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Kudankulam: Sri Lankans Should Learn to Run and Swim

reprinted from The Island LK

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Koodankulam Nuclear Plant –


The potential mind boggling Fukushima, Chernobyl type disaster, from India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant, has begun to count down. Currently nuclear fuel (supplied by US & France) is being fed in to the plant, built by the Russians, at the southern tip of India, just 220 KM from Kalpitiya.

But don’t panic. Sri Lanka’s Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) will be setting up Nuclear Early warning system in Navy camps in, Kalpitiya, Delft Islands and KKS. Later such detectors will be installed in Colombo. Galle, Trincomalee and Kandy – covering almost the entire Island. According to AEA, the alarm would be raised if the radiation from Kudankulam nuclear reactor, increase by three fold in Sri Lanka. My domestic help (a victim of 2004 Tsunami) asked me whether we should run and jump in to the sea, if the alarm is raised? I replied, the AEA plans to evacuate the people or advise them what to do (see Daily Mirror of July 21-2012). The setting up of the early warning system and plans to evacuate people is by itself an admission that a nuclear radiation disaster affecting the entire Island could happen anytime after the Kudankulam plant is commissioned. My domestic help’s second question was whether the authorities were planning to evacuate all of us and take us to Swaziland?

The Indian P.M. Dr. Manmohan Singh sent a letter in August 2012, to the Indian Dept of Nuclear Energy, asking the question “who would be liable in the event of a mishap” at the Kudankulam reactor. He added, Russia had asked for a waiver from liability and if the waiver is given to Russia, both US and France would ask for a waiver. Thus Indian PM has acknowledged that a ‘mishap’ could happen, causing harm to people in India. Could anyone believe that our authorities – Ministry of Environment, External Affairs Ministry, Presidential Secretariat, AEA – have so far not even dreamt of raising that vital question from India. Instead we are installing early warning systems. Is it that the powerful multi-national corporations lobbying for highly profitable nuclear reactor installations and supply of nuclear fuel, transport, etc are having a hand in the deafening silence? Yet a planeload of our guardians of the environment flew in a specially chartered plane singing all the way to Rio de Janeiro to save the planet!

Specially built tankers carrying nuclear fuel had reached Kudankulam. Didn’t they go throughout territorial waters without Sri Lanka’s permission as required according to International conventions? Who cares in Sri Lanka?

When I proposed to a group of concerned intellectuals to organize a forum, seminar or a public discussion and debate on this issue, I was asked “Why didn’t our authorities use our sovereign right to raise objections to the high-handed action of India?

Our media performed their duty in enlightening the public on the life threatening disaster, which could happen due to natural (earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons) technical (like Chernobyl) or even a terrorist attack. But nothing can wake up our guardians of the environment. They are sleeping like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park.

After installing early warning systems, authorities may be advised to acquire a fleet of passenger vessels to take people (from KKS to Galle, Colombo to Kandy and Kalpitiya to Trinco) to the South Pacific Islands Vanuatu, Nauru etc where the External Affairs Ministry wants to establish embassies!

W. David Soysa

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SL Sends Human Rights Report to UNHRC

Daily Mirror, Wednesday, 08 August 2012
The government will today send to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) a document outlining its performance in areas of international concern to be taken up at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) next month in Geneva, it is learnt.

The UPR is a process of evaluating the human rights records of member countries once in four years. It provides an opportunity for all countries to report on the action taken by them to improve human rights and overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights.

Sri Lanka’s situation was evaluated at the 2008 UPR where some members of the international community raised issues with regard to the human rights situation. The External Affairs Ministry has completed its response to be considered at the September UPR in Geneva.

When asked about the upcoming UPR, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris said Sri Lanka’s UPR document would be sent today. However, he declined to give further details about the matters outlined in it.

The UNHRC also adopted a resolution against Sri Lanka in March, urging the Sri Lankan government to address accountability issues during the last stages of the war and to implement recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The government has already prepared a national action plan to implement these recommendations.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai is expected to send a team of officials to Sri Lanka next month to provide technical assistance in the implementation of these recommendations. (Kelum Bandara)

 

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After Interfering in Lebanese Politics, Michele Sisson Heads for Sri Lanka as Next US Envoy

Fri, 2012-06-22 14:45 — editor
Daya Gamage – An Asian Tribune Probe
Washington, DC. 22 June (Asiantribune.com):
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Michele Sisson

Michele Sisson is not an “ordinary” ambassador in Beirut. Indeed, she’s the “star” of the ambassadors in a country in which all internal issues turned to be international, in a country in which the American ambassador turned to be the “actual ruler and governor.”

