Statement by H.E. Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, at the European Parliament South Asia Delegation’s discussion on Sri Lanka – 24 April 2012
Posted on April 26th, 2012

The embassy of the democratic socialist republic of sri lanka to belgium,  luxembourg  and the european union

Madam Chair and Members of the South Asia Delegation, Less than 3 years ago, as Sri Lanka emerged from its 30 year long struggle against LTTE terrorism, there were many “ƒ”¹…”prophets of doom’, including in this Parliament, who mis-judged both Sri Lanka’s will and capacity.

Pessimistic Projections

 It was said;

–  that the IDP welfare villages set up were a “humanitarian catastrophe” and that malnutrition, disease and death would be rampant 

–  that the Government was not interested in de-mining and that the conflict affected areas will  remain unused forever

–  likening the Sri Lankan IDP welfare villages to “concentration camps”, it was said that the IDPs would be “incarcerated” there indefinitely

–  the Government’s intent regards the ex-LTTE combatants was questioned, claiming that “their lives were in danger 

–  that the emergency would not be rescinded nor the high security zones disbanded

–  that the Government would not be able to undertake the massive investment that was needed to restore livelihoods and ensure infrastructure development in the previously conflict affected area, let alone ensure economic growth in the rest of the country given emerging global trends   

– the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was mocked as comprising “government stooges” and the prediction was that their report would be a “white wash”. As you yourself recently reminded me Madam Chair, “many even doubted whether the LLRC report would ever see the light of day”

 Facts on the ground

Given this backdrop, the verifiable facts on the ground prove the “ƒ”¹…”prophets of doom’ dismally wrong.   

–  the socio-economic, nutritional and mortality indicators in the IDP villages housing the displaced,  were deemed commendable by international standards, to that of a normal population of this magnitude.

–  of the estimated  2061.53 Sq. KMs contaminated with land mines & UXOs, as at the end of March 2012,  1,936.80 Sq. KMs, or 94% of the area had been cleared. 80% of this de-mining work was carried out by the Sri Lanka Army, which is a remarkable achievement in any post-conflict situation.

–  from a high of 297,000 a little under 3 years ago, 98% of the IDPs have left and numbers at the only remaining welfare village at “ƒ”¹…”Manik Farm’ has come down to 6022 persons (1800 families), and the Government has pledged to resettle those remaining by the end of June this year. Here again the government has borne most of the cost, spending 360 Million USD for the IDP resettlement programme. An initiative aimed at the construction of over 78,000 new houses in the North has been launched which includes those built under the North East Housing Construction Programme (NEHRP) with donor assistance.

–  of the 11,995 ex-LTTE combatants who surrendered or were arrested at the end of the conflict,  90.7%, or 10,874 (which includes 595 child combatants) have been rehabilitated and re-integrated into society. Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARC) established in many parts of the country conducts psycho-social care such as counselling and drama, dance and music therapy as well as spiritual and religious programmes. Adult cadres have been provided with extensive vocational training making them employable once released.

– the High Security Zones have been reduced  by 63%, from 4098 Sq KM to 2582 Sq KM. The emergency regulations lapsed completely with effect from 30 August, 2011. Since then, and with improvement of the security situation in the former conflict affected areas, civil administration has been fully restored and the role of the military has been increasingly confined to security related matters.

– the government has already provided US$ 318 Million for the socio-economic and livelihood development in the Northern and Eastern provinces, and a substantial portion of this money has been allocated for the self-employment loan schemes. Moreover, the government has allocated a further sum of US$ 700 million for infrastructure and economic development programmes including housing, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and irrigation schemes. The Government has also embarked on 27 donor assisted development projects of which 23 are implemented in the North and the East. These development projects are valued at approximately US$ 201 million for the year 2011 alone. The allocation of infrastructure development in the Jaffna district in the Northern Province is USD 300 million, while US$ 250 million and US$ 150 million have been invested in development projects in the Killinochchi and Batticaloa districts, respectively. The results from these efforts have been tangible, with the Northern Province recording a 22% growth rate. Further, in terms of investment promotion, the Atchchuveli Industrial Zone is being developed in a 25 acre land area and is expected to attract approximately 40 local and foreign investors. This project is expected to generate 6,000 employment opportunities. As a transport facility, Palaly airport and the Kankesanthurai (KKS) harbour, which is situated only 10 Km from the Zone, has been upgraded. The Government expects that this project will enable small and medium enterprises to better tap into advantages to investors.

