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Japan’s aid not conducive to peace in Sri Lanka – Sampanthan

R. Sampanthan, parliamentary group leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has said that the decision by Sri Lanka’s major donor country Japan, to continue economic aid to Sri Lanka, will soften the International pressure on the SL government to seek a political solution and strengthen Colombo to pursue the military option. Pointing out Sri Lanka President’s categorical statement that there would be no change in his policy on a “unitary structure of a government” with the “district as the unit of devolution,” Mr. Sampanthan dismissed the efforts of All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) as “no more than a mere pretense” to show some action is being taken towards political solution. “We are not satisfied that Japan is using its influence at all to bring about an end to the military confrontation, or in the evolution of an acceptable political solution, bearing in mind the long standing suffering and legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people,” Sampanthan said.

The senior Tamil politician who is heading the TNA delegation to Europe, comprising parliamentarians Gajendrakumar Ponnampalam, Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Suresh Premachandran and Mavai Senathriajah, is currently in Oslo.

Following is the full text of the Interview with Mr. Sampanthan:

TamilNet: Do you think the Co-Chairs would decide to pressure the GoSL by curtailing the economic aid?

Mr. Sampanthan: I am not certain about the decisions the Co-Chairs have taken in regard to aid being given to the government. But we are aware U.K, EU and USA have reduced their aid to Sri Lanka. But I believe Japan is not favor of cutting aid. And what pressure the Co-Chairs and the international community will be able to exert on the Sri Lankan government to compel them to take positive steps in regard to the matters [related to peace] is not very certain. But I do think the international community wants to bring about a peaceful resolution through negotiation than through military means. Action should be such that would make the Sri Lankan government realize that they cannot persist in their present course of action.

TamilNet: Do you think that Japan’s decision to continue giving economic aid to Sri Lanka would lessen the impact of aid reduction by other countries on Sri Lanka? And what is your comment to the reports that more than 40% of Japanese aid is going to NorthEast?

Mr. Sampanthan: The Japanese ambassador in Colombo frequently talks about construction of Ki’linochchi hospital with Japanese funding. But, I am inclined to think that the Japanese government’s contribution to NorthEast falls far short of the claimed figure of 40% of the total Japanese aid to the Sri Lankan state. And this is a matter which I think the Japanese government should clarify and monitor. Furthermore, any development with money expended in the NorthEast in the present situation, could be destroyed due to aerial bombardment, multi barrel rocket fire and military confrontation.

Before the aid is spent on development activities in the NorthEast, peace must prevail in the Northeast. And people must be able to live in the NorthEast without fear of shells and air raids. Now, in the Moothoor High Security Zone, people can’t resettle. If people cannot resettle in their own areas, what is the purpose of development in those areas? Development must be for the benefit of the people. So there is a contradiction between the claim of Japan that a substantial percentage of their aid is being distributed to the NorthEast and the extent of the development activity there. For, any development to be meaningful, the area must be safe for living and local residents should be the real beneficiaries. This is not the case in the Northeast.

We are not satisfied that Japan is using its influence at all to bring about an end to the military confrontation, or in the evolution of an acceptable political solution, bearing in mind the long standing suffering and legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.

TamilNet: What is your view of the progress of the APRC? Certain members of the International Community appear to express hope on APRC’s efforts?

Mr. Sampanthan: In the meeting between the representatives of the APRC and Sri Lanka’s President, after the proposals have been submitted by the SLFP, the President categorically stated he was committed to both the unitary structure of the government and districts as the unit of devolution.

President’s position takes Sri Lanka more than 50 years backwards, to the period before the Bandaranayake- Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957. So we do not see much hope in the prospect of a political solution emerging through the APRC process.

I have so far refrained from commenting adversely on the APRC proposals. But after the SLFP proposals were placed before the APRC, I recently made a statement in Parliament stating that in the context of the proposals placed by the SLFP before the APRC, the APRC has become a shroud. It is no more than a mere pretence that some effort is being made to resolve a political solution.

If the President’s own party states, that they are committed to a “unitary structure of a government” with the “district as the unit of devolution,” then I do not think there is any chance whatever – of the APRC being able to come out with the proposals that will be even remotely acceptable to Tamil aspirations; It will not satisfy any section of the Tamil political spectrum.

TamilNet: What is your impression of the situation following the recent meeting in Oslo, by the Co-Chairs of Tokyo Donor Conference on the Sri Lankan Peace Process?

Mr. Sampanthan: It appears that the Co-Chairs have spent more time discussing the various dimensions of the current political, military and Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka. The Co-Chairs were allegedly in agreement that there could be no military solution to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka and that the Tamil question would have to solved politically.

The Co-Chairs seem to have emphasized the need for a political solution that could meet the aspirations of the Tamil people while safeguarding the rights of others such as the Muslims living in the NorthEast.

The Co-Chairs also been very much been concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. There are two aspects of human rights situations in Sri Lanka. One, is the violation of the human rights that occurs as the result of the military action that is persued by the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces in different areas both in the East and in the North, such as aerial bombardment, multi barrel rocket launcher fire. Large numbers of Tamil civilians – men, women and children – are killed and injured. Civilian owned property is destroyed. People are displaced and deprived of livelihood.

The second, aspect of Human Rights violations is the targeted killings of civilians by the armed forces and SLA-backed paramilitaries in areas under government control. The enforced, disappearances, abductions, extortions and so on.

It is our fear that if the military offensive is proceeded within the North, it could result in the displacement of several hundreds of thousands of Tamil people. It could result in the death of tens of thousands of Tamil people and in widespread destruction of Tamil civilian owned property.

And while we have raised these matters pertaining to individual violations in Parliament and with the President. There has not been a single instance where the offending party has been arrested and produced in Court, or where there has been any conviction, clearly indicating that the government is making no serious attempt at all to bring an improvement in the grave human rights situation that prevails in the country.

This is a matter of grave concern and this is one of the matters, which I think, the Co-Chairs should after their deliberations bring to the notice of the government. The Co-Chairs would also, I believe, prevail upon the government not to pursue its military offensives.

However, I am not optimistic that the articulated views of the co-chairs are sufficient to change the course of Colombo. Sri Lanka’s military intends to continue offensive both in the East and in the North, and unfortunately, large scale destruction to lives and property appears inevitable.

October 6, 2007 - Posted by | NEWS

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