According to the observers, in the country of “miracles” and “wonders,” the “star” of ambassadors might be “honored” for several reasons: excessive activity and dynamism, unprecedented surge to meddle in the country’s affairs.

The above two paragraphs were taken from a news report carried 21 October 2009 in a Lebanese newspaper giving a slight glimpse of some antics of Michele Sisson who was the American ambassador in Beirut.

After being dubbed by the influential opposition as the ‘Viceroy of Lebanon’, Ms. Sisson is now heading toward South Asia to be the American ambassador in Sri Lanka. She told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing this June 9 that human rights will be the top-most issue in her agenda when she assumes responsibility in Colombo. In the same hearing Ms. Sisson reiterated that for a meaningful reconciliation in Sri Lanka, there should be accountability for the alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during the final stages of the battle with the separatist Tamil tiger movement.

In a previous article this writer explained that when American officials refer to ‘violation of the IHL’ they mean alleged war crimes.

Her diplomatic (or hegemonistic) style was further elaborated by this Beirut newspaper in this manner:

(Quote) Sisson’s own words are finally enough to have an idea about the “mission” the “star of ambassadors” perceived she is doing in Lebanon.

“The United States believe that the cabinet formation process must be completed as soon as possible according to the Lebanese Constitution and in harmony with the results of the parliamentary elections that took place in June,” Sisson simply said a few days ago after meeting the Prime Minister-Designate, just like other MPs who met him in the framework of consultations.

Sisson used the verb “must” when talking about the necessity to form the government as soon as possible. She didn’t use the verb “wish” or even “hope”, she preferred to have an “obligation” tone, sending message to her “friends” in Lebanon reminding them of their “duties” towards her. She went even beyond that when she decided to determine the shape of the government that her country wants: “a government that respects the results of the parliamentary elections,” a slogan that was immediately adopted by pro-loyalty figures. (End Quote)

It is appropriate in the light of what Sri Lanka is destine to face on issues such as transparency, accountability and reconciliation among others when Ms. Michele J. Sisson settles in Colombo as the next American ambassador somewhere in August or so this year to cite the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (VCDR).

The Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), to which both Sri Lanka and the United States are signatories, sets the guidelines on how diplomats should conduct their relations in the host countries together with other provisions. One of the important provisions of this Convention is on diplomatic immunity. Diplomats are exempted from persecution in the courts of the host countries and other legal obligations that the citizens of that country are subjected to. This immunity is however balanced by responsibilities. Article 41 (1) of VCDR reads: “Without prejudice to the privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving states. They have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that country”. Sub-paragraph (2) of Article 41 is equally interesting as it states that diplomatic missions must conduct their relations with the host country either with the Foreign Ministry or through the Foreign Ministry of the receiving state.

Here is the full text of Article 41 of the VCDR:

1. Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.

2. All official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed.

3. The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State. (End Article 41)

Lebanon is a religiously diverse country transitioning toward independence and democratic consolidation after a ruinous civil war and the subsequent Syrian and Israeli occupations. The United States and Lebanon have historically enjoyed a good relationship due in part to cultural and religious ties; the democratic character of the state; a large, Lebanese-American community in the United States; and the pro-western orientation of Lebanon, particularly during the cold war.

Current policy priorities of the United States include strengthening the weak democratic
institutions of the state, limiting the influence of Iran, Syria, and others in Lebanon’s political process, and countering threats from Hezbollah and other militant groups in Lebanon.

Following the June 2009 parliamentary elections in Lebanon Hezbollah emerged as the powerful political entity next to Mr. Hariri’s, the prime minister’s, March-14 political movement to share power in the country.

Following Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 and the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the Bush Administration requested and Congress appropriated a significant increase in U.S. assistance to Lebanon. Since 2006, U.S. assistance to Lebanon has topped $1 billion total over three years, including for the first time U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) of Lebanon.

