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Monday, April 01, 2013 - 6.35 GMT
We need time and space to carry on rehabilitation – High Commissioner Kariyawasam

 

Sri Lanka should be given time and space to carry on efforts for rehabilitation and reconciliation it has embarked upon, after the conflict with the LTTE ended in 2009, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in India Prasad Kariyawasam said.

"The three decades of conflict have created many issues for all communities in Sri Lanka. So we have to rebuild our country, not only physically, but also in terms of creating conditions for promoting communal harmony and confidence among communities and to make each and every Sri Lankan citizen – Tamil, Sinhalese and others - feel that they are equal and their political rights are secure. We can do that, because we are a democratic country," the High Commissioner said in an interview with Deccan Herald.

Excerpts from the interview:

How does Sri Lanka view the latest clamour from Tamil Nadu (TN) for India to take a hard-line on UN Human Rights Council resolution seeking accountability from Sri Lanka and to stop treating your country as a friend?

We are surprised by these unfortunate aberrations in our very friendly ties with Tamil Nadu. In the past, not so long ago, even in the 1960s, there were close links between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. After the conclusion of the conflict, Sri Lanka looked forward to nurturing our natural people-to-people ties, including improving connectivity with Tamil Nadu. We were keen on reviving the annual Gopalan trophy cricket match that used to take place between the then Madras and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka and India at large share very friendly relations that predate modern history. India, as our President says, is our relation; all other countries are our friends. But even closest neighbours like us can have episodes of stress and strain in relations. But, it will not upset or derail our long-standing robust friendship.

Your comment on TN Government barring Sri Lankan players from IPL cricket matches in Chennai and the State Assembly resolution seeking Tamil Eelam? Will it impact India-Lanka relations?

What is currently happening in Tamil Nadu is disconcerting to us. These are happening as a result of a campaign by groups of people, who live faraway from both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, mostly in western countries. They are sympathetic and aligned to LTTE ideology. They are the driving force behind the campaign against Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu. But we think we can get back to the golden days of our relation with Tamil Nadu. We need to act sensibly and talk to each other on issues of concern to both sides. The focus should primarily be on welfare of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. The Tamils have suffered a lot and just come out of a long-drawn conflict. They are in need of assistance from all. The current campaign in Tamil Nadu against Sri Lanka and even resolutions and other measures taken by political leadership of Tamil Nadu do not relate to the ground realities in Sri Lanka. There is no call for Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

How does Sri Lanka view the resolutions adopted by UNHRC, both last year and this year?

We think Sri Lanka situation need not be internationalised. The resolutions at the UNHRC are uncalled for. They only vitiate the atmosphere in Sri Lanka. We think we should be allowed time and space to complete what we have embarked upon. We are in favour of home-grown solution that can be sustained over a long period of time. The three decades of conflict have created many issues for all communities in Sri Lanka. So we have to rebuild our country, not only physically, but also in terms of creating conditions for promoting communal harmony and confidence among communities and to make each and every Sri Lankan citizen – Tamil, Sinhalese and others - feel that they are equal and their political rights are secure. We can do that, because we are a democratic country.

Could you explain the efforts by Sri Lankan Government after the end of the conflict towards rehabilitation and reconciliation? India has also been asking for early progress on a meaningful devolution building upon the 13th Amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution.

Soon after the end of the conflict, we have embarked upon a massive resettlement and rehabilitation programme. India supported our effort and provided us a lot of assistance, starting with demining operations and building houses to laying rail-tracks and reconstructing other critical infrastructure. We were able to resettle all the 2,95,000 people displaced and rescued from LTTE custody. They are now being providing with livelihood support. We are implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission step by step. The Government is also trying to evolve consensus on acceptable constitutional provisions to accommodate political aspirations of all communities.

The 13th amendment is an integral part of our Constitution. It was adopted 25 years ago as a solution to the conflict. There is, however, a general feeling that it has not succeeded. That is why we have to suitably adjust the 13th amendment.

The latest allegations about human rights violation by Sri Lankan Army started with the release of pictures of slain LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s son before he was allegedly shot dead in cold blood. Instead of dismissing the pictures and allegations, the Sri Lankan Government could have ordered a probe?

The pictures are morphed. Former Sri Lankan Army chief, Gen Fonseka, said that the bunker in which the boy was photographed did not resemble a Sri Lankan Army bunker. The Government could have ordered a probe, had they first shared the pictures with us. But they instead launched what I would call a trial by media. This is not acceptable to us.

 


 

 
 
   
   
     
   
   

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Last modified: April 01, 2013.

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