No foreign monitors for eastern polls - Bogollagama

[TamilNet, Thursday, 03 April 2008, 19:49 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said Thursday that there would be no independent monitoring of the forthcoming elections to the Eastern Provincial Council. Meanwhile, whilst addressing a strategic think tank in London earlier this week, Mr. Bogollagama was challenged by the Times newspaper over his government’s bar on foreign media, a statement issued Thursday by the British Tamil Forum, an expatriate lobby group, said.

Mr. Bogollagama met with the Liberal Democratic Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Edward Davey MP, and confirmed that no independent election monitors have been invited to oversee the polls the BTF learnt.

Mr. Davey had told Mr. Bogollagam that the “credibility and legitimacy of any election depended on the presence of observers - be they from the EU or the Commonwealth”.

Mr. Bogollagama apparently agreed to take that message back to Colombo.

“It is worth noting that the Party in Government, which the Foreign Minister represents is contesting these ‘elections’ jointly with an armed paramilitary group called the Tamil Makkal Viduthali Pulikal (TMVP) which is widely blamed for various killings, abductions and human rights violations,” the BTF said in its statements.

“The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which currently holds the majority of the Tamil constituencies (22 seats) in the Sri Lankan Parliament is boycotting the so called ‘elections’,” the BTF pointed out.

In his meeting with Mr. Davey, Mr. Bogollagama had defended Colombo’s decision to abrogate the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) as the agreement “was flawed and favoured the LTTE.”

Commenting on Mr. Bogollagama’s assertion, the BTF said any responsible government would re-negotiate a flawed agreement rather than unilaterally abrogating it.

The BTF statement noted British Foreign Minister Lord Malloch Brown, commenting on the unilateral abrogation of the CFA by Colombo had said: “There can be no military solution to the conflict. It is vital now that the Government lives up to its commitment to address the grievances of Tamil people”

“However, the Sinhala leadership has a long history of signing agreements with Tamil leaders and then, at a more suitable time, tearing these up on the basis these no longer suit its [Colombo’s] interests,” a BTF official told reporters in London.

“Not one agreement over the past fifty years has lasted because there is no will in the south to deal with the Tamil people as equals. Agreements are struck to serve tactical interests, for example to escape international pressure, and when an opportunity presents itself, every Sinhala leadership dumps its commitments to the Tamils. The CFA is no exception.”

At a separate event two days ago at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Mr. Bogollagama was asked by Richard Beeston, Foreign Editor of The Times, why the authorities were not allowing foreign correspondents to travel to Sri Lanka, if as the minister had insisted Colombo wanted to engage with the international community and hold free and transparent elections.

The minister had stated that apart from two districts, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, foreign media were allowed to visit other areas of Sri Lanka.

However, Mr. Beeston had said that this was not the experience of The Times, which had had several visa applications for its journalists blocked by the Sri Lankan authorities. Other Western media has reported similar experiences.


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