Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reconciliation has failed because of top-down attempts: Sri Lankan foreign minister

New Delhi,Diplomacy,Indo-Pak/Pakistan, Tue, 22 Jan 2013 IANS
New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka after the end of the 30-year armed conflict with the Tamil Tiger rebels have failed mainly because they were top-down attempts and no effort was made to galvanise popular support behind the proposals, a senior minister said here Tuesday.
Moreover, there was a lack of political consensus over the implementation of various proposals that were made in the past, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris said. He was delivering a lecture at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on "The Rise of Asia and Sri Lanka's Role".
He referred to the instance of one of the bills he presented in the Sri Lankan parliament, which was burnt by the opposition.
He held that the ongoing talks with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had identified certain issues which would be taken up for discussions by a parliamentary select committee (PSC) and hoped a solution would be worked out in near future.
However, on the issue of devolution, he argued forcefully that since majority of the Tamils lived outside the north and the east, there was no need to make this a critical issue in the negotiations.
Peiris also noted that as a nation transiting from a society in conflict to a society aiming at peace, Sri Lanka is gearing up for meeting all these challenges in its own way.
He argued that as a nation coming out of 30 years of ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka was not expected to resolve the issue in three-and-half-years since the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels ended.
However, it had made substantial progress in the economic and developmental sectors, especially in building physical infrastructure like roads, highways, railways and communication networks in the areas affected by the conflict.
Peiris thanked India for its substantial contribution towards the development of railways in his country. He invited people from India to visit Sri Lanka and see for themselves the changes taking place in the war ravaged areas. Development was the key to resolution of conflict, he argued.
On India-Sri Lanka relations he held that the two countries were engaged in a whole range of issues, which made the relationship quite robust, vibrant, "rich and satisfying".
During the eighth joint commission meeting, the two countries agreed to cooperate on matters relating to counter terrorism, food and energy security. He considered people to people contact and cultural linkages as the bases of a solid foundation for continuing process of engagement between the two nations.
The minister also dwelt on the daunting challenges confronting his country as it was making substantial progress on the economic front. He identified the challenges as economic, cultural, security-related and political in nature.
Emphasising on the economic challenges the minister said that the fruits of economic development should be equally distributed to the urban and the peri-urban sections of the society and argued that economic development in a country can be sustainable only when complemented with social equity.
Peiris also stressed that a nation's progress depended on sound functioning of institutions like judiciary and legislature. A major problem facing all societies today was how to reconcile freedom with security, he stated. Way.

Sri Lankan minister hopes to resolve Tamil issue

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 15:24
Lanka News Web
Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris Tuesday said his government was trying to resolve political issues concerning the island country's Tamils.
Peiris said Sri Lanka was trying to include Tamil National Alliance (TNA) into the process to resolve the issues. "We are trying to bring TNA into the process. Hope it will happen sooner than later," Peiris said.
Answering queries after delivering a lecture, 'The rise of Asia and Sri Lanka's role', at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses here, Peiris said the government was ready with the Parliament Select Committee of various parties and hoped the TNA would agree to join it.
"The way forward is an all-inclusive process," the minister said.
He said successive Sri Lankan governments had made legislative efforts to resolve the political issue concerning Tamils but failed because of lack of adequate support for implementation.
The minister said the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was trying "to do something that will work on the ground".
TNA is the main Tamil voice in the Sri Lankan parliament and was earlier seen as political arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Sri Lanka waged war on the LTTE, leading to its destruction May 2009.
In an interview with IANS, Suresh Premachandran, an MP of TNA, accused the Sri Lankan government of not being sincere about talking to Tamil representatives, and expressed apprehensions about the parliamentary select committee agreeing to its suggestions.
He said the committee was dominated by Sinhalese parties and "they will never agree to anything we suggest".
Premachandran had also accused the Rajapaksa government of militarising Sri Lanka's Tamil dominated north and allowing security forces to have a stranglehold over the vast region where the Tigers once held sway.
He said Sri Lanka's northern province was now like Palestine, "an occupied territory".
Peiris, in his lecture, said that the "(United Nations) Human Rights Council had become more politicised than the earlier human rights commission".
Although the war against the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009, Sri Lanka still battles allegations of human rights abuses. Colombo routinely denies the charges.
Peiris said the Sri Lankan economy was growing rapidly since the war ended and was registering a seven percent GDP growth.
He said Sri Lanka had endeavoured to strike an equilibrium between economic development and preservation of environment.
He lauded India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and said it had allowed the poor among the rural population to purchase minimum essentials.
The minister said India had helped expand the rail network in Sri Lanka. Many countries in the region faced the challenge of terrorism, Peiris said and added there was need for greater economic cooperation between countries in south Asia.
Raising the issue of piracy, he said there was no international tribunal to deal with the issue.
"(There was) no machinery at international level to take into account the whole issue."
Asked about some parties in Tamil Nadu opposing India giving training to Sri Lankan military personnel, Peiris said that India had not rescinded military cooperation between the two countries.
He said the military cooperation was "very urgent today" because of emerging challenges in the region.
Courtesy -

