Feature Article

Winners are never tried for war crimes, says Colombo’s foreign secretary

[TamilNet, Friday, 21 August 2009, 07:33 GMT]
“If you look at the history of war crimes there isn’t one instance where a winner of a war has been tried before a Tribunal. They have always been set up for losers. And if you were to take winners then the start would have to be taken elsewhere. Sri Lanka did not drop atom bombs or destroy entire cities during the war,” said, Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary and newly appointed permanent representative to the UN, Palitha Kohona in an interview to Daily Mirror, Thursday, outlining the diplomatic prospects of Colombo in engaging the officialdom of the world, in negating political solutions to the Tamil national question. “There is this thinking that all our problems can be solved by applying a political solution. I fail to see the logic behind this,” he said.

The foreign secretary while justifying uselessness of political solution, made a special reference to a bunch of Tamils in the diaspora with whom his government had made a rapport.

“The government has engaged expatriate Tamils in a very constructive manner. The government in February brought in a representative group of Tamils with whom we had a dialogue for 2 days. We continue to do that,” he said adding, ”I learnt from the BOI recently that there are 31 buildings coming up in Colombo all being built by expat Tamil people. Our efforts to engage them is certainly bearing fruit.”

The foreign secretary was of the opinion that there was no need for a political solution to North and East, as Tamils are not living there anymore.

“Where are we going to apply this solution? Are we going to do that to the 54% of those living in and around Colombo or those in the North and East? In the North the entirety of the Tamil population is 750,000. There were 300,000 in the Wanni area who are now in the camps. There’s no one outside the Wanni area. The total number in the Jaffna peninsula is miniscule compared to the rest of the island,” he said rejecting any problems to Tamils.

“If there were a problem with them why have 54% of the entire Tamil speaking people of this country migrated to Sinhala speaking areas? They did it on their own. If they had a problem why did they voluntarily come to these areas?” was his question.

“It is easy to suggest that a political problem will solve, when, even if we have problems, they are certainly not in an political form. Like in every other country people have problems with job opportunities or getting children to school etc. We need to address them but not through an ethnic approach”, he said.

On APRC, his response was: “We made the mistake in the past of trying to impose the solution from the top. But on this occasion President decided that any changes would carry the majority support.”

He was confident that Rajiv vision of 1987 is the ultimate contentment of India: “India has been very supportive of our issues. We are confident of this support. Their own suggestion is that we should implement the 13th amendment. And the President has said he will. I don’t think India has gone beyond that in their discussions.”

On the conditions of the internment camps he cited a British delegation: “The cross party delegation from the House of Commons publicly said that these camps were better than they had seen elsewhere.”

Palitha Kohona accused the international agencies for not agreeing to make ‘permanent’ facilities in the internment camps: “The latest is the rains. Of course the conditions would deteriorate. When the government asked the international agencies in paving the paths and roads in the camps they refused on grounds that these would be converted to permanent camps. Today the same agencies are complaining that the roads are unusable. The same with the lavatories.”

The foreign secretary who was jubilant of the support of India, Pakistan, China, Russia and some other countries not just in the ‘tasks’ of Colombo but in the human rights council too, in ‘disgracing the opponents,’ ended his ‘interview’ with Colombo’s FO agenda deviously put as a question.

“Q:Similar arrests (like that of KP) are expected of LTTE activists in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, India and even in Scandinavia and very likely also in Norway in the coming year. What special difficulties do you foresee especially in the Scandinavian countries given their continued support towards the LTTE? How can you ensure that these countries are no longer made safe havens for senior LTTErs?”

“We will continue to work with them. I would never say there was no support. I wouldn’t say that the LTTE was ever endorsed by Norway; they were the acknowledged facilitator of the peace talks and their argument was that as facilitator it was not in a position to take sides. Our goal it to get all our friends on board to get back to our old friendships before terrorism raised its head.”

According to reports, militarization of diplomacy in the lines of certain totalitarian regimes has changed the face of Colombo’s foreign office in a drastic way in recent times.



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