Sri Lanka Watch
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 | Sri Lanka Watch
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Sri Lanka’s UN Permanent Representative speaks exclusively to Sri Lanka Watch PDF Print E-mail
Note by the Editors: In an exclusive interview conducted by our Co-Editor Lallth Ganhewa, Dr Palitha Kohona the newly appointed Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, freely responded to us on the key issues that have been very much discussed and contented in Sri Lanka disagreed, denied and even twisted among the pro-LTTE Diaspora and welcomed widely as offering of new hope for Sri Lanka following what would be historically recognized as one of the finest and bravest engagements against a most brutal force of terrorists.

It is only now the Western powers are slowly waking up to the reality that in the way Sri Lanka conducted this action against massive odds, it showed the way how to combat international terrorism. The war against the LTTE also marked the beginning of the hope and guarantee no Sri Lankan whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Moslem, Burgher, Malay others need not be concerned that no one person or community will have lesser status or rights than the others.

SLW)    Congratulations for the new posting. So you will be the new trouble shooter at the UN for Sri Lanka. What made you accept it?

 

Dr. Palitha Kohona: Thank you very much for your good wishes.  I accepted the position of Permanent Representative to the United Nations at the request of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. You will recall that I returned to Sri Lanka four years ago also at his request.

 

SLW)    How will you deal with UN organizations like the UNICEF which though aware of child conscription never took any action even when they were informed even four years ago?

 

Dr. PK) I know that UNICEF has worked closely with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) in highlighting child conscription by the LTTE. In fact, UNICEF compiled a detailed list of children forcibly recruited by the terrorists.  At one point, the number exceeded 5,700 and UNICEF maintained close contact with the parents of these children. UNICEF’s actions helped to bring this barbaric practice of the LTTE to the attention of the international community.

 

SLW)    You are being posted to NY shortly before President attends the next UN summit.  This is a rare opportunity for Sri Lanka to state the Forum of the world with pride how it fought terrorism and rid the country after three decades, despite spokes being put into the wheel by some powerful Nations from Europe who tried to convince the UN that LTTE terrorism can never be won in Sri Lanka. Would you like to tell us how you would plan this out?

 

Dr. PK) There is no doubt that Sri Lanka has the unique record of totally defeating a dreaded terrorist organization that was once described as invincible.  This fact may not have sunk into the thinking of many in the West, even at this stage. GoSL consistently made a distinction between ordinary Tamil citizens and the terrorist LTTE as it launched its military forces against the terrorists.  The overriding philosophy of the security forces of the Government was to avoid causing harm to the civilians to the greatest extent possible.  This approach succeeded substantially and thousands of Tamil civilians escaped to seek refuge in Government-controlled areas. Sri Lanka, largely through its own efforts, by adopting novel strategies and specific technologies, succeeded in eliminating the much-feared LTTE.  In particular, we also successfully avoided being cornered internationally by certain countries which had been influenced by LTTE propagandists, by proactively enhancing existing friendships elsewhere.

 

SLW)    Should Sri Lanka not at the UN level demand an inquiry into the way UN Human Rights Watch functioned under Navaneetham Pillai? And try to understand whose interests she was serving especially since South Africa was an arms supplier to the LTTE and her stand was barefaced support of the LTTE?

 

Dr.PK) Suffice it to say that the United Nations Human Rights Council overwhelmingly endorsed Sri Lanka’s position and rejected all accusations levelled against it.  That was a significant statement by the majority in the HRC and a factor that must be kept in mind.

 

SLW)    Large number of powerful nations is fighting with much better strategies, Equipment and expert’s terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and even Palestine. Millions are in refugee camps in these regions. But these nations that are fighting terrorism in these regions for years now talk about the refugee camps in Sri Lanka where the rehabilitation process is on the march at rapid speed. In your view why are they having such an attitude to Sri Lanka?

 

Dr.PK) The welfare villages where the IDPs are housed are now functioning much better than at the beginning.  While there will always be shortcomings, the  Sri Lankan Government is committed to taking the best care of the IDPs in these camps during the time that they are there.  The Government is also committed in returning the bulk of these people to their homes before the end of the year.  After all, these are our own people, and it is our responsibility to look after them.

 

SLW)    Some political observers think Sri Lanka got isolated to the way it solved the terrorism problem. Others feel we have taken the correct path and even though Sri Lanka is a small nation in size, we should be frank, outright, and forceful and must show the world it has guts, courage and wisdom.

What is your view on this as the New Permanent Rep. to the UN? 

Dr. PK) Sri Lanka was forced to deal with the terrorist LTTE through military means, only after repeated efforts since 1987 to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict failed.  It was a combination of outstanding heroism and carefully crafted military strategy combined with astute diplomatic moves that helped us to defeat the LTTE.  However, having defeated the terrorists, now we are confronted with the task of winning the peace.  We will approach this task also with unqualified resolve.

SLW)    Since Capital Punishment is not carried out, what sort of fate will befall KP, if he is convicted of all the charges pressed against them?

 

Dr.PK) It is premature to contemplate the fate of KP.

 

SLW) The LTTE is an international organization with many sympathisers and operatives, and KP's capture is, no doubt a huge breakthrough, however, some believe LTTE will continue ideologically nationally and internationally. What measures are taken to address this issue?

 

Dr. PK) The rump of the LTTE based overseas will continue to make irritating noises.  But, its leadership has been decimated and many of its global links have been disrupted.  We hope that the remaining sympathizers of the LTTE will see reason, and return to non-violence and democracy with a view to addressing any remaining concerns of the minorities in a peaceful manner. The violent nightmare that Prabhakaran caused is over.  We now need to leave the past behind and move on.

