PA slams international aid conference

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 November 2002, 12:03 GMT]
(News Feature) As Norway confirmed the participation of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, British Secretary of State for International Development Claire Short and European Union Commissioner Margot Wallstrom at a high level aid conference for Sri Lanka to be held in Oslo on November 25, the main Sri Lankan opposition party Friday condemned the event as "rewarding terrorism."

A Norwegian Foreign Ministry press release Friday said that the US, UK and EU representatives at the aid conference in Oslo would be joined by "high level participants" from a number of other countries, including Japan, Germany, Sweden and Denmark.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen is to open the meeting which is to be held at the Holmenkollen Park Hotell Rica in Oslo and will aim at mobilizing financial support for immediate humanitarian and rehabilitation action in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will participate in the meeting, as will the chief negotiator and political advisor of the Liberation Tigers, Mr. Anton Balasingham, and the chief negotiator of the Sri Lankan Government, Professor G.L. Peiris.

"As the first ever of its kind, the [aid] meeting will demonstrate the unprecedented level of international support to Sri Lanka and to the parties in their present peace efforts," the Norwegian government said following the second round of talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government earlier this month.

Benefiting all of Sri Lanka, "the international community will further be encouraged to increase investment in Sri Lanka and respond positively to new challenges in the south resulting from the peace process," Norway's statement also said.

Meanwhile PA MP and former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar read out a seven-page policy statement from his party at a press conference, criticising the donor conference and Norway's role in the peace process.

The PA "is disturbed by the impending accommodation of the LTTE, on a level of parity with the Government of Sri Lanka, at the forthcoming talks to be held in Oslo," Mr. Kadirgamar said.

"The signal that will go out from Oslo - is that, notwithstanding resounding universal declarations that terrorism must be resisted in all its manifestations, terrorism will in fact be rewarded when the interests of certain donor countries merge with the interests of a terrorist group," he said.

kadirgamar_lakshman_2-p.jpgMr. Kadirgamar also accused Oslo of being partial in its peace process and of overstepping its mandate as facilitator in talks between the Liberation Tigers and the United National Front government.

"The role of the Norwegian Government has been unjustifiably enlarged and that it is no longer visibly impartial," he said.

"The Norwegian Government seems more concerned with arranging an outcome of the talks that can be pronounced a "success" for the UNF and the LTTE rather than with the long-term interests of Sri Lanka and its people," Mr. Kadirgamar said.

"The People's Alliance (PA) of President Chandrika Kumaratunga also accused peace broker Norway of no longer being impartial. Meanwhile India is "unlikely" to send a delegation to the donor conference, press reports said.

"The destiny of Sri Lanka is too precious to be left to be determined by the UNF and the LTTE under the supervision of the Government of Norway," he said.

Mr. Kadirgamar also warned the UNF government to take note of India's concerns while pursuing the peace negotiations. "We must also bear in mind the concerns of our neighbours, the countries with which we are linked by timeless bonds of history and common interest."

"Their concern for the future of Sri Lanka in relation to their own interests deserve our respect and highest consideration," he said.

Asked by reporters why India was not being identified by name, Mr. Kadirgamar said all South Asian neighbours of Sri Lanka ought to be concerned about the direction of the peace process. "Obviously India will be more concerned than the rest," he added.

Meanwhile The Hindu newspaper said Friday India is "unlikely" to send a delegation to the conference. There has been no official comment from Delhi.

Quoting Indian High Commission sources, the paper said however "a decision has not yet been taken" on whether the Indian Ambassador to Norway would participate in the event.

PA spokesman Sarath Amunugama told reporters in Colombo that despite efforts by Norway India had declined to participate in the Oslo aid meeting. "It is a strong Indian statement on the peace process," he said.


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