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Sunday, 6 June 2010

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Lanka can tackle its internal problems

It seems to be the practice of LTTE sympathisers and a section of the Tamil diaspora to step up their various campaigns against Sri Lanka before every session of the UN Security Council or UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).

The LTTE sympathisers and a section of the Tamil diaspora have been levelling various allegations time and again on human rights violations and media freedom to exert pressure on the Government or on the other hand to slow down anti-terror campaigns.

Although the Security Forces eliminated terrorism and vanquished the LTTE leadership, its 'international wings' are making every effort to resurrect the now defunct terrorist organisation which was once considered the most ruthless terror outfit in the world.

We wonder whether there is any nexus between the recent controversial report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham Pillay's call for an international probe against Sri Lanka on alleged war crimes.

Firstly, the ICG issued a controversial report on Sri Lanka with a plethora of concocted stories. The ICG chief, Louise Arbour, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a questionable manner, has given an undue advantage to the LTTE.

Her successor at the UNHRC, Pillay too has joined the bandwagon, demanding that the UN should take Sri Lanka to task, perhaps for reasons best known to her. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights maintained that Sri Lanka needs an international probe despite the Government having set up a post-war reconciliation commission to look into alleged human rights violations.

"Based on previous experience and new information, I remain convinced that such objectives would be better served by establishing an independent international accountability mechanism that would enjoy public confidence, both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere," Pillay was quoted as saying,

Simultaneously, the UN said it is in the process of selecting the members to be part of a panel to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the implementation of the commitments the Government of Sri Lanka made in the area of human rights accountability.

Nevertheless, following a key meeting last week between External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States supported Sri Lanka's move in its opposition to appoint a UN panel to probe human rights issues. The US said it feels the Commission of Reconciliation appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa "holds promise". Despite the controversial action by the UN, the US Secretary of State feels that the local commission holds promise and expects that it will fulfil the expectations.

It is indeed heartening to see the US extending its strong support to political and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Clinton noted that Sri Lanka will remain a strong, united country by drawing on the strength of all its citizens, valuing the diversity of its people, and ensuring equal rights for all.

Arbour and Pillay should bear in mind that Sri Lanka, as a sovereign nation, has the right to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The country is run by a democratically elected President and a Government and it has the inalienable right to act in a manner in the broader interests of the country and its nation.

More importantly, the people of Sri Lanka have given a clear mandate with an overwhelming majority to the President and the Government to continue its good work. Many countries have commended the bold and far-sighted policies of President Rajapaksa and his Government to eradicate terrorism and liberate over half a million people, who had been forcibly held by the LTTE.

Attorney General Mohan Pieris has quite rightly pointed out that Pillay regretfully seeks to prejudge the outcome of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission even before the mechanism has begun its work. Sovereign States having emerged from protracted armed conflicts resort to domestic mechanisms, as encouraged by the UN Secretary General himself, due to the complicated nature of the issues at hand and their domestic relevance and better understanding.

Sri Lanka has consistently upheld and established a domestic mechanism for transitional justice, rather than one with an international complexion, which would impinge on the very sovereignty that was under threat for nearly three decades due to LTTE's terror acts. It is inappropriate to be wholly guided by precedent, that too not having paid heed to connected issues to keep advocating for a so-called "independent international accountability mechanism".

The Government, as the Attorney General has pointed out, has delivered on related undertakings in the past. In this instance too, we will deliver on our commitment as the domestic mechanism's warrant clearly provides for the identification of direct or indirect responsibility, which would hold perpetrators, if any, accountable for past violations, and will not be deterred by any pressure or force in achieving a lasting peace for the people of Sri Lanka.

Those who are our protagonists should let this process commence as envisaged, observe its progress constructively and provide the necessary space without unwarranted and misplaced rhetoric. It was disconcerting for the Government to be needlessly confronted, at this time of a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of the people, by the observations in the High Commissioner's statement, after having taken concrete steps in keeping with domestic compulsions, to address post-conflict reconciliation issues.

The Attorney General said that it would be extremely unfortunate if inter-governmental decisions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council were to be ignored or set aside, and the High Commissioner and/or her office were to misinterpret them or wilfully neglect them or supersede them.

Though the valiant Security Forces stamped out LTTE terror a year ago, Tiger sympathisers, operating abroad, are making every endeavour to regroup. We should remember that despite the annihilation of the LTTE's conventional military capacity, we should keep a sharp eye at all times to face the Tigers' international operations.

Sri Lanka has the ability and strength to tackle its internal problems. The International Community should now make an active contribution to the ongoing development work in the North and the East, if they are sincerely interested in the well-being of the Tamil community.

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