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Sunday, 3 July 2011

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False propaganda countered:

Lanka on solid growth path



Minister Nimal Sripala de Silva

Minister of Irrigation and Water Management and Chief Government whip Nimal Sripala de Silva who was a member of the Government delegation that visited the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last month said in an interview with the Sunday Observer that their delegation effectively countered the charges levelled against Sri Lanka on the basis of the Darusman Report and the Channel 4 video footage, impressing the international community and the Council's member States that the documents, based on falsehoods, were unauthentic.

Consequently, he anticipated them to adopt a changed attitude towards Sri Lanka in the next sessions of the Council scheduled for September this year, he said. With rapid economic growth recorded, the targeted US$ 4,500 per capita income will be achieved in 2016, he said. He also spoke on President Mahinda Rajapaksa's far-reaching programs to ensure food security in the country and the creation of a talented younger generation to compete in the present world.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: The next sessions of the UNHRC are due in September this year. Are you anticipating a change of attitude of the international community and the member states of the UNHRC towards Sri Lanka over the purported war crimes after the delegation and our Ambassadors effectively countered accusations of the Channel 4 video clipping and the report of Darasuman Committee ?

A: First of all I must congratulate Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who led our delegation to Geneva last month, for his impressive presentation at the UNHRC and facts tabled with regard to the realities of Human Rights conditions in Sri Lanka.

Other members of the delegation including Attorney General Mohan Pieris, lawyers of his department, the Government Analyst and Secretary to the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement and Rehabilitation in the Northern Province, S.B.Divaratne also played a vital role in countering unfounded accusations.

We, together with our Permanent Representative to Geneva Mrs.Kshenuka Senaviratne, held meetings with ambassadors of member countries of the UNHRC and briefed them about the arduous task of eradicating terrorism and the peace dividends enjoyed by people.

Sri Lanka is now emerging as one nation and we insisted on the need for this process to continue undisturbed.

We also met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navaneetham Pillai to apprise her of several facts regarding misreports submitted to the UNHRC.

We explained to her the Governament's humanitarian operations to liberate people of the Northern and Eastern provinces from the clutches of the LTTE.

We displayed video presentations demonstrating how humanely our forces acted in the final days of the operations.

Mr.Divaratne's presentations before the international community on supplies of food, medicines and other necessities amidst very difficult circumstances were also very convincing.

We told them that it will be unfair if Sri Lanka is penalised on unfounded accusations while emerging as a united nation after eliminating terrorism.

We apprised the international community of the reconciliation process initiated by the Government and the development in the Northern and Eastern provinces, emphasising the fact that more funds are being allocated to the two provinces than to the rest.

In the sidelines of the UN session we also met representatives of the Amnesty International and both the Attorney General and the Government Analyst expalined to them the reasons why the episodes and images in the Channel 4 video footage lacked genuineness and cannot be accepted as an authentic document.

The Attorney General (AG) also met the Special Rapporteur to the UNHRC who had said in his first draft report that the video footage was authentic.

After the AG explained matters to him in detail and put forward a strong argument, he corrected his draft to say that ' there was a prima-facie evidence of authenticity.'

I think that was a significant victory to the delegation.

In addition to all these arduous activities of the delegation during its visit to Geneva, our Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN office in New York Maj.Gen.Shavindra Silva and other Ambassadors had meetings and confrontations with representatives of UN member countries.

I am confident that the international community and the UNHRC member countries should be convinced of the true situation.

Q: Will the Government conduct its own investigations in order to ascertain as to who were behind these fabricated video footage and the damaging UN panel report in order to keep the UN Special Rapporteur informed of the findings?

A: The Government has no jurisdiction to conduct investigations over the Channel 4 video footage, on what they do in London or anywhere else in the world. But we have expert opinion to say that the story is fabricated.

The story that they are trying to tell is not compatible with the video clipping. In fact our High Commissioner in London asked for the original tape from Channel 4 for our examination but they refused to give it.

