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Friday, July 19, 2024

Resolution aimed at protecting US global interests – Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera

Acting Minister of External Affairs, Senior Minister D.E.W.Gunasekera, told the Sunday Observer that the US-backed resolution was aimed at protecting the geopolitical and global strategic interests of the US in the changing world economic order and had nothing to do with the protection of human rights.
The fact that President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not heed to international pressures to abandon the war at its last lap was also another reason for the hasty resolution, he said.

He also pointed out that the resolution will not have any implications with regard to the Government’s development goals.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: How do you look at the US-sponsored resolution that has been adopted at the 19th sessions of UNHRC in Geneva on Sri Lanka?

A: Obviously it is not a resolution prompted either by HR interests or welfare of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The motive of the US in having the resolution adopted is their own global strategic and geopolitical interests. They had it adopted in such a great hurry because President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not give in to pressures from sections of the international community during the last phase of the war.

They exerted pressure on him to call off the fighting and offered to mediate. There was also an attempt to send the UN forces. The President rejected the three overtures.

This is the real reason which motivated the US to bring in the resolution. Originally it was rumoured that the resolution of HR violation against Sri Lanka would be sponsored by a European country.

Then it was announced that it will be a US supported resolution. Finally it turned out to be a US-sponsored resolution.

The US is a superpower and why did it want to have the resolution adopted in such a great hurry? The President, being the Head of the State, presented the LLRC report in Parliament on December 13 when he was winding up the budget debate. Only three months have lapsed since then. On the floor of the House he made a statement on behalf of the Government explaining the stance of the Government with regard to the report. He clearly said that it will be implemented. The Cabinet subsequently initiated steps to implement it.

The President has already taken action with regard to the recommendations of the LLRC on resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced persons.

Almost all of them have been resettled in their own villages with rehabilitation assistance and provision of all infrastructure facilities.

On the LLRC recommendations with regard to persons who had disappeared and human rights violations too the President has already taken action. Two private tribunals have been appointed to inquire into such instances. Charges against the military have to go through the military law. So a tribunal has been set up to inquire and investigate into such charges.

Similarly a police tribunal has been appointed to inquire and investigate into charges against the police personnel. The inquiries are now in progress. I am fully aware of the rehabilitation process that was initiated immediately after the war because I was the Minister in-charge of rehabilitation at that time.

Around 11,696 LTTE cadres were handed over to my Ministry by the Defence Ministry.

Within 2-1/2 years we released the entire number, not a single LTTE cadre is in the camp today. Of them 10 percent had no education at all. We provided primary education. There were university students and we gave them a number of seats in medical colleges. I think about 200-300 of them are in universities pursuing their higher studies. There is not a single complaint from anyone, from the parents or from the international agencies or any other interested parties either against the armed forces or the rehabilitation authorities on charges of ill-treatment or anything of that kind. They are quite happy and the Cabinet has passed the money for their immediate relief assistance at the rate of Rs. 250,000 per person as soft loans repayable in 10 years with a one year grace period.

The Cabinet allocated the fund recently for the entire number and it is being operated through the Ministry of Rehabilitation.

Except for some 8,000 displaced persons all others have been resettled. The 8,000 have not been resettled because their houses are situated in heavily mined areas of the Mullaitivu district. Many High Commissioners, Ambassadors and foreign envoys visited the areas and have seen the ground situation.

India started building houses but the progress has slowed down because many of those areas are mine-infested.

The mine-clearing process is going on. Of the total 300,000 all have been resettled other than these 8,000. With regard to providing the economic infrastructure, everyone knows of the massive development and infrastructure programs that have been implemented during the past three years and continue to be implemented.

The GDP in the Northern province has risen to four percent as against the national GDP in par with the GDP for the Uva province. Previously it was only two percent. In the Eastern province the GDP growth, in a short period has gone up to six percent which is higher than that of the Northwestern and Uva provinces.

The Ministry of Rehabilitation and the Ministry of Resettlement are taking care of their livelihood and other related matters. All infrastructure facilities are being provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs at the cost of several billions of rupees.

On January 31 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States will move a resolution against Sri Lanka.

This was after her visit to Tamil Nadu. The US-backed resolution calls for the implementation of the LLRC report which we had already started doing. The second aspect of the resolution is that they want an action plan for the implementation process. Genocides and HR violations took place in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No commissions have been appointed to report on the mass massacres in Rwanda and Congo where millions have been killed due to infighting between the tribal groups.

In the first decade of the 21st century the world order has drastically changed in favour of the developing countries. It is shifting from a unipolar world to a multi-polar world, with the emergence of five major economies, mainly China, India, Brazil in Latin America, Eurasia/Russia and South Africa.

These five countries are trying to form one economic organisation called the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). This has completely changed the balance of forces. Asian economy is now the leading economy in the world. All the countries in Asia are having over five percent GDP growth rate. You do not find that situation in any other continent.

In the Asian continent two economic giants are emerging and this phenomenon is taking place after 500 years. During the last 500 years Europe was dominating the world economy. It is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The 33 countries in Latin America under Monroe doctrine was the real phenomenon during the last 200 years and all these countries were under military dictatorship. Today they are independent sovereign countries. All these 33 countries formed themselves into an economic organisation called CELAC – it is one of the biggest economic blocks.

Soviet countries have formed into an economic organisation. Then the democratisation process is going on now in the African continent. There have been tribal laws, religious conflicts and all lawlessness for over 50 years. Today about five countries like Algeria, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Angola are emerging into the democratic process as new powers.

