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Saturday, March 15, 2008 - 07.54 GMT     Back
US Report: Distorted view to denigrate Sri Lanka
- Foreign Minister
The report on Sri Lanka in the US State Department’s 2007 Country Report on Human Rights released this week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presents a distorted view of the actual situation in Sri Lanka during the year 2007 and is a litany of unsubstantiated allegations, innuendo and vituperative exaggerations, said Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama to US Ambassador Robert Blake.

It is indeed a matter of concern that the report has resulted in throwing a life line to the LTTE at a time when it is struggling to maintain its position both militarily on the ground and internationally, the Minister said, when he summoned the US Ambassador to the Ministry yesterday (March 14) to register Sri Lanka’s serious concerns about this report.

Minister Bogollagama noted that there was a suspicious similarity between the comments made in the US report and the views expressed by those deliberately seeking to denigrate the Government of Sri Lanka.

Here is the text of the statement from the Ministry of Foreign on the Foreign Minister’s meeting with the US Ambassador :

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama today (14th March 2008) called in the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Robert Blake to register Sri Lanka’s serious concerns about the recently released U.S. State Department’s 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Sri Lanka. The report presents a distorted view of the actual situation in Sri Lanka during the year 2007 and is unfortunately a litany of unsubstantiated allegations, innuendo and vituperative exaggerations. It was noted that there was a suspicious similarity between the comments made in the report and the views expressed by those deliberately seeking to denigrate the Government of Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka had concerns with respect to human rights in the late 2006 and early 2007, the government had taken a range of positive steps to address these concerns. The Government was confident that the situation will continue to improve. Human rights was an important issue for the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).

The Minister who said the Foreign Ministry was in the process of preparing a detailed response on the issues raised in the U.S. State Department Report, went on to share Sri Lanka’s objections to the conclusions of the State Department report.

It was noted that while there had been allegations of increased killings and abductions in the latter part of 2006, and the first quarter of 2007, due to the escalation of terrorist attacks by the LTTE, the respected international humanitarian organization, the ICRC, which has regular access to all parts of Sri Lanka, except the LTTE controlled areas in the north and the east, has confirmed a distinct downward trend in disappearances and unexplained killings in Government controlled areas during the second and third quarters of 2007. According to the ICRC figures, contrary to the State Department assertion, this decline was also evident in the Jaffna District. Notwithstanding the access the US State Department has had to the confidential report shared by the ICRC with GOSL, through its Embassy in Colombo, it is deeply regretted that the U.S. State Department appears to have ignored the improvement on the ground and relied on dubious sources which also feed the LTTE propaganda machine.

It was emphasized that this improvement in the ground situation has been achieved due to action by GOSL, through (a) the re-issuing of Presidential guidelines on arrests, and detention in July 2006 (b) training of security forces and police personnel in International Humanitarian Law, with 95% of the Army already having received such training, (c) the setting up of an Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI), (d) the crackdown by the police, e) the detention and arrest of Security Forces personnel, accused of running abduction and extortion racquets, as well as, f) issuing of indictments against offenders in the security forces and police. It is ironically disappointing that none of the improvements are properly acknowledged in the report.

It was regretted that the report also failed to appreciate the bold step taken by GOSL as early as in November 2006 to appoint an independent Commission of Inquiry (COI), to investigate and inquire into 16 incidents of serious violations of human rights. This was followed in February 2007 by the constitution of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to observe proceedings in order to ensure that such work conformed to international standards. These steps were heralded as groundbreaking by the international community at the time they came into operation. Today, the COI, having undertaken field visits, has proceeded to the stage where it is conducting public inquiries into cases including the ACF aid worker killings - one of the cases that has been of considerable public interest. While keen to see the expeditious completion of these inquiries, GOSL is conscious of the fact that following due process is important so that the perpetrators of crimes do not later have legal grounds to challenge the COI findings. When compared with other similar investigations, the COI has moved at a commendable pace. It is noted that the COI with its limited resources, has become functional much more rapidly than any of the international courts established with much fanfare and with huge resource bases. This process is expected to further improve once the bill on “The Assistance and Protection to Victims of Crime and Witness” which is being expedited as an emergency piece of legislation is approved by Parliament shortly.


The Government also regretted that for an official government document, it is unfortunate that the U.S. State Department report bases itself on newspaper reports, speculation and hearsay.

For instance, the insinuation that the report casts on the GOSL in connection with the disappearance of Rev. Father Thiuruchelwam Nihal Jim Brown, the parish priest of the church in Allaipidi, Kayts, is inappropriate for a report of the stature of the State Department report. Ignoring the fact that when a torso assumed to be that of Fr. Brown was discovered, with the assistance of Rev Thomas Saundaranayagam, the Bishop of Jaffna, the GOSL expeditiously sought to ascertain whether it was indeed that of Fr. Brown or his pillion rider Mr. Vimalathas, through DNA testing, involving the parents of the victims. The State Department report states, “media reports indicated that a DNA test confirmed that the body belonged to Brown, but the Government announced in June that according to its DNA test it belonged to neither Brown nor Vimalathas.” Pitting the latter determination by a trained and highly respected medical professional, Dr. Abeywickrama of the Molecular Medicine Unit of the University of Kelaniya, Faculty of Medicine, against that of an unsubstantiated media report, underlines the tendency evident in the entirety of the U.S. State Department report, which manifests an eagerness to come to pre-determined conclusions, in pursuit of an unstated goal disregarding the facts on the ground.

Referring to comments in the Report with regard to the list of 355 alleged disappearances submitted by the US Ambassador, it was pointed out that it borders on the ridiculous, given the satisfaction expressed by the US Embassy itself on the efforts made to trace these people. 23 of them are well and alive. With regard to over 120, no complaints have been made to the police. A number of persons appear to have left the island. Investigations are continuing.

It was pointed out that the report also faults GOSL in that “there was also no progress made in the investigation of the killing of E. Kausalyn, political head of the Batticaloa-Ampara division of the LTTE”. This is indeed cynically ironic given that Kausalyan was a leader of a terrorist group banned as a foreign terrorist group in the US. It is interesting to ask whether a similar demand would be made on the progress made in the investigations into the killings of terrorist leaders around the world, including by the US, in the ‘War Against Terror.’

The Minister concluded that it is indeed a matter of concern that the report, based on hearsay, innuendo and exaggeration has resulted in throwing a life line to the LTTE at a time when it is struggling to maintain its position both militarily on the ground and internationally.

Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and senior officials were associated with the Minister at the meeting.

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Colombo 1.

14th March 2008
 


 
  
 
    

 
   
   

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