– Notwithstanding the worsening global economic environment, Sri Lanka has also shown considerable economic resilience;

  •   Sri Lanka’s economy grew by 8.3 per cent in 2011, the highest in Sri Lanka’s post independence history, sustaining a momentum of over 8 per cent for the first time in two consecutive years.
  •   Improved consumer and investor confidence arising from the peace dividend, favourable macroeconomic conditions, increased capacity utilization, expansion of infrastructure facilities and renewed economic activity in the Northern and Eastern provinces has underpinned this growth.
  •   Inflation remained at single digit levels for the third consecutive year.
  •   Unemployment declined to its lowest level of 4.2 per cent in 2011, from 4.9 per cent in 2010.
  •   In 2011 Sri Lanka’s international trade has also performed commendably, with export income growing by 22 %. Closer home, according to the Sri Lanka Central Bank statistics, it is noteworthy that in 2011 Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU (US $ 3,576 Million) grew by 24.4%, compared to the corresponding period of 2010 (US $ 2,875 Million).
  • With respect to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), including loans, grew by 107 % to US dollars 1,066 million in 2011 over US dollars 516 million in 2010. European investment in Sri Lanka in 2011 amounted to US $ 197 Million, which was 18.4% of the total FDI attracted by the country.
  • Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka grew by 30.8% in 2011, with visitors from Europe recording a  42% increase.  

–  as for the LLRC, the domestic mechanism based on the principle of restorative justice established by the President of Sri Lanka on 15 May 2010 to make recommendations aimed at ensuring that there is no recurrence of the unfortunate situation of the past and to promote national unity and reconciliation amongst all communities in Sri Lanka, we now have a clear document with which to engage and consolidate peace.

a) Notwithstanding the magnitude of the task of dealing with a 30 year long conflict, that the LLRC completed its comprehensive report in 20 months, and the government in turn made the full Report public shortly after, speaks volumes about  the openness and transparency shown in this regard.

This is in contrast to similar endeavours such as the UK Chilcott Commission of Inquiry, where the Commission appointed in 2009 to inquire into matters spanning for only a period of less than 9 years, is yet to produce a report.

b) The multitude of voices that earlier questioned the credibility of the LLRC and expressed doubts as to whether the report would ever see the light of day, who are ironically now asking that the LLRC report be implemented, are only exposing their previous poor judgement and re-affirming their practice of constantly shifting goal posts.

c)  The suggestion made in some quarters, that the LLRC Report does not address accountability issues in the last phase of the conflict is without basis. What those who make this charge seem to be really saying is simply that the authors of the LLRC Report have not arrived at the same conclusions that these  elements who obsessively wish to see Sri Lanka being made a scapegoat had wanted them to.

On the contrary, the LLRC Report offers us detailed observations and recommendations on International Humanitarian Law issues relating to the final phase of the conflict.

     –  It clearly accepts the position that the protection of civilian life was a key factor in the formulation of policy for carrying out military operations and that the deliberate targeting of civilians formed no part of this policy.

      –  The Report notes that military operations were conducted professionally, but if there is evidence of  transgression by individuals, this of course should be examined.

–  On the basis of evidence placed before them, the LLRC also points to several specific episodes which, in their view, warrant further investigation. These episodes are referred to in the Report, in a variety of settings.

I might add here, that  the Government of Sri Lanka has not contested the conclusions of the LLRC, unlike NATO, which is strongly contesting the position taken by Judge Philippe Kirsch in the COI Report on Libya with regard to the need to further investigate NATO operations in Libya. We have yet to see western countries critiquing NATO’s position on this matter, which is a clear application of double standards on their part, when compared to the strident calls being made in relation to alleged events in Sri Lanka based on the flimsiest of evidence.