On June 7, 2009, Lebanese voters elected 128 deputies—from 26 districts and 11 politically
recognized religious sects—to Lebanon’s unicameral legislature. The March 14 coalition won 71
seats to March 8’s 57 seats, maintaining its slim majority in parliament.

The March 14 coalition and March 8 movement are the two main political entities in Lebanon.

US State Department’s declared policy

It was during the period of the 2009 election that Michele Sisson was American ambassador in Beirut. And, it was during this time following the election political factions were struggling to form a stable government when Ambassador Sisson got into the middle of this ‘struggle’, according to Lebanese observers and activists here in the United States and in Beirut, to have total control of Lebanon’s political chess board to suit American foreign policy objectives.

Every nation has its own foreign policy objectives and the Asian Tribune has no quarrel over that. This is a disclosure of how Ambassador Sisson ‘performed her diplomatic duties’ at the behest of her bosses in Washington. And to inform the Sri Lankan state in which she will be this fall to represent the United States.

Ambassador Sisson’s diplomatic behavior before, during and after the June 7, 2009 parliamentary elections in Lebanon can be attributed to what Jeffrey Feltman, acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs in the State Department said in his briefing before the US House Congressional Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia on 24 March 2009. Mr. Feltman, who was once American ambassador to Lebanon said: “We anticipate that the shape of the US assistance programs in Lebanon will be evaluated in the context of Lebanon’s parliamentary election resultsand the policies formed by the new Cabinet.”

In his opening statement, Feltman, strongly discouraged any attempts by foreign powers to influence Lebanon’s elections, noting that “decisions on the shape and composition of the next government can and should be made by the Lebanese themselves, for Lebanon, free from outside interference, political intimidation and violence.”

His very next statement nullified what he had just said and he emphasized that the polls, with US help, “would provide an opportunity to continue the process of reinforcing Lebanon’s independence.”

When Feltman labeled the US backed March 14 group as the “pro-independence” bloc, while highlighting March 8’s association with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as the most serious danger to Lebanon and the Region before the US House of Representative committee it became the core policy of the state department.

Ambassador Michele Sisson made her political maneuvering in Lebanon based on this policy that Mr. Feltman spelled out before the US Congress.

According to the former counsel of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Congress and currently professor of international affairs at the North Western College of Law in Oregon who is an expert in middle east politics Franklin P. Lamb, Feltman then launched his zinger before the Congress which shocked some people internationally but not many in Lebanon: “We anticipate that the shape of the United States’ assistance programs in Lebanon will be evaluated in the context of Lebanon’s parliamentary election results and the policies formed by the new cabinet.”

The American ambassador to Beirut Michele Sisson did not act alone in taking sides in Lebanon’s politics and interfering in the internal affairs in that country. She was aware of the state department policy plank toward Lebanon, and therefore had a free hand in meddling in the internal affairs, endeavoring to influence the outcome of the June 7, 2009 elections and her subsequent role in the formation of the government following the election.

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Senator John Kerry meeting parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri in Beirut

Influencing the Electoral Process

Ambassador Michele Sisson and USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Denise Herbal announced 11 December 2008 that the U.S. embassy has launched a six million dollar humanitarian assistance program “to help 21 villages adjacent to the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared who were affected by the war”.” ( Nahr al-Bared is the camp near Tripoli/Akkar that was destroyed during 12 weeks of fighting between salafist Fateh al-Islam and the Lebanese Army during the summer of 2007 and where serious reconstruction was delayed partly because donors pledges were not been honored).

The American Embassy did not explain to some Lebanese who were astonished by this widely perceived interference and electoral ploy how these 21 villages were themselves affected—since most of the villages were far removed from any fighting. Also unexplained, according to Lebanese observers, is the coincidence that the 21 selected villages just happen to be those where US allied candidates (of the March-14 movement headed by Hariri) are facing possible defeat at the polls.

US Ambassador Sisson did note that “A revolving fund will be established for micro-finance loans to boost income generation and job creation as well as job-market-oriented vocational training for youth, women and the unemployed.”

The Lebanese political observers interpreted this as ‘quick cash payouts’.

A reporters’ question: “What about Nahr al Bared, where they lost everything and desperately need help?” was ignored by the American embassy.