The BRICS countries are supporting them. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, only the US played the world policeman role. Now the situation is changing. In their history the US economy is in its worst position today. The position with regard to their allies in the European Union is also the same. We are a small country and small economy and they are trying to bulldoze us. So we have to look at it from the angle of world politics and world economy.

Q: The whole world knew that the Government was dealing with the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world that had even fought against the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), used human bombs and civilians as human shields. But some of the UNHRC member countries have expressed support to the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka. Your comments on that please?

A: The number of the member countries in the UNHRC is 47. Only 12 of them are European countries while the others are developing countries.

The UNHRC is only a talk shop. It does not have the powers like the UN Security council and I do not think this resolution will have any major effect on us. The US had passed so many such resolutions against Cuba and they have completely ignored them.

During the time of Indian PM Narasimha Roa such resolutions were proposed for violation of human rights in some parts of India. A.B. Vajpayee, who was leader of the opposition at that time, said that the US has no business to interfere in the internal affairs of India.

He said India would look after her own problems. So that was the spirit of the opposition in India. But it is not so here in Sri Lanka.

Our main opposition is trying to betray the government and the country. The Americans are hypocrites adopting double standards and our opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is no different. So they can go on well together.

Q: India suddenly changed its position with regard to the resolution. Your comments pleasein?

A: India understands the ground realities here in Sri Lanka and we Sri Lankans must be prepared to understand the ground realities in India.

The Indian Congress Government is in a weak position, specially after the recent State Assembly elections. Indian States are dominated by regional political parties. The centre is weak unlike during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi. The situation has completely changed. So there are certain compulsions on the Indian centre.

Whether we like it or not they have to take decisions primarily in their national interests. It is perfectly within their right to take their own decisions depending on their internal factors. But we do not want the US to come to our country and tell us what we should do.

As a policy we do not agree with the US trying to be the world policeman. It is a bad precedent. I personally consider the UNHRC as a good debating forum with its 47 member states but it cannot decide on matters relating to 193 countries which are in the UN membership.

I would boldly say that this US-backed resolution is a surreptitious attempt to strain the excellent historical and cultural relations prevailing between India and Sri Lanka. Relations have always been at its best during non-UNP Governments. But we have to understand the emerging political trends in India. Lot of changes have taken place in India since independence in the political structure.

Many new political parties have emerged , including many regional political parties resulting in the emergence of strong states. We have made many historical mistakes with regard to recognition of such regional political powers and considering them too as important.

It is difficult to believe that a Chief Minister or a State Minister of Tamil Nadu has never visited our country. The distance is only just 20 miles across Jaffna. But heads of small countries such as Peru and countries in the African continent have visited Sri Lanka. There have been no interactions between the Tamil Nadu State government and our government.

Historically there is an Indian factor in our national question. Because there are 65 million Tamils living across the Palk Strait.

They have their blood relatives here following their cultural and religious traditions.

When something happens here it reflects there and when something happens there it reflects here. As Lenin said ethnicity is second nature to man in all parts of the world. When certain problems remain unresolved then naturally there is agitation at the other side.

During the Black July riots in 1983 under the regime of President J.R. Jayewardene, 700,000 people left the shores of Sri Lanka to foreign countries to protect their lives. About 300,000 of them went to Tamil Nadu and the others to America and other western countries. That upset the entire system. We have to understand this and work accordingly. There is a national question to be settled and no one can deny that. We have now found solution to the language question. The language policy is being implemented. Sinhala and Tamil are official languages which had been made compulsory for public servants.

On the other hand, the Tamil Nadu political leaders should appreciate the fact that over 54 percent of the Tamils of Sri Lanka are living outside the North and the East among the Sinhalese and the Muslims in the South. During the 30-year conflict they lived happily without any harassments or intimidations although there might have been some psychological strains. There were no organised attacks on them or other incidents against them.

Q: Some of the UPFA constituent parties have stated that there is no national problem as such and they are strongly opposed to any political solutions offered to the Tamils on a regional level?

A: Coalition Governments in all parts of the world is the order of the day. Except in the United States all other countries in the democratic world are run by coalition governments. UK, India, countries in Latin America and many more countries are governed by coalition administrations. In Sri Lanka too we have a coalition and there are about 16 parties in the government.

There are issues on which there is no common consensus. But no one can say that there is no such question as a national question.

The Tamils cannot live as second class citizens. They have dignity and self-respect. They must live in fraternity and equality.

The language issue which was the main barrier to ethnic harmony has been sorted out. But there are other issues that have to be sorted out. That is why the President has appointed the All Party Select Committee (APC) comprising all political parties represented in the parliament.

We reach a consensus on the national question. A national question cannot be solved by the Government alone or by a single political party.

I believe that as far as Sri Lanka is concerned the two major national parties should come to a consensus. Thereafter a consensus has to be reached with the Tamil parties representing the Tamils.

Since 1960 there has been no consensus between the two major national parties on this issue. That is the basic problem. I am not blaming the minority parties. Throughout our history the two major parties have not come to an understanding over this main issue. That is a historical fact.

If political parties are trying to stick to their policies then nothing can be achieved towards resolving the national issues. They have to be flexible and willing to come to a compromise. May it be the JVP or the JHU they must understand this reality. That is how we can co-exist in this small country.

By P Krishmaswamy


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