     In fact the Leader of the House Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva was to observe in tabling the LLRC report in Parliament on 16 December 2011, “It is a matter of the greatest importance to the government to have the truth relating to each of these matters established in a manner that puts controversy to rest for all time. The government has asserted clearly on many occasions that, if reliable evidence is available in respect of any contravention of the law, the law of the land will be set in motion”. The Leader of the House was also to note that “the government, of its own accord, has already carried out a series of measures including a comprehensive census in the Northern Province, which will enable firm and verifiable conclusions to be arrived at on issues involving accountability, without any element of conjecture or speculation”.

    Following up on this pledge, already two Courts of Inquiry and a Board of Inquiry have been established by the Sri Lanka Army and Navy respectively and have commenced investigations into specific incidents identified by the LLRC. The mandate of the Court of Inquiry is to investigate, inter alia, civilian casualties and the Channel 4 video footage; including whether any deliberate and international attacks were made by the Army on civilians, with a view to causing them harm or damage, or on any hospitals or no-fire zones.  If so, the persons responsible for any such activity and to make recommendations with regard to the measures that should be taken with regard to such persons. In respect to the controversial Channel 4 footage, the Court of Inquiry has been specifically mandated to ascertain whether any member of the armed forces was involved in the events depicted, authentic or otherwise and to recommend the measures to be taken.

d) On the implementation of the LLRC report, sound prioritization no doubt is an essential aspect of a practical strategy for implementation of these recommendations, where it is important to distinguish between measures addressing humanitarian needs as a matter of urgency, and longer term initiatives. As the Hon. External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris was to observe recently, “We will move forward at our own pace and our policy will be determined by the interests of the people in this country. The LLRC is our own Commission, so to implement the LLRC recommendations we do not need any external pressure. We will do it anyway-and of course we will keep the international community informed”.

e) We must remember that there are many issues on which recommendations have been made in the LLRC Report “”…” such as de-mining, IDP re-settlement, ex-LTTE combatants, de-militarization, socio-economic and livelihood development – which as I have already observed is at an advanced stage of implementation.

 f) Additionally,

   –  GOSL has also taken steps to disarm the so-called “ƒ”¹…”paramilitary groups’. In order to bring about an end to the possession of unauthorized weapons, an institutionalized process with legislative oversight

      has been set up to record specific details on weapons recovered, and also setting a deadline for surrendering of illegal weapons, as was done in the Eastern Province.  

–  The National Human Rights Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights  developed through a participatory process between Government and civil society and approved by the

Cabinet in September 2011, is presently being implemented.  The Action Plan presents a structured framework to monitor the implementation of existing laws, policies and practices and to enhance a better understanding and respect of human rights. 

–          GOSL has also taken steps to establish normalcy and re-democratise the Northern and the Eastern provinces, including through the full participation in Presidential and Parliamentary election, the holding of Provincial Elections in the Eastern Province, and local government elections. Local government elections have been held in all areas of the North with the exception of 02 local authorities in the Mullaitivu district, namely Puthukudiruppu and Maritimepattu. LG elections in these two local authorities which were scheduled for 24th March 2012 were postponed due to an Interim Order issued, as two petitions are pending before the Court of Appeal.

–    In order to evolve a multi-party consensus with respect to constitutional changes, the government has sought the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), while being also engaged in bilateral discussions with Tamil political parties, as well as Muslim representation in furtherance of this objective. The government has already nominated its members to the PSC and is awaiting the nomination of members representing the opposition, especially from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), after which sittings can commence.

–   Development related work in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, which during the conflict situation and immediately thereafter came under the purview of the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, is now carried out under the supervision of the relevant line Ministries, in coordination and consultation with the provincial and local government representatives. 

–   Following its launch in January 2012, the Government is also effectively implementing the Trilingual Policy aimed at enabling Sinhala, Tamil and English competence to Sri Lankans. The 10 Year National Plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka provides the blueprint for the first determined effort by any administration since 1987 when Tamil was made an official language, to seriously implement the provisions for a Trilingual Sri Lanka already available in the law with the passing of the 13th amendment to the constitution. Already more than 1600 Tamil speaking police officers have been recruited and the Civil Service in the North and East is largely composed of members of the Tamil and Muslim communities.