The Palestine Chronicle reported: Inquires to the Embassy were answered as is oft stated; “The Government of the United States of America respects the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, does not interfere in its internal affairs, and will accept the results of the coming election”.

WikiLeaks discloses US Partiality

We reiterate this observation which was made earlier:

The American ambassador to Beirut Michele Sisson did not act alone in taking sides in Lebanon’s politics and interfering in the internal affairs in that country. She was aware of the state department policy plank toward Lebanon, and therefore had a free hand in meddling in the internal affairs, endeavoring to influence the outcome of the June 7, 2009 elections and her subsequent role in the formation of the government following the election.

This was clearly manifested in a classified diplomatic cable that was dispatched to Washington under Ambassador Sisson’s signature disclosed by WikiLeaks.

The diplomatic cable was written 19 February 2009 following the visit by US Senator and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry during that week to Beirut. Mr. Kerry is a powerful and influential foreign policy advocate for the Obama administration.

The classified diplomatic cable was very clear that the U.S. had predetermined to back Saad Harriri’s March 14 coalition over Hezballah-led March 8 movement at the forthcoming June 2009 parliamentary elections.

Ambassador Sisson had the free hand to meddle in the election and the subsequent formation of the cabinet and government.

This is what the Sisson-signed cable that originated from the American Embassy to Washington State Department said:

(Begin Quote) Saad Hariri, along with his advisors Nader Hariri, Ghattas Khoury, and Ghazi Youssef, told visiting U.S. Senator John Kerry and the Ambassador that the most important thing for Lebanon was to hold the parliamentary elections as scheduled on June 7.

Hariri, confident after a well-attended and successful rally on February 14 to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of his father, former PM Rafik Hariri (reftel), said that if the elections were held today, his March 14 coalition would win the majority. He believed Hizballah’s March 8 alliance was becoming “worried” and might attempt any tactic to delay the elections.

Senator Kerry, accompanied by the Ambassador, his wife Teresa Heinz, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers Frank Lowenstein and Perry Cammack, and Poloffs, assured Hariri that the U.S. would do everything it could, without doing harm, to assist Lebanon and the March 14 coalition. (End Quote)

One could see a chain working; State Department officials, Obama White House, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and American Ambassador to Beirut Michele Sisson interfering in the internal affairs of another country to fulfill foreign policy objectives of the United States.

Similarly, Michele Sisson as the American ambassador in Sri Lanka, under current circumstances this South Asian nation is facing today, will have a free hand to influence domestic affairs taking into consideration the pressure the State Department is currently exerting on ‘accountability, transparency, international humanitarian law and reconciliation’.

Sisson’s foot prints in cabinet formation

This is how Ambassador Sisson engaged in domestic affairs of Lebanon during the run-up to the June 7, 2009 parliamentary election and thereafter her close association with the composition of the cabinet and the formation of the government.

October 2009 media reports, comments and observations were very clear as to how Ambassador Michele Sisson acted as the ‘viceroy’ of Lebanon.

During the cabinet crisis, Sisson appeared to be one of the most “influential” figures. At the beginning, she made all possible efforts to prevent the formation of the cabinet under the 15-10-5 formula or at least to prevent the participation of Hezbollah in the cabinet. To achieve this goal, she made visits to top officials but couldn’t do anything.

Following PM-designate Saad Hariri’s re-appointment, Sisson changed her “strategy.” This time, she decided to visit those who “dream” of a cabinet seat and urge them to obstruct the cabinet formation process until they receive a seat within the cabinet.

One media outlet commented: “Indeed, ambassadors are usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization, to serve as the official representative of their country as well as to build diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with the country.

“According to this presentation, there is no possibility to contradict the “originality” of Michele Sisson who’s no doubt an ambassador of a different kind. Indeed she is one of a kind.”
The Asian Tribune in its probe has found what Hussein Assi said in the Hezballah publication Al-Manar dated 20 February 2009:

(Begin Text) Once again, it’s the US interference in Lebanon that imposes itself through… the US ambassador in the country, Michele Sisson!

Indeed, in a country that has transformed the ambassadors into “stars” who can tour around the various politicians and express their opinions over all internal and external issues, no one has the “force” to just criticize the US ambassador.

