged in, is a business. It is really
unfortunate that some innocent Tamils contribute to this. They spend so
much of money on propaganda activities, but have they ever spent a penny
to build a house, a school or a library for their kith and kin in the
North and East – the worst affected, Pudumathalan?

Q: Deviating from the UN front to Iran. I read in the papers that
Iran is prepared to continue supply of crude oil to Sri Lanka despite
the US sanctions. India, one of the biggest buyers, has said they were
going to continue oil imports. What is the policy of the Sri Lankan
Government?

A: There are two types of sanctions against Iran. Economic sanctions
by US and some specific sanctions by the UN. Sri Lanka has not taken a
decision to change our policy towards Iran. But, in case if US sanctions
affected Iranian exports, we are discussing ways and means to face the
situation, drawing up contingency plans.

I am not updated on the decisions of the Petroleum Resources Ministry
but we have not taken a decision to cut our oil imports from Iran.

Q: A series of offensive stamps with LTTE images surfaced in several
countries ; France, UK, Germany and Norway. The respective countries
have apologised but the damage is already done?

A: Just like they have been doing for many years, the LTTE is
misusing democratic establishments and the freedom enjoyed in those
countries to further their ideologies.

The governments have apologized and they will be compelled to be on
the alert for such LTTE gimmicks in the future.

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