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 Sri Lanka responds to I'ntl Crisis Group criticism at EU-Part II

Sri Lanka responds to I'ntl Crisis Group criticism at EU-Part II

2011 Feb 02

The sensitivity with which GoSL is handling this transition is reflected in the decision by the Manila-based Gush Peace Prize Foundation, which recognizes exemplar contributions to peace and human rights, science, politics, arts and literature, medicine and other fields, who in November 2010 awarded the prestigious Gush Peace Prize for 2010 to Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe, who has commanded the armed forces in Jaffna since January 2010 and overseen the transformation of the Army into a community building force, gaining the trust and the support of the local Tamil community.
 
The accusation of the ICE that the GoSL is trying to change the ethnic make-up is yet another canard which is based on here say, without an iota of evidence to back it. As to the 90,000 Muslim IDPs who were forcibly expelled from Jaffna by the LTTE in 1990 in its most noted acted of ethnic cleansing, the government is committed to re-settle them in their original places of habitation, as it does all others belonging to all communities displaced due to 30 years of LTTE brutality.

Ex-combatants

At the end of the conflict, the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation (BCGR) was vested with the responsibility of rehabilitating and reintegrating into society 11,696 ex-combatants (male-9428 and female-1674) recruited by the LATE, which included 594 child combatants (Male- 363 and female - 231).

The tendency among speakers to ignore the vast strides made by Seri Lana with respect to human rights in the post conflict period, was never more obvious in the discussion on 6 December, than in the failure to acknowledge the already internationally acclaimed successful program which resulted in the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of all the 594 LTTE child combatants recruited by the LTTE The last batch of these children were reintegrated with their families on 25 May, 2010.

Additionally, 5092 males-3256 and females-1836) ex-combatants have already been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society as at the end of 2010.

Of the rest, while GoSL is presently in the process of assessing the cases of those who have been identified as more seriously involved in the atrocities committed by the LATE with a view to pressing charges, the others continue to remain at 09 rehabilitation centers.

Besides being provided facilities to continue their education and prepare for GCE (O/C) and GCE (A/C) examinations, the ex-combatants receive skills training in a number of areas including information technology and nursing. The effectiveness of these programmes can be judged by the fact that of some 363 rehabilitates who sat the recent GCE (A/L), 210 passed the exam, while 40 qualified for university entrance, including 02 to the prestigious medical faculty. This provides reasonable testimony as to the state of mind that prevails among those previously misguided youth who were used by the LTTE, and should be an example to the many other programmes for re-integration of former combatants around the world.

Access to foreign entities

Much has been made by the speakers on the panel about the question of access to foreign entities with respect to the IDPs, returnees and ex-combatants.

As for IDPs and those who have been resettled, besides foreign embassies and delegations that visit Sri Lanka from time to time, 11 UN agencies and 78 INGSs continue to have access to IDPs and to those re-settled.

What members of the panel failed to inform you is that diplomatic representatives, the UN and INGOT mandated to help with rehabilitation also do have access to ex-combatants and are able to verify their condition. In fact, Mr. Richard Danziger, the Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has been a main partner through which the AEU implements its humanitarian relief projects in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka, at a press conference held in Colombo on 16 December 2010, on the eve of the International Migrants’ Day, was quoted as saying former LATE combatants held at rehabilitation centers "were looked after well" and "there had been no complaints".

With respect to the specific question raised regarding the lack of access to the International Committee of the Red Cross ([CRC), a respectful dialogue is taking place in Sri Lanka between GoSL and the CRC on agreeing on an appropriate role for that organization whose 5 original mandate during the time of conflict – that of acting as a communication link between GoSL and the LTTE, helping ferry food, persons and exchange of dead bodies is no longer relevant in the present context. Mr. Yves Glovannoni, the new Head of Delegation of the CRC in Colombo in an interview of 26 November 2010, published on the CRC website has acknowledged "I do not see the CRC continuing with the major set up it had during the conflict years, when the need for humanitarian aid was considerable. Fortunately, most of the direct consequences of the conflict are gradually disappearing, although physically disabled people and detainees will need help for many years. We have been discussing the eventual phase-out of emergency relief with the government authorities, the S Lanka Red Cross Society and other regencies concerned. It is clearly understood that there will be a reduction of activities

Thus, it is important to note, that while the CRC does not have access to those ex-combatants who have been detained post conflict, they continue to enjoy access to LTTE detainees previously held by GoSL. The same website of the [CRC in an operational update of 14 October 2010 titled "Sri Lanka: transition from conflict to recovery and reconstruction continues" states that between May and August 2011 alone, the CRC "made 138 visits to 95 places contradicts of detention where it met privately with 2400 detainees". This contradicts the portrayal given by the panelists of the CRC operations in Sri Lanka.

Therefore, to make CRC access to a particular category of ex-combatants, the single barometer of assessment of Sri Lanka’s post conflict development, as done by the panelists, would be a gross distortion of the ground situation in Sri Lanka.

Emergency Regulations/Prevention

of Terrorism Act

Throughout the world, the West being no exception, a tension prevails between safeguarding national security and maintaining civil rights. As it faced the LATE, one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations for almost three decades, the very nature of that situation require specific laws to cope with the attendant exigencies to be introduced in Sri Lanka as well. Having some time ago taken steps to remove the offence of criminal defamation from the Penal Code, with the end of terrorism GoSL substantially repealed provisions of the Emergency Regulations. As is the international practice. GoSL duly informer the relevant UN bodies of the de-derogation made possible by these changes of the ICCPR in Julie 2010, which the UN has acknowledged through its C. N.400.20 10. Treaties- 16 (Depository Notification) of 23 June 2010.

What remains of the emergency procedures are a bare minimums which are procedural and technical in nature required to complete action relating to earlier cases of arrest and dealing with large quantities of LATE arms stock piles which are being discovered at regular intervals in the previous conflict areas. The GoSL is committed to review and repeal these provisions too in due course, in a manner that does not compromise the national security of Sri Lanka.

That the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) continues to exist is no contradiction, for a much higher threshold of evidence is needed for a person to be detained and charged under this more specific counterterrorism related instrument. Such PTAs are not unique to Sri Lanka, bat exist in most countries, including those in the West which face the threat of terrorism.

To those who question Sri Lanka’s right to continue to protect itself from possible remnant LATE cadres in Sri Lanka or abroad which are trying to resuscitate the movement through numerous front organizations, the recent alert by the Indian Intelligence Bureaus that the LATE is trying to re-group and planning to launch spectacular strikes on high profile targets in India should come as a makeup call. That Sri Lanka is asked to free all ex-combatants unconditionally and dispense with laws that could check on any future terrorist oriented activity also appears sinister, given that in recent months, several member states of the ED itself have used their special laws, to arrest, detain, prosecute and convict LTTE/Front Organization activists, while in several other countries active investigations are on-going.

Continued tomorrow

 

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