– GoSL has established a specialized institution for Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA), responsible for providing compensation for the persons who have suffered loss/damage due to terrorist violence.

–  A Land Task Force has been established at provincial and district level to deal with land issues. The Government has also begun a process to revise laws to enable considering claims for immovable property including land of the displaced or disadvantaged persons.

 To any objective observer, the steps I have outlined above would have constituted a sufficient body of evidence of both the GOSL’s intent and the commitment to deliver  in just under 3 years since the ending of the terrorist conflict to ensure that Sri Lankans – cutting across ethnicity, religion, regional and class differences, could move forward towards peace, reconciliation and development, in a spirit of inclusivity.

 19th HRC Resolution on Sri Lanka

 It is in such context that GOSL believes that the resort to action on Sri Lanka through a resolution within the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last month was unnecessary and unwarranted, and could in effect negatively impact the ongoing reconciliation process.

First, the resolution ignored the significant steps taken and results shown by GOSL over the past near 3 years since the ending of LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka “”…” action which has few precedents and which will be hard to replicate in comparable situations;

Second, it prejudged Sri Lanka’s intention to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, less than 3 months since this domestic mechanism put in place by GOSL was made public, and the time-bound National Human Rights Action Plan, which has many synergies with the LLRC, has commenced implementation in a structured manner. In doing so, it also undermined the well-entrenched rule of international law, that domestic remedies must first be exhausted, and amounts to an undue interference in an internal process.

Third, given that Sri Lanka would in any case come up for comprehensive discussion during the HRC’s second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October this year, the haste with which this resolution was sought to be imposed, brings into serious question the motivations of its proponents, who seem to disregard the principles upon which the HRC was founded, as a forum to address developments concerning human rights of all countries, in a cooperative, non-selective, and impartial manner.

Fourth, it also underlined the continuing prejudice against Sri Lanka prevalent among sections of the international community, who regrettably continue to be manipulated by INGOs and particularly the rump elements of the LTTE living abroad and their sympathizers, which are intent on vilifying Sri Lanka. It is this self-seeking vociferous minority living in greener pastures overseas, and continue to advocate mono-ethnic separatism in Sri Lanka while espousing the ideology of the LTTE, using its resources and being manipulated by its surviving military leaders, who would prefer to see Sri Lanka remain locked in the past.

With 15 countries voting with Sri Lanka, and 8 countries abstaining, the final result in Geneva was that 23 countries, out of a total of 47 members of the Human Rights Council did not support the Resolution, while 24 supported it. Many countries which voted with Sri Lanka were acutely conscious of the danger of setting a precedent which enables ad hoc intervention by powerful countries in the internal affairs of other nations. The 8 abstentions also reflected clear resistance of pressure by powerful countries to support the resolution by less powerful developing countries on a matter of principle. The resolution therefore finally became an example of a highly selective and arbitrary process within the Council not governed by objective norms or criteria of any kind, the implications of which were not lost on many countries.

As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, our policy in respect of all matters will continue to be guided by the vital interests and well being of the people of our country, in keeping with accepted legal norms. Sri Lanka remains confident, that as we have done in the past, over time, we will be able to prove to all, including the present day “ƒ”¹…”prophets of doom’ who continue to shift goal posts and apply double standards when it comes to Sri Lanka, that they were wrong.

Embassy of Sri Lanka

Brussels

24 April 2012

One Response to “Statement by H.E. Ravinatha Aryasinha, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, at the European Parliament South Asia Delegation’s discussion on Sri Lanka – 24 April 2012”

  1. Vijendra Says:

    Well said Sir! I wish the GOSL appoints its foreign representatives to serve the mother country, like you have done by speaking out and actively propagating the truth, about which we all could actually be proud of.

    As you mentioned, GOSL has done a great deal about which no one in the west seems to be aware of. Sadly, it appears that most of theGOSL representatives in these countries are just parasites wasting away the foreign currency of the country to further their own personal goals. If the GOSL is serious, it should recall all these so called High Commissioners and Ambassadors and appoint only properly trained, capable and efficient people who can work towards the common goal of disseminating the truth and looking after the interests of the country first.

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