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Thursday, September 11, 2008 - 5.59 GMT
Peace Secretariat astonished at UN Secy-General’s remarks

 

The Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat views with some astonishment what purport to be highlights of a press briefing by the Secretary General of the United Nations in which he seems to be expressing concerns about recent military activities in Sri Lanka . Though ostensibly his worries are for civilians, the exhortations about ‘the principal of proportionality and the selection of targets’ seem intended to send a message, said a statement issued by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) – Sri Lanka.

“Unfortunately, the Secretary General may not have realized that his remarks could be used to advantage by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who will use any weapon to hand,” the statement added.

Full text of the Statement:

The Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat views with some astonishment what purport to be highlights of a press briefing by the Secretary General of the United Nations in which he seems to be expressing concerns about recent military activities in Sri Lanka . Though ostensibly his worries are for civilians, the exhortations about ‘the principal of proportionality and the selection of targets’ seem intended to send a message.

Since there have been hardly any civilian casualties during the recent offensives in Sri Lanka, it is possible that the Secretary General was prompted by reports of large numbers of civilian casualties in other theatres of war, which misled him into believing that all forces fighting terrorism are alike. It is to be hoped however that, even while he might want to send a message to other countries, he will study the Sri Lankan situation carefully in the future. Perhaps, with knowledge there will come wisdom, and he will publicly acknowledge the extraordinarily good record of the Sri Lankan forces in this regard, their careful selection of military targets, the paucity of even collateral damage.

Unfortunately, the Secretary General may not have realized that his remarks could be used to advantage by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who will use any weapon to hand, including an innocent Secretary General, to halt the advance of Sri Lankan forces. They will relish that he made these remarks during a briefing on ‘the victims of terrorism’. The impression created is that terrorism comes in different grades, and that some terrorists are not as heinous as those who struggle against them.

It is obviously not a coincidence that the victims of Tiger terrorism, in India or Sri Lanka , or even in Britain , were not amongst the four individuals chosen to speak. The terrorism highlighted at the event was of a sort that a particular world view finds abhorrent, not understanding or not choosing to understand the interconnected nature of terrorism. It is unfortunate that the United Nations should lend itself to such selectivity, and that the advisers of the Secretary General did not ensure that people in the rest of the world who suffer from terrorism also need a voice.

Recently SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, made clear the need for solidarity in dealing with terrorism. It would be immensely sad if, in this age of globalization, the Secretary General ignored the need for consensus based on principles, and instead allowed himself to pursue selective agendas. Sadly, by gratuitously introducing ‘the importance of a negotiated settlement to the political problems facing Sri Lanka’, he betrays the rationale of the statement, which was pressed for by the ‘Interagency Group’ in Colombo, an amorphous group of NGOs, some of whom succeeded last month in allowing 38 vehicles to be taken over by Tiger terrorists.

Sri Lanka knows very well that a negotiated settlement is needed for our political problems, and that is why we are negotiating with democratic Tamil forces which have come into the political process. Twenty years ago, the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi negotiated a settlement, only to find the Tigers renege on it, and kill him some years later. Successive Sri Lankan governments have tried to negotiate with the Tigers, only to have them strengthen their military forces during ceasefires and then attack with a vengeance when they thought governments were weak. This time round, having violated the Ceasefire nearly 4000 times, according to the Scandinavian monitors (as opposed to less than a tenth of that figure for the Sri Lankan government), they refused repeated invitations to return to talks.

Now that the Sri Lankan government is pursuing a political solution with pluralistic democratic Tamil forces, while striving to eliminate terrorism, the Tigers have to clutch at straws. There is no doubt that the Secretary General’s doubtless well meant advice will soon reverberate in terrorist websites. We can only hope that others who have suffered from terrorism will make it clear that, if this happens, some clarification is necessary for the sake of the principles on which the United Nations was founded.



 







 


 
   
   
   
   

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