Ambassador Aryasinha contrasts pessimistic projections on Sri Lanka three years ago, with the facts on the ground
By Embassy of Sri Lanka
Apr 26, 2012

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU Ravinatha Aryasinha participating in a discussion on Sri Lanka held by the South Asia Delegation of the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (24 April 2012), has contrasted the pessimistic projections on Sri Lanka three years ago by some, including sections of the European Parliament, with what has been currently achieved on the ground in Sri Lanka.

He said, the expectation was that malnutrition, disease and death would be rampant in the IDP villages, that the Government was not interested in de-mining, that IDP welfare villages were “concentration camps” where the IDPs would be “incarcerated” indefinitely, the Government’s intent regards the ex-LTTE combatants was questioned claiming that “their lives were in danger”, it was said that the emergency would not be rescinded nor the high security zones disbanded, that the Government would not be able to undertake the massive investment that was needed to restore livelihoods and ensure infrastructure development in the previously conflict affected areas, let alone ensure economic growth in the rest of the country given the emerging global trends, and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was mocked as comprising “government stooges”, the prediction was that the Commission report would be a “white wash”, and indeed many even doubted whether the report would ever see the light of day.

In contrast, Ambassador Aryasinha said, the socio-economic, nutritional and mortality indicators in the IDP villages housing the displaced were deemed commendable by international standards to that of a normal population of this magnitude, 94% of the area contaminated by landmines and UXOs has been cleared, 98% of the IDPs has left the welfare villages, 90.7% of the ex-LTTE combatants including all child combatants had been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, High Security Zones had been reduced by 63%, and with Government investment of US$ 318 million for socio-economic and livelihood development and US$ 700 million for infrastructure development the Northern Province had recorded an economic growth rate of 22%, while Sri Lanka’s economy grew by 8.3%. The comprehensive LLRC report was delivered on time and made public by the Government as promised.

The time-bound National Human Rights Action Plan, which has many synergies with the LLRC, has commenced implementation in a structured manner. The Northern and Eastern provinces have been re-democratized and serious action has been taken recently on the implementation of a trilingual policy, despite Tamil having been an official language of Sri Lanka since 1987. In order to evolve a multi-party consensus with respect to constitutional changes, the government has sought the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), while being also engaged in bilateral discussions with Tamil political parties, as well as Muslim representation in furtherance of this objective. The government has already nominated its members to the PSC and is awaiting the nomination of members representing the opposition, especially from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), after which sittings can commence.

Ambassador Aryasinha said, to any objective observer, these steps would have constituted a sufficient body of evidence of both the GOSL’s intent and commitment to deliver, in just under 3 years since the end of the terrorist conflict, to ensure that Sri Lankans - cutting across ethnicity, religion, regional and class differences, could move forward towards peace, reconciliation and development, in a spirit of inclusivity.

He said it is in such a context that the Government of Sri Lanka believes that the resort to action on Sri Lanka through a resolution within the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last month was unnecessary and unwarranted, and could in effect negatively impact the ongoing reconciliation process. Given that Sri Lanka would in any case come up for comprehensive discussion during the HRC’s second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October this year, the haste with which this resolution was sought to be imposed, brings into serious question the motivations of its proponents. It also underlines the continuing prejudice against Sri Lanka prevalent among sections of the international community, who regrettably continue to be manipulated by INGOs and particularly the rump elements of the LTTE living abroad and their sympathizers, which are intent on vilifying Sri Lanka.

Observing that with 15 countries voting with Sri Lanka, and 8 countries abstaining, the final result in Geneva was that 23 countries, out of a total of 47 members of the Human Rights Council did not support the resolution, while 24 supported it, Ambassador Aryasinha said the resolution therefore finally became an example of a highly selective and arbitrary process within the HRC, not governed by objective norms or criteria of any kind, the implications of which were not lost on many countries.

Ambassador Aryasinha said, “as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, our policy in respect of all matters will continue to be guided by the vital interests and well being of the people of our country, in keeping with accepted legal norms. Sri Lanka remains confident, that as we have done in the past, over time, we will be able to prove to all, including the present day ‘prophets of doom’ who continue to shift goal posts and apply double standards when it comes to Sri Lanka, that they were wrong”.