|Sri Lanka wide open for democracy /FM|
|Saturday, 30 May 2009 15:55|
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, commenting on the elimination of LTTE terrorism, says that Sri Lanka is now wide open for democracy with peace returning to the country almost after three decades. The Minister also added that the international community should be happy with the manner terrorism was rooted out from the island nation.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: How the international community see the collapse of the LTTE terrorism?
A: Sri Lanka has been able to counter terrorism in a convincing manner and it has to be recognised by the international community. Several countries were not successful in countering terrorism in a comprehensive manner, whereas Sri Lanka has achieved its goal in a defeating terrorism. The international community should be happy that the whole of Sri Lanka is now wide open for democracy. We in the Government replaced terrorism with democracy for the people. Today people are in a position to enjoy themselves the liberty that is fundamental to the society and pursue their economic, social and political objectives. The entire country is now free from any threat, or intimidation emerging out of terrorism. The international community which is part of the free world will have to value these developments and appreciate the manner Sri Lanka thwarted terrorism successfully. The international community should also be happy that Sri Lanka has averted the growth of an international terrorist outfit out of its non soil, that could have threatened the peace and security in the region and globally.
Q: The LTTE terrorism has now been brought to an end in the island. How would the remaining activists of the Organisation such as K. Pathmanathan and his henchmen be dealt with in the future?
A: I have already initiated action in a structured manner to prosecute Pathmanathan and all other elements associated with the LTTE terror network. Interpol has its role to play in detecting and apprehending such criminal elements wanted by a particular country. Sri Lanka has now sought the assistance of interpol and we believe the outcome will be effective.
Pro-LTTE elements are part of the proscribed Organisation in most of the countries such the US, Canada, UK, India, and in Europe. In future we will be briefing all foreign governments and seeking their cooperation to prevent any of these lobbying groups becoming active in support of the LTTE. We are very confident that the international community will respond very positively in curbing these elements raising their heads again.
Q: There are information that the assets possessed by the LTTE abroad run into huge amount in foreign currencies. Has the Government taken any action to see that no new threats emerge from these LTTE possessions ?
A: The LTTE investments and enterprises are associated with that of a terrorist organisation which is banned by law. Any acquisitions either by their name or outside names will be considered as illegal properties with no value. We will be probing into these so called LTTE assets and taking appropriate legal action with international assistance to ensure the possessions of the outfit are invalidated. We are not blind to the LTTE related possessions and we will be dealing with the issue effectively.
Q: What is your view on UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillai’s call for probe into the war crimes in Sri Lanka?
A: If one is talking about war crimes that definition cannot be applied to Sri Lanka under any circumstances. So if anyone is trying to speak on Sri Lanka as a subject matter for war crimes it becomes a non-issue which cannot be taken up.
Q: What is your comment on the stance taken by the neighbouring countries such as India and Pakistan with regard to war against the LTTE?
A: They were very forthright and played an encouraging role in ensuring that terrorism is defeated in Sri Lanka.
Q: What is your comment on the stance taken by the 29 countries in support of Sri Lanka at the last week’s UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva?
A: We are part of the global community and we enjoy the best of relationship with the international community. But there are some countries who have been advocating in different line. Yet the engagement of our foreign Ministry across the world is very rewarding. We have been tackling South Africa, we have been addressing our old friends and cultivating new friends. Even in the European context we have several friends and now in a different dimension we have been addressing them successfully while they are responding to us very positively.
Q: How do you see the support you gained from Russia against terrorism? A: Very encouraging! It shows the strength of our relationship. We are very grateful to them for standing by us.
Q: Co-Chair countries along with Japan pledged their support to rebuild the war-torn areas when the peace process was carried out a couple of years ago. Will their assistance be sought now with the end of war, in the reconstruction process?
A: We are talking to several countries and most of them are really with their assistance and Japan is one such country. So we look forward to engage extensively in this process.
Q: Norway is a key donor country and played a vital role as a facilitator during the peace process in the past. How do you expect Norway to play its role in the present context ?
A: We have been telling Norway to look at the `big picture’ for Sri Lanka and the LTTE was an element associated at one time. Now Norway will be able to show a wider interest in building up healthy bilateral relations between the two countries.
Q: The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon after his recent visit to the IDP camps in Vavuniya insisted that the UN agencies must be allowed to be part of the humanitarian activities. What’s your comment on his views?
A: We have already allowed the UN agencies to function at the IDP camps. There are seven UN agencies and seventeen international NGOs along with twenty four local NGOs. In all there are fifty two NGOs and ICRC put together engaged in the humanitarian activities. We will continue this process and see that things are in order.
Q: A discussion between the Government and the Tamil diaspora was held in Colombo recently and the diaspora pledged to support the Government’s rehabilitation and the reconstruction process. Will the Government seek their assistance in the future development activities?
A: The symposium between the Government and the Tamil diaspora in Colombo was held in March this year and it was initiated by me as a result of my visit to Australia. The request there came from some members of the Tamil community to meet me and the Government.
We invited them to Sri Lanka and the symposium went off well. It is an indication of our willingness to be part of an inclusive process with all communities to work out a common agenda in addressing the needs of our country.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has announced that he welcome all the Tamils who have been compelled to live abroad to be back in the island to take part in the future development process. I am going to hold several meetings world over with Tamil diaspora encouraging them to return to Sri Lanka.