In a country where all international resolutions and agreements concerning the work of ambassadors, mainly the Vienna Accord, are violated, the US ambassador turns to be a political star who does not give any consideration to the international pacts and treaties…

In a country like Lebanon, it’s very normal that the US ambassador becomes a “diplomat” by name but a “politician” with excellence by practice, and the strange thing comes out when the mentioned ambassador does not declare his own opinion regarding a topic from here or there…

Thus, it’s not anymore strange to say that the US ambassador seeks to be the country’s ruler, the one who dictates the country’s general policies and interfere even in every little detail of the Lebanese internal affairs…

For all these reasons, the US Ambassador Michelle Sisson seems determined to continue interfering in Lebanese affairs, engaging in the internal conflicts and taking the side of one political bloc against another. Indeed, and after expressing her country’s desire not to see Speaker Nabih Berri elected for another term, Sisson interfered lately in the issue of the Council for South Lebanon. The debate on the Council’s budget has prevented the government from voting on the state’s budget. (End Text)

Cabinet Formation Efforts

On November 9, 2009, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced that consensus had been reached and that a cabinet had been formed. The announcement followed five months of tense negotiations between Hariri and his March 14 coalition and the March 8 opposition. The debate centered on the minority March 8 coalition’s desire to retain the veto power (one-third plus one or 11 of the 30 cabinet seats) that it was granted in the Doha Agreement of May 2008. The March14 coalition was committed to a cabinet that reflects the election outcome, and views the Doha Agreement as a temporary power-sharing arrangement that addressed a specific crisis. The March 8 coalition, on the other hand, viewed the Doha Agreement as a revision of the Taif Accord, which established the current power-sharing arrangement following the civil war.

(The March 14 coalition is led by Prime-Minister Saad Hariri and his Sunni party Future Movement. The opposition March 8 Alliance is led by the Shiite party Amal and the Maronite Christian Free Patriotic Movement. It also includes Hezbollah.)

(The Doha Agreement was a negotiated resolution of 18 months of sectarian violence that preceded Hezbollah’s May 2008 siege of Beirut. In the agreement, the March 8 coalition was granted a minority veto in the cabinet (one-third plus one seats).

The consensus cabinet was made up of 15 ministers appointed by the majority March 14 coalition, 10 ministers appointed by the March 8 opposition, and 5 ministers appointed by President Michel Suleiman. This formula differs from the previous cabinet, which provided the March 8 coalition with 11 (one-third plus one) of the 30 ministerial positions and an effective veto over cabinet decisions. The March 8 coalition did retain the telecommunications portfolio, but the Labor Ministry, which was headed by a Hezbollah member in the previous cabinet, went to the March 14 coalition. In this cabinet formation Hezbollah was given two ministry positions, the Ministries of Agriculture and Administrative Reform. Some observers have argued that March 8 still holds an unofficial veto in the new cabinet even though it only has 10 seats. The Shiite Minister of State Adnan Hussein, appointed by President Suleiman, reportedly has long-standing ties with Hezbollah and is presumed to be Hezbollah’s swing vote on crucial issues.

During the cabinet formation and the establishment of the government that widespread allegation was leveled against the American ambassador Michele Sisson interfering in the internal process of Lebanon’s affairs.

– Asian Tribune –

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“Killing Fields” Loses BAFTA

“Killing Fields ” did not win the BAFTA  Award !!

The Current Affairs Award was won by BBC.

Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed (Panorama) BAFTA mask
Frank Simmonds, Paul Kenyon, Matthew Chapman, Joe Casey
BBC Productions/BBC One

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United States’ Colombo Diplomat Gives a Serious Message to Sri Lanka on Eve of Clinton-Pieris Talks in Washington

Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune US Bureau

Washington, DC. 15 May (Asiantribune.com):
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Dr. Paul M. Carter, Political Chief US Embassy Colombo and wife Andrea lighting lamp in Jaffna

