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Ban Ki-moon Should Reject the Report of the Panel on Sri Lanka and Restore Confidence in the UN

An analysis of notices published by the UN Panel of Experts (POE) calling for submissions and email correspondence this writer has had wit...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Will the International Community give-in to the LTTE Lobby and Thwart Reconciliation in Sri Lanka?

A newborn babe about to leave the Kilinochchi hospital is being greeted by a sibling June 2011. 
Reconciliation in Sri Lanka appears threatened by various manoeuvres aimed at crucifying the country on unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuses during the latter stages of the country’s long drawn-out conflict which ended with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who were fighting for a separate state for ethnic Tamils in the north and the east of the country.
Few if any would deny the dividends of peace in Sri Lanka. A massive development effort, particularly in the war-ravaged north and east of the country has been coupled with a wide ranging reconciliation effort that is already reaping benefits. These though are only obstacles to those with an agenda of destabilizing the country under the guise of protecting human rights. Those who profited by war could hardly be expected to want peace.
Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam today described as an “an unethical distortion of the true position,” the contents of an email purported to have been sent by the US Mission to the United Nations which “creates the impression that diplomatic officials of the U.S. have been in close contact with the Government of Sri Lanka, as well as this Mission, to work, collaboratively on issues of accountability (in Sri Lanka) and the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s Report”. It goes on to express the hope that ‘the Sri Lankan Government will work with us on this Resolution’. It obliquely canvasses the position of a co-sponsorship of a Resolution and conveys a false impression that Sri Lanka is working with the United States on this Resolution, the statement added.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry which carried the Ambasasador’s statement on its website said that it exposes manoeuvres to deceive the Human Rights Council.“
The email is reported to have been signed by Miriam Shahrzard Schive. According to the Princeton University’s website, Miriam Shahrzard Schive is attached to the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University and  is a former special assistant at LISD and former Resident Director of the new Liechtenstein Institute in Vienna (LIVA), a sister research institute to the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University. Fluent in German, French, and Farsi, she is currently reported to be pursuing a Masters of International Affairs Degree at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Smiling patients who benefited from a public-private initiative where some of the best eye surgeons in the country performed cataract operations for patients from the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts at the Kilinochchi Hospital, June 2011.
It remains to be seen whether this is another attempt to revive the call of the former terror group for a separate state in Sri Lanka.
Ambassador Kunanayakam also said, “It is unfortunate that such an unethical distortion of the true position has been resorted to by interested parties who can only be pursuing some parallel agenda, seeking to achieve some collateral gain, given Sri Lanka’s commitment to engage constructively with its partners, its forthrightness in discussing issues pertaining to post conflict recovery and the realization of positive developments within its territory relating to reconciliation and development.”
A key prize sought by the rebels during Sri Lanka’s conflict was the eastern port of Trincomalee which is believed to be the largest natural port in the world. This port and the sea area around Sri Lanka is of great interest to various global powers seeking to dominate the Indian Ocean. International sea-routes between the east and the west ply through Sri Lanka’s territorial waters just a few kilometers south of Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota.
At a time when western economies are struggling having failed to recover from the 2008 economic crisis, the sea-routes across the Indian Ocean have assumed greater significance in maintaining access to the emerging markets of Asia.
Beneficiaries of the government's rehabilitation programme for former LTTE cadres await their reintegration at a ceremony at the Town Hall in Vavuniya April 2011.
Handicrafts turned out by the beneficiaries of the government's rehabilitation programme at an exhibition at the Art Gallery in Colombo.
The decisive victory in May 2009 by the Sri Lanka Government over the banned LTTE and the annihilation of its leadership has given rise to accusations that LTTE leaders surrendering with white flags were killed by government troops. The government and the Army have however, vehemently rejected the accusations.
A rehabilitated LTTE cadre's water colour rendition of Mother Theresa.
Sri Lanka being pushed away from the fire of the dragon by the three main ethnic communities as depicted by a former LTTE cadre.
While many in the west celebrated the dramatic raid into Pakistan and the killing of the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the brutal killing after capture, of the former leader of Libya, Muammar Ghadaffi, Sri Lanka is being singled out for its firm eradication of terrorism.
Reports appeared recently of Major General Shavendra Silva, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a recent nominee of the Asia-Pacific countries to the UN’s Peacekeeping Committee being barred from participating in its work, according to a statement attributed to its Chairman, Louise Frechette. However, there was no word at the time of writing of the UN’s official position regarding Silva’s position which followed a nomination made by member countries from the Asia-Pacific region. Sri Lanka has expressed its outrage at the action of the committee’s chairman.
After a couple of years in rehabilitation there is much to discuss. Rehabilitees, familes and well-wishers at the Vavuniya Town Hall prior to reintegration into civilian society.
