Sri Lanka demands respect to sovereignty

The government says as a sovereign and an independent state Sri Lanka expects the same courtesy from other countries the same way one would expect Sri Lanka to deal with another country.Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Britain Dr Chris Nonis said this in an interview with the BBC where he highlighted Sri Lanka’s post-conflict measures at reconciliation, rehabilitation, reintegration, and reconstruction. “I have met these kids. They were cruelly snatched by Prabhakaran from their parents, and they were fighting but they didn’t know what they were fighting for. It is so wonderful to see them receiving vocational training, being rehabilitated and re-integrated into society,” the High Commissioner said.On the question of an international independent process to assess progress as called for by the UN, the High Commissioner said that one needs to draw a distinction between an international process and an independent process. “After a 28 year bitter and internecine conflict with the terrorists we finally achieved peace in the country under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. There is a billion dollar programme going into the North and East, Negenahira Navodaya, and Uthura Vasanthaya which is building the lives and infrastructure of the people. Eleven thousand six hundred LTTE cadres are now being rehabilitated”, Dr Nonis told the BBC World News programme “Impact”. He said “We respect the Sovereign rights of Britain, and of every other country, and we expect you to respect ours. We are a sovereign and an independent state and naturally we expect the same courtesy that you would expect us to apply for your country.”“We do have an independent inquiry and many people who initially criticised the LLRC process changed their views when they actually saw the 388-paged document. It was modelled on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. It was set within the Principle of International Humanitarian Law, incorporating the Principle of Distinction and the Principle of Proportionality. “The Commission is moving forward and there is significant progress”.Questioned on refugees and persecution, Dr Nonis said “I would say there are many people who for various different reasons come and seek asylum, and I think what we have to separate, is those who seek asylum as economic refugees, from those who seek asylum as political refugees” – You must remember the demography of the country, the majority of Tamil people actually live in the Centre and South of Sri Lanka, if you look at Colombo, its roughly a 30-30-30 percent split between Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim. We have a huge dichotomy or disjuncture in perception between what is portrayed here and the reality of contemporary Sri Lanka”. Asked by BBC presenter Mishal Husain what positive developments have occurred in the last four years since the end of the 26 year conflict, Dr Nonis said 297,000 people rescued from the clutches of the LTTE have been rehabilitated, in perhaps the largest hostage rescue operation in global history. Asked by Mishal Husain “ How many years would it take to say that we are now reconciled”, Dr Nonis pointed to South Africa and the post-apartheid period where there are still substantial issues and to Northern Ireland where, despite the “Good Friday” Agreement, there are still issues. “In comparison, I think we have done pretty well,” he said reiterating that it is only four years since the military defeat of the LTTE. (Colombo Gazette) CLICK HERE FOR BBC INTERVIEW read more

Annan invites Security Council members to meet with him on Iraq

Previously scheduled consultations on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire will be held in the afternoon after the Council’s formal meeting on “Africa’s food crisis as a threat to peace and security,” according to the spokesman. Meanwhile in Amman, the spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq reported that UN experts today returned to Um Qasr to continue their evaluation of water and sanitation requirements. The team, which went to the area on Friday, has concluded so far that the situation is stable, David Wimhurst told the press. “The food supply appears to be normal but there are water and vaccine shortages, which is a situation that pre-dates the war,” he noted, adding that while the hospital in Umm Qasr is receiving 200 to 300 patients per week, it has a three-month supply of most essential drugs.Mr. Wimhurst also said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) yesterday sent its first cross-line convoy, carrying medical supplies, to hospitals in Basra. But ICRC teams can no longer access the towns of Kerbala, Nassriya, Najaf and Hillah, and a convoy carrying much needed medical supplies for Hillah hospital, which has large numbers of war wounded, had to be cancelled. “The ICRC considers the situation in the capital is near critical, with hardly any movement on the streets,” he said.Marteen Roest, a spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that agency has sent its first major convoy into Iraq since the war began. The trucks, carrying 850 metric tons of much-needed wheat flour, crossed the border from Turkey in what WFP called a “test run” of the feasibility of that corridor. The World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting a “severe deterioration of the health situation during the days to come due to daily bombardment that results in damage of infrastructure and sharp rise in civilian casualties,” said agency spokesman Fadela Chaib. “The health workers are overwhelmed by injured and routine work is disrupted.”In another development, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is recommending that a scientific assessment of sites targeted with weapons containing depleted uranium be conducted in Iraq as soon as conditions permit. “Although our assessments to date, under conditions prevailing in the Balkans, have concluded that DU contamination does not pose any immediate risks to human health or the environment, the fact remains that depleted uranium is still an issue of great concern for the general public,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “An early study in Iraq could either lay these fears to rest or confirm that there are indeed potential risks, which could then be addressed through immediate action.”For her part, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy issued a statement urging all parties to protect the lives of civilians. “The scars of war do not easily fade,” she warned. “Physical and psychological trauma, fear, and the loss of loved ones continue to plague the lives of those who have endured such horrors.”UNICEF is particularly concerned about reports in the last few days of the use of cluster bombs in densely populated urban areas. “These cruel and clumsy weapons are already reported to have claimed the lives of Iraqi children and their use must end,” Ms. Bellamy said.Concerning the movement of Iraqis, Peter Kessler, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR), said that despite reports of heavy fighting around Baghdad and scenes of desperate people leaving the city, there have been no significant refugee outflows into neighbouring countries.Mr. Kessler also recalled that UNHCR has asked all governments to provide temporary protection to Iraqis. “No one should be returned to Iraq during war time against their will.” read more