 

SLW) KP s interrogation is providing valuable information to intelligence services worldwide about inter connections of international gun running, human smuggling, drug trafficking etc. But at the same time these informations itself will put certain “First World Nations” in great embarrassment about their preachings of Human Rights, Justice, Peace and Moral.

So the results of the interrogation could turn out to be like opening of can of worms?

Dr. PK) The LTTE was undoubtedly a very sophisticated organization heavily involved in human smuggling, drug trafficking, arms dealing etc. They have even supplied arms to other terrorist outfits.  Details of these operations which funded the LTTE war machine are likely to be revealed to the world, as a result of KP’s interrogation.

SLW) Prabhakaran is history. LTTE was desperate for a new leader who will follow his footsteps. Out of all the hard core LTTE that escaped, they opted KP and he even has on his team some professionals like lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran in New York and the self-styled Toronto University professor, the Catholic priest Father Chandrakanthan. When LTTE is rich with intellectuals, how could be they so naive to appoint KP as the successor with such a criminal record. Please comment on this reality.

 

Dr. PK) The appointment of KP as the leader of one segment of the LTTE itself suggests that the criminal elements in the organization had assumed the leadership of the LTTE.  This element was heavily involved in intimidation and extortion for fund-raising, drug dealing, gun-running and people smuggling.  It is my view that those who funded a terrorist movement through these means will not be able to continue with their illegal activities for much longer.

 

SLW) Tamil politicians supporting the LTTE and equally the Tamil Diaspora thrived on branding every Sinhala as anti-Tamil and that the Sinhalese are for genocide and yet curiously, the Tamils have been safe and secure in areas outside the North and East and increasingly ever since the LTTE was chased out of the North, Jaffna became a safe haven for the Tamils. But what has made it difficult for the Tamil Diaspora to understand and appreciate this?

 

Dr. PK) It is difficult to understand why some elements of the Tamil community overseas failed to understand that the majority of the Tamil people from the North and the East preferred to live among the Sinhala people in the South.  In fact, 54% of the Tamil people live in the South without much problem.  I would suggest that the majority felt much safer living among the Sinhala people than living under the jackboot of the LTTE. It is important to remember that only about 830,000 have continued to live in the Northern Province.

SLW) What steps have you taken to overcome this situation?

 

Dr. PK) We continue to develop links with various elements of the Tamil community overseas, who may number almost 1.5 Million. The President has invited these persons to return to Sri Lanka, to assist with the re-building process.

 

SLW) Tamil Diaspora abroad did not cry for the people of the Wanni when they were being ruthlessly exploited for three decades by the LTTE and their children seized with a kind of brutality that was inconceivable. Why are they crying for them now? Is this because lying hidden among the Wanni people are Tiger cadres who should be helped to escape?

 

Dr. PK) With more information becoming available on the measures taken by the Government to care for the IDPs and to re-settle them in their homes as soon as possible, we hope that the majority of the Tamil people living abroad will come round to the view that dialogue and reconciliation is better than fruitless confrontation. Let the wounds heal!  We must look to the future.

 

SLW) Looking at how the TNA Members of Parliament behaved, they reflected the voice of the LTTE supporting Tamil Diaspora and not the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. They supported a terror group that virtually wiped out some genuine leaders of the Tamils. When Prabhakaran was alive, TNA supported separatism. Some political observers believe as long as TNA plays a role in Sri Lankan politics, the ideologies of the LTTE will not die. So what should be done to stop such forces?  

 

Dr. KP) We are already seeing cracks in pro-LTTE groups and many of these appear to have realized that the democratic peaceful framework offers much better options for resolving any existing differences.

 

SLW) Since crashing terrorism the Government is doing tremendous progress in the North and East. It has commenced on the resettlement of the displaced people of the Wanni. But why is that western Nations, Western Media and the Tamil Diaspora abroad not appreciating this? What is the Government doing about it?

 

Dr. PK) You are right.  The Government has done an enormous amount of work in the East to restore the roads, the electricity, water supply and irrigation, agriculture, fisheries, schools, clinics, etc.  You can appreciate the extent of the work done only if you were to visit the East.  Since fisheries restrictions were lifted, the catch has increased tremendously.  The fishermen are reaping huge profits with the ability to send the catch to the Colombo market.  It is hoped that a similar revolution will occur in the North, once the development efforts there also are launched.

 

SLW) It’s proven now that no development has been done in Wanni when the area was under LTTE. Since crashing terrorism the Government is doing tremendous progress in the North and East. It has commenced on the resettlement of the displaced people of the Wanni. But why is that western Nations, Western Media, Human Rights Organisations and the Tamil Diaspora abroad not appreciating this?

 

Dr. PK) The Government is committed to developing the North in the same way it has launched the development efforts in the East.  Already a significant interest is being shown by investors in the tourism, agriculture and fisheries areas.  We hope that the private sector will take the lead role in this area. With greater business opportunities presenting themselves, the private sector will likely lead the charge.

 

SLW) Sri Lanka seems to have faced the Terrorist threats successfully; but at the same time there are other forces trying to create political instability in the country with the help of some western journalists hired to write anti-Sri Lankan features. What can you do to tackle such matters?

 

         Dr. PK) Sri Lanka defeated a terrorist group that was considered to be invincible.  Now we will win the peace, despite all  the reservations of the “Doubting Thomases”.

 
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