It is clear that they are trying to conceal something. Taking advantage of the present advanced technology, fabrications of this kind are easy. Unscrupulous individuals do it for money.

There is lot of money in the name of the the LTTE and some sections of the Tamil diaspora are handling it. It is also possible that they are spending huge amounts to individuals in some institutions to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka.

Q: Some local NGOs working in collaboration with international organisations and INGOs seem to be unhappy over the defeat of the LTTE and the restoration of peace and democracy in the country. Your comments please?

A: We have found that the LTTE has spent huge money not only on NGOs but also on politicians in the Western world for their election campaigns and other political activities.

While using their money to buy arms and ammunition and they also spent considerabale amounts to stage propaganda against the Sri Lankan Government.

They spent on media personnel and the media to put across their false propaganda.

Q: You are one of the members of the Government Committee that is now negotiating with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on evolving a political solution to the Tamil issue. Can you please tell us of the developments in the talks?

A: The two sides to the negotiation have a mutual undertaking that they will not disclose details of the talks to the public.

What I want to say is that the Government's commitment is to reach an agreement with the TNA and also to reach a consensus among the other political parties represented in the parliament on resolving the Tamil issue. An atmosphere conducive to settling the issue through dialogue is now prevailing with the elimination of the LTTE.

Q: Sri Lanka has recorded an eight percent economic growth rate in the first quarter of this year despite many hurdles and thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to foreign investments in business and industrial ventures. What are the Government's plans to attract foreign investors while sustaining the economic growth rate?

A: As long as we have been waging a battle against terrorism we could not attract foreign investors and tourists to the country. But now the situation is different.

The number of tourist arrivals has increased by 48 percent during the last few months. So investments also should flow.

If we take our tea, rubber and other agricultural products and even gem and jewellery, there must be more value addition in Sri Lanka.

I am sure there will be a lot of people who will invest in these areas.

In the meantime, food security is something the Government is focusing. That is one of the visions of 'Mahinda Chintana'.

The people in this country should be able to produce sufficient food.

The global food crisis is an emerging problem due to global warming and changes in weather patterns. It is absolutely necessary under the present circumstances that we produce our own food.

It is for this reason that the Government is giving special subsidies for agriculture and is spending mammoth amounts on irrigation and agricultural projects.

The policy of the Government is also to make our younger generation competent in the present world. They would need the right educational background and professionalism, especially in the IT sector.

At present there are more than one thousand graduates passing out from universities and other institutions in the IT sector. India is a hub of IT sector in the world.

We also should strive to become an IT hub. In this respect the Government is in the right path and right direction.

Our country is producing the best doctors and engineers who have a big demand in the private sector and in foreign countries.

They get lucrative salaries. My Ministry is unable to get the number of engineers it needs for its Departments.

That is an indication of the quality and professionalism of our young people.

With this upward trend, I am confident we could reach US 4,500 per capita income by 2016.

Q: The Government also had invited the well-to-do members of the Sri Lankan diaspora to invest in their motherland to help us in our drive towards economic prosperity. After your encounters with some sections of the Tamil diaspora in Geneva, do you think they will also invest here?

A: I am sure they will be part of the investors. They were earlier misled by all false propaganda and unfounded rumours.

Their relatives and friends in Sri Lanka would have told them the peaceful situation prevailing in all parts of the country, including in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu and how people are living without any fear.

The large amount of money which the Northern people have deposited in banks is a clear indication that the situation is improving there. I believe the Tamil diaspora is getting the correct message.

Q: Shortcomings over the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been expressed by the TNA and some other political parties. Your comments please?

A: Considering the plight of the displaced people in some other parts of the world , Sri Lanka has had the best recovery and rehabilitation programs.

Even in the US, displaced people are continuing to live in dire conditions. But in Sri Lanka we have been able to resettle almost 85 percent of the IDPs in a short period. The resettlement of the rest is being delayed due to the demining process.

On the whole, our resettlement programs have been successful.

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