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ICG singing for its supper

-0001 Nov 30

ICG singing for its supper

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka cannot expect the International Crisis Group (ICG), which is pressing for a UN ‘war crimes’ probe targeting the country’s political and military leaderships to take an impartial stand due to its heavy financial dependence on those who had opposed war against LTTE terror, senior officials say. Alan Keenan, Senior Analyst and Sri Lanka Project Director, ICG, recently attacked Sri Lanka before the Sub Committee on Human Rights of the European Parliament. Sri Lanka wasn’t even allowed to respond to Keenan’s criticism. Officials say Keenan basically echoed those who wanted Sri Lankan leaders hauled up before an international ‘war crimes’ tribunal.

The bottom line is that ICG or any other INGO or NGO cannot go against the wishes of their principal donors, they say. Obviously the ICG cannot be an exception, they say. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, Ravinatha Aryasinha, won a right to respond after he strongly protested against the EU move.

The ICG’s existence would depend on its readiness to promote the ideals and strategies of donors, a senior official said.

In spite of paying millions of dollars to foreign PR firms, the government had pathetically failed to counter anti-Sri Lanka propaganda directed at the State, an irate official said.

The official said that Keenan’s speech, the entire list of donors and ICG’s financial statements could  be accessed (http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/speeches/2010/human-rights-in-sri-lanka-in-the-post-conflict-period.aspx).

At the height of the war, the ICG’s Sri Lanka project had cost the organization $ 278,206 (2008) and $280,955 (2009), according to its financial statements posted on the website.

Citing the ICG, sources said that the group’s annual budget was now $15 million. According to the ICG, some 54 per cent of its budget comes from governments, 20 per cent from institutional foundations, and the rest from individual and corporate donors (20 per cent).

Among the ICG’s donors are the European Commission, France (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Germany (Foreign Office), Norway (Foreign Office), Sweden (International Development Agency & Foreign Office), Switzerland(Department of Foreign Affairs), UK (Department for International Development & Economic and Social research Council) and US (US Agency for International Development).

Sources said that it would be interesting to know how ICG had spent $ 559,161 in two years to promote human rights issues.

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, took over ICG in July 2009, about two months after Sri Lankan armed forces crushed the LTTE. Since then the ICG had been fiercely critical of the Sri Lankan Government for what it called war crimes on the Vanni front and post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Now that the International Crisis Group has asserted that it is the world’s leading independent, non-partisan, source of analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict (emphasis mine), it should reveal action taken by the group to prevent the LTTE from sabotaging the Norwegian-led peace process, Sri Lankan sources said.

In spite of boasting of its expertise, the ICG had failed to warn the Sri Lankan peace facilitator Norway and the Sri Lankan Peace Process Co-Chairs (US, Norway, EU and Japan), who contributed generously to its annual budget of the rapidly deteriorating situation, sources said.

Responding to a query by The Sunday Island, sources said that the ICG and the like minded organizations hadn’t even bothered to issue a statement when the LTTE quit the peace process way back in April 2003 during the tenure of the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The international community also failed to prevent the LTTE engineering Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the Nov 2005 presidential election by ordering Tamil speaking people to boycott the election.

Sources said that a joint statement issued by Christopher Patten and Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering on March 1, 2010 on behalf of the ICG revealed the group’s reliance on powerful donors. They said : "We are grateful to scores of governments, foundations, individuals and companies that have given generously to Crisis Group over the years, especially during the recent financial crisis. But if we are to recruit and keep the best staff, have the broadest possible impact on policy debates, and lay a strong foundation for the next 15 years, we need your help. Please join us, and make Crisis Group’s cause your own."

Christopher Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University, is a former European Commissioner for External Relations, Governor of Hong Kong and UK Cabinet Minister. He has been Co-Chair of Crisis Group since November 2004. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, also a Co-chair, is a former US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Ambassador to the UN, India, Russia, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan, and current Chairman of Hills & Company. He has been Co-Chair of Crisis Group since April 2006.

Sources said that the ICG, the London-headquartered Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) had turned down an invitation from the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) as part of the overall efforts by them and their donors to undermine Sri Lanka.

They said these organizations still couldn’t believe government forces not only had the strength to defeat the LTTE but went to the extent of eradicating its conventional military capacity on the Vanni front. What they expected was a stalemate on the Vanni front to pave the way for UN intervention, they said.

Meanwhile sources said that the government on Thursday had messed up a visit to Boossa detention facility by the LLRC by first inviting and then denying the media, including the Colombo-based BBC correspondent, access to the meeting.

 They said that due to mishandling of a simple issue by those in authority, the government had presented another opportunity to those hell bent on undermining the LLRC process both for political and financial gain.

``Those pushing for a UN ‘war crime’ probe targeting senior Sri Lankan political and military leaders would now try to bring into disrepute the LLRC on the basis of Boossa fiasco,’’. they said.

``Could anything be as unfortunate as giving the enemy another chance to question the very basis of the LLRC process launched in response to international concerns over ‘accountability issues’ during the last stages of the war?’’

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