Canada sommons Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner

January 24, 2013 | Colombo Gazette
Canada had summoned Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to discuss Canada’s “deep concern” with the country, a Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said.
Embassy News in Canada said that the meeting between Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Sri Lanka’s high commissioner to Canada Chitranganee Wagiswara had taken place recently.
Baird later said in a press release that he would be pushing the issue during the next Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting.
The prime minister’s office also sent out a press release on the subject.
Wagiswara meanwhile argues that after an almost 30-year civil war, significant social change in the country is not a sprint—it’s a marathon.
On the impeachment of the Chief Justice she said that any issue with a judge can be dealt with through law or standing orders and the government followed the standing orders process.
Ms. Wagiswara said that Sri Lanka wants “all countries to participate” in the Commonwealth meeting, and added that Canada is the only country that has threatened to not take part.
She also stressed that the civil war ended less than four years ago.
“It was a very difficult conflict, and there are so many issues,” she said, listing the work that has been done to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, rehabilitate child soldiers, and to successfully clear 98 per cent of the landmines that lay hidden.
But, she said the relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is not as easy to rebuild as buildings or bridges.
“What happened over 30 years we cannot solve in three, or four, or five years,” she argued. “It often takes a generation.”
Ms. Wagiswara said many programs currently running are meant to bring both Tamil and Sinhalese youth together to learn about each other’s community, and understand one another.
Language training is also being given so that citizens can better interact, she said.
Ms. Wagiswara said her government wants the international community to know that the Sri Lankan government accepts “that there are outstanding issues to be addressed,” but argued that when other countries are consistently pointing fingers at Sri Lanka’s faults, it “takes away our focus because we have to keep defending.”
“We would want Mr. Baird, or members of Parliament to…go to Sri Lanka and see for themselves what is being done,” she added.
When asked if Mr. Baird intended to R.S.V.P, his office only wrote that “Direct engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka at all levels is important” and highlighted that there were high-level Canadian visits to the country in 2012.
When asked when Canada would decide on its participation in the Commonwealth meeting, Mr. Baird’s press secretary, Rick Roth, wrote that “There is still time for the Government of Sri Lanka to demonstrate good faith in advance” of the meeting.
“Canada will continue to monitor developments closely and make a final decision based on assessment of the situation on the ground closer to the time.”
Mr. Roth outlined that “Canada needs to see positive signs in the area of human rights, political reconciliation, democratic values and accountability” before attending.
Specifically, Canada wants the Sri Lankan government to implement all recommendations of a post-war Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and steps outlined in its own National Action Plan, wrote Mr. Roth.
Meanwhile, while Ms. Wagiswara said she has found Canadian MPs and ministers very accessible, Mr. Roth confirmed that the she was “called into a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on Friday, January 11th, to discuss Canada’s deep concern over recent developments in that country as outlined [by] Prime Minister Harper, Foreign Minister Baird and Immigration Minister Kenney.”

Sri Lanka - China relations on a Strategic Perspective to be mapped out

Thu, 2013-01-24 01:52 — editor
The Pathfinder Foundation (PF) carried out a productive business promotion mission to China with establishment the Eminent Persons’ Advisory Council (EPAC) comprising senior personalities from the both countries. This mission was organized at the invitation of the Chinese People’s Association of Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD), a Beijing based think-tank.
The visit which was the first follow-up initiative after signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the PF and CPAPD last year also resulted in agreements being reached on the establishment of the Eminent Persons’ Advisory Council (EPAC) comprising senior personalities from the two countries.
The EPAC would adopt a strategic perspective on the course of Sri Lanka – China relations over the next 5 – 10 years. The EPAC will set up technical sub-committees to realize the spirit of the MoU in such areas as strengthening economic, political, strategic and cultural relations.
The delegation comprised senior executives from three of Sri Lanka’s largest diversified conglomerates: Dr. Rohan Fernando, Director Aiken Spence PLC, Head of Plantations and Business Development and Managing Director of Elpitiya Plantations (PLC). Mr. Vasantha Leelananda, Executive Vice President of John Keells Holdings PLC, Head-Destination Management sector. Mr. Nandalal Perera, Director/Chief Executive, Hayley’s Agro Fertilizers (Pvt) Ltd, and Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy (Deputy Chairman) and Dr. Valsan Vethody (Advisor) represented the Pathfinder Foundation. The delegation, hosted by Mr. Zhu Rui, Secretary General of CPAPD and former Mayor of Changzhou had several mutually beneficial meetings with Chinese business counterparts.
Among the Chinese organizations with which they had detailed discussions were: the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Engineering, Department of Tourism Promotion and International Liaison, Changzhou Agricultural Committee, Changzhou Tourism Committee and several other private enterprises.
The delegation visited Beijing and Changzhou, a rapidly growing city of 5 million people situated between Shanghai and Nanjing. The mission generated a number of useful contacts and potential business opportunities, in many areas of interest to Sri Lanka. These include agriculture (fruits, vegetables, green house farming, horticulture, seed production and organic farming), agriculture machinery and equipment manufacture/assembly, livestock development, solar energy at farm level and tourism related projects including inbound tour operations, agro-tourism and other leisure activities.
The PF and the CPAPD intend to develop further mutually beneficial exchanges between the two countries in keeping with the MoU signed between the two organizations.
- Asian Tribune -