Fourteen NGOs including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch welcomed news of the US moves on Sri Lanka in Geneva and referred to the UN Panel of Experts Report on Sri Lanka which was forwarded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the UN Human Rights Council. The move was made despite widespread condemnation of the report which seeks to vilify Sri Lanka for unsubstantiated civilian deaths during the final stages of the conflict. Sri Lankans were denied the opportunity to be heard by the three-member committee.
More pressure could be expected in the days to come as a discernible pattern has emerged of how on previous occasions a media barrage has been unleashed in concert by the LTTE lobby overseas, some NGOs that claim to fight for human rights and certain western countries whenever Sri Lanka has appeared at a high-profile international forum.
Despite the theatrics on the international stage, Sri Lanka continues to march forward towards reconciliation. Various initiatives launched by both the government and civil society to restore normalcy have already begun to bear fruit.
Art and handicrafts of rehabilitated LTTE cadres on display at Colombo's Art Gallery.
The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies is spearheading a series of events in reconciliation. Named after Sri Lanka’s illustrious former foreign minister assassinated by the LTTE, the institute is engaging diverse sectors - education, media, religion, youth, NGOs, sports, arts, culture and the diaspora to sustain the natural reconciliation so evident in the country after the end of terrorism.
Students following a five-day leadership training programme conducted by the Nena Guna Weduma: Sisu Diriya Programme of the President's Office in Kilinochchi January 2012 begin the day with physical training under a skilled instructor.
Former LTTE cadre turned singer and film star, Gokulan sings for the leadership trainees in Kilinochchi January 2012.
Trainer Saabir M. Hashim tells the students in Kilinochchi how to change their lives with a positive outlook on life.
Gokulan leads the students in a dance routine at Kilinochchi January 2012.
Students enjoying Gokulan's performance on stage in Kilinochchi January 2012.
Muslim girls take the stage at the Deyata Kirula Exhibition in Anuradhapura February 2012 with an eye-catching dance.
Several hundred Tamil students from the northern province performed a variety of dances at the Deyata Kirula Exhibition.
Five hundred students in Kilinochchi were given a five-day leadership training programme by the Nena Guna Weduma: Sisu Diriya Programme of the President’s Office in January. The programme which aims to build future leaders by enhancing their knowledge and ethics has received wide acceptance among both students and teachers in the conflict-affected and adjacent areas. More than 2,000 students including hundreds from the northern districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mannar and others from the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts performed traditional dances at the government’s development exhibition, Deyata Kirula 2012 in Anuradhapura this month, marking a first for them on the big stage.
Sixty-three year old Mrs. Thamayanthy who was a beneficiary of the government's rehabilitation programme spoke to this writer about her role as LTTE propagandist Thamizkavi.
A poster depicts a photograph showing religious leaders participating in the rehabilitation programme.
A photograph captured from a poster depicting former female LTTE cadres being given a training in beauty culture during the rehabilitation programme.
Sinhala Soldier Sandaruwan of the Gajaba Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army married hiw sweetheart ethnic Tamil Shermila Chandrasekeran at a simple ceremony blessed by both families at their residence in Kilinochchi. Shermila's father, a former LTTE cadre and beneficiary of the government's rehabilitation programme looks on.
One of the most impressive exercises in reconciliation has been the rehabilitation and release of former LTTE cadres. Over ten thousand of them have been put through an intensive rehabilitation programme which included spiritual training, continuation of disrupted education, vocational skills, sports and interaction with youth of other communities and released back to their families. One of them interviewed in April 2011 in Vavuniya told this writer of how the married inmates were allowed to have their spouses live with them in the camps. His nine-month old son at the time of release was living proof. Another enquired whether my recorder was switched off and when told it was, said that except for the first three days (following their dramatic escape from the clutches of the LTTE to the government controlled areas) they had been treated in an excellent manner by the Sri Lanka Army.
International and local NGOs, CBOs, and the private sector have programmes at various levels to foster reconciliation. For them and for the likes of former award-winning actress Anoja Weerasinghe and former LTTE cadre turned film star Gokulan who are conducting programmes for the youth in the north, reconciliation is not an abstract subject at an international forum. It is something they see in the radiating happiness of the people; one that gives hope for a truly united Sri Lanka. END.
NOTE: Article and all photographs copyright Ranjit J Perera. Story and photographs may be republished unedited and with due attribution.

In Words

Loved and mentored by parents with values and discipline and a passion for good English; guided by teachers who wouldn't spare the rod to ensure excellence; copywriter; on-line journalist; editor-in-chief; and at long last, giving into the passion; Freelance Writer.

Nurtured in advertising and PR from freelance copywriter to account director and agency head; engaged throughout to humanitarian work in NGOs including the Red Cross and the UNDP; and experienced in both public and private sectors.

Looking forward to a future of writing on diverse subjects; sharing knowledge and experience; enriching the lives of others; but most of all, acquiring more knowledge and using it to make the world a better place for all.

More of my writing:
* Fuelling the Peace Process * Concepts for decentralisation of government * PEACE: Is it still an elusive dream? * Interview with the late Major General Trond Furuhovde first Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission * How polar bears are affected by global warming * Red Cross takes lead in clean water for Sri Lanka flood victims * The poorest hardest hit by Sri Lanka floods *