As a prelude to the Washington meeting between US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Sri Lanka External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Pieris on 18 May surrounding the issues of the implementation of the recommendations of the reconciliation commission, accountability to alleged violations of international law during the final chapter of the battle to defeat separatist Tamil Tigers and ethnic reconciliation, a senior American diplomat stationed in Colombo sent a serious message to Sri Lanka.The United States encourages a political package that will address the root cause of the 26-year conflict; it envisages a fresh dialogue between the GSL and the main Tamil political party TNA; the US guarantees that the TNA and other Tamil political parties now committed to a ‘United Sri Lanka’; the vitality of an ‘action plan’ to address the alleged violation of international humanitarian law, accountability and the implementation of the LLRC recommendations; the importance of addressing the grievances of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Paul M. Carter, the Political Counselor of the American Embassy in Sri Lanka, the third ranking US foreign service officer of the State Department in Colombo, made known to the Government of Sri Lanka what the United States expect of Sri Lanka when Minister Piers visits Washington this week when he addressed a seminar convened by a Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian S. Sritharan in Jaffna on Sunday, 13 May.

In fact, it is Dr. Carter’s unit in the Colombo US mission, the Political Section, that monitors, researches, investigates and come up with policy planks on Sri Lanka’s ‘National Question’ for the understanding and consumption of the Secretary Clinton’s office through the South and Central Asian Bureau of the State Department.

The tone of his address and issues highlighted to the Jaffna gathering, which was attended by the Indian Deputy high Commissioner stationed in Jaffna V. Mahalingam, is the indication the basis of the talks Ms. Clinton will initiate this Friday with Dr. Pieris in Washington.

We give here the section of American Embassy Political Counselor’s address on the issues that are on the Clinton-Pieris agenda in Washington.

The text of Dr. Paul M. Carter’s address that touched significantly of political solution, accountability and ethnic reconciliation :

(Begin Text) The Government of Sri Lanka has taken extraordinary and excellent measures to economically rebuild the war-ravaged north and east which is highly commendable.

Less have been done however on the core political issues of accountability, reconciliation and finding a political solution with the elected representatives of the Tamil People.

We believe that while economic growth is important, lasting peace addresses the issues that led to the conflict.

Indeed, studies by experts on conflict resolution around the world indicate that if the underline causes of the conflict are not addressed there is a high risk that in several years a new conflict could result.

This is the message not only of the United States and the international community, many Sri Lankans have made the same argument.

President Rajapaksa appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to look into these questions. The US gave the LLRC time and space for its work, and it did nit pre-judge the commission. The LLRC completed its report and sent it to President Rajapaksa in November. And, in December the president sent the report to the parliament and was made public.

We read the report with great interest. The LLRC report addressed a large number of areas that concerned to Sri Lankans.

It made substantive recommendations on reconciliation, rule of law, media freedom, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses.

If implemented, these recommendations could contribute to genuine reconciliation, and strengthen democratic institutions and practices.

At the same time the report’s conclusions on accountability, the alleged violations of International humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) were not strong. And, these were shortcomings in the accountability sector.

The LLRC also came to the significant conclusion that the cause of the war the failure of the Sri Lankan governments’ over the years to address the grievances of the Tamil people.

None of these conclusions of the recommendations came as a real surprise.

The LLRC hearings were mostly public and people raised these issues in their testimonies.

These are well known issues. Particularly very human issues such as disappearances, families not knowing where their loved ones are, and people wanting to obtain death certificates for the family members they knew were dead. And, people wanted to go back to their villages.

Thus, we do not agree with those who say that it is only being a short time the LLRC report was published.

Or, the idea that it is too early to expect the government to have an action plan in implementing the findings of the LLRC recommendations.

Given the lack of action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, the U.S. and 39 other countries sponsored a resolution on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.

Much was said in the Sri Lankan press about the resolution; unfortunately, much of it is not true.

In fact, the resolution was quite moderate; It made three points:

First, it called on the GSL to implement the constructive recommendations made by the LLRC, and to fulfill its legal obligations and commitments to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equality, accountability and reconciliation to all Sri Lankans.

Second, it requested the GSL to present as quickly as possible a comprehensive action plan. This plan should detail the steps that the GSL has taken and would take to implement the recommendations, and also to address the alleged violations of international law.

Third, it encouraged the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to encourage them to provide in consultation with and with the concurrence of the GSL advise and technical assistance to implement the above steps.

It also requested the HR Office to present a report on the provision of the assistance to the HR Council in March 2013.

We are waiting to hear the GSL plan on the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.
This week, Minister of External Affairs G.L.Pieris travels to the U.S. to meet Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other officials of our government.

