Muslim Peace Secretariat, a way forward: Akashi

Feb 14 (IL) Japanese special peace envoy Yasushi Akashi has hailed the setting up of the Muslim Peace Secretariat (MPS) as a constructive move in the peace process and urged the parties concerned to make sure that the MPS would function as a strong mechanism to safeguard the rights of the Muslim community.

He had conveyed these sentiments during his recent meeting with SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem at the latter's residence.

Mr. Akashi had said that the December 2004 move by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the National Unity Alliance (NUA) to set up the MPS, came at a very crucial juncture of the peace process and that it is the responsibility of the stakeholders to preserve its momentum to ensure that the community, just like other parties, gets its due within the peace process.

Speaking to the media, immediately after the meeting, the Japanese peace envoy reminded that he was aware of the fact that the Muslims are the community worst affected by the tsunami and observed that his discussions with the SLMC leader had shed further light on the issues related to the subject.

"My talks with Mr. Hakeem has given me a new understanding and insight, as per the issues related to the post tsunami situation" Mr. Akashi said.

While maintaining that he was aware of the degree of discrimination, during rescue and relief operations, he assured that Japan would step in to ensure equitable distribution of resources in the reconstruction phase.

The needs assessment reports for the reconstruction projects are now being prepared by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

The MPC was established on December 17, 2004, following the signing of a MoU between SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem and NUA leader Ferial Ashraff.

While the Peace Secretariat had various programmes on the pipeline, including the establishment of a peace resource and research centre, the tsunami that hit the country the following week forced the two parties to put the projects on hold.