Secretary Clinton will ask about the GSL action plan and progress in implementing the LLRC recommendations as discussed in the UN resolution.

In addition to the LLRC report and its recommendations, the U.S. has closely followed the bilateral talks between the GSL and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on political settlement.
We believe that dialogue and negotiations are essential in reaching an agreement that is in the best interest of all sides. We therefore, were disappointed when the talks came to a standstil in January.

Now it appears that the talks in current configuration may not continue.

Nevertheless, the TNA leadership has said that with certain conditions the TNA would be willing to enter the parliamentary select committee (PSC).

We support the decision of the TNA, and will do what we can to encourage all sides to work in good faith for the PSC to reach an equitable and sustainable agreement in a timely manner.

An agreement will require a dialogue and compromise from all involved. It also will require all parties to work together as statesmen.

This is the test of a true democracy whether politicians could work together in the best interest of all the people.

Sri Lankans suffered greatly in the war. It is our hope from that suffering and disruption the emergence of new appreciation of and commitment to peaceful political dialogue.

The TNA and others recognize the future of the Tamil people is to be found in united Sri Lanka that respect the rights of all its citizens.

We will continue to support the efforts of Sri Lankans to find a peaceful political settlement.
We look forward to the day all Sri Lankans share peace and equality to enhance the richness of this beautiful island (End Text)

– Asian Tribune –

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Professor G. L. Peiris Addresses the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars

Last afternoon, the Minister of External Affairs, Professor G. L. Peiris was a guest speaker at the  Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington DC,  a stone’s throw from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Center, named after the 28th President of the United States was a great venue for the Minister’s lecture on the topic: “ Sri Lanka: Challenges and Opportunities” because the Center is a non-political, non-partisan entity which gives a platform for scholars to analyze and dissect political situations in an academic environment.

Mr. Robert Hathaway, presided over the event and introduced Professor Peiris as someone similar to President Wilson. He drew parallels between President Woodrow Wilson and the Minister by pointing out they were both scholars and statesmen. Like the President, Professor Peiris had abandoned his academic life to take up politics.

During his address, the Minister focused first on a short outline of  the conflict, and then moved on to the Government’s vision for the future: the process of reconciliation and a transformation from terrorism to tranquility. He outlined the challenges that had to be overcome during the past three years, and noted the social and economic progress taking place today. He emphasized the importance of identifying those challenges, prioritizing them and using effective modalities for solving those problems.

Professor Peiris commented on elements of major undertaking of the government  during the past three years:

*  Resettlement of displaced persons: 98% has been completed

* Ex combatants – 11,000 have been reintegrated into society ( 90% )

* Ex child combatants – 500 all of whom have been released to their relatives or guardians

* De-mining – 94%  has been completed

He further stated that economic development is a viable part of reconciliation. The economic growth of the North is 22% as compared to 8% in the rest of the country.

“The economic revival of the North is a priority of the Government” he said and fisheries, agriculture and industries have been important components of  this revival.

Professor Peiris, being an academic, spoke on the difficulties in the field of education and proposed bilingual or trilingual education for children in Sri Lanka. He said that lack of communication is a great hindrance to understanding and reconciliation between communities in Sri Lanka.

Professor Peiris stressed the Government’s spirit of inclusivity and  common resolve to move the country forward. He stressed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is committed to implementing the LLRC recommendations in an organized, deliberate way unhindered by foreign intervention. In answer to a question at the end of his address, Professor Peiris remarked that the US and Sri Lanka had more points of agreement than disagreements and both countries have a common goal  of  peace for all citizens in Sri Lanka.

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Minister of External Affairs Visits US

The Minister of External Affairs, Professor G. L. Peiris will be in the US for several days beginning May 14  for talks with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Members of the US Congress, and several other politicians .

He will speak at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC on Tuesday, May 15 from 3:00 to 4:30 pm. Many  Sri Lankan expatriates living in the DC area are expected to attend the public lecture.

News coming out of Sri Lanka about the Government’s decision to implement the  LLRC  recommendation of releasing the names of war detainees comes at a very opportune time. Even though the names will only be released to close relatives, this is a step in the right direction, since it was a thorn on the side of Tamil politicians and a major propaganda tool for the Pro-LTTE Diaspora.

 

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