Military has retained its tight grip on north-Burt

15 February 2013 07:22 am - 48     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Alistair Burt the Parliamentary undersecretary of state at the foreign and the Commonwealth office in an opinion column on Sri Lanka said that despite the “fading of the manifestations of conflict, the root causes are not”.

“Whilst the manifestations of conflict are fading, the root causes are not. The military has retained its tight grip on the north. Yes there are fewer soldiers on the streets, but the Army’s presence is still palpable in many aspects of people’s lives; Military Intelligence still question those who speak to NGOs and journalists” the opinion said.

Below is the full text of the opinion

By Alistair Burt,

When the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam met their demise in 2OO9 at the hands of the Sri Lankan army, no right minded person mourned their fall.
Before the war the Tigers ruled the Tamils of the north and east of the island with an iron fist and brutally murdered countless civilians. During their campaign for independence they took terrorism to new levels of barbarity; it was the LTTE after all which pioneered suicide bombing. Yet the Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa defeated a truly reprehensible terrorist organisations with great severity. While the exact number is disputed, the UN Panel of Experts concluded that thousands of civilians died during the end of the war. The British Government's position on accountability for this is clear - allegations must be investigated, and if crimes were committed, whether by LTTE or government forces, those responsible must be brought to justice.

I have just come back from visiting Sri Lanka to get a sense of the situation nearly four years after the conflict.  I visited the north and the capital, met ministers, NGOs, displaced families, and Tamils trying to rebuild their lives. Much has been done. The economy is growing and infrastructure in the conflict zone is being rebuilt and expanded; new roads are opening up routes to market for farmers and fisherman. Large areas have also been demined, allowing for a significant reduction in Internally Displaced People.

But whilst the manifestations of conflict are fading, the root causes are not. The military has retained its tight grip on the north. Yes there are fewer soldiers on the streets, but the Army’s presence is still palpable in many aspects of people’s lives; Military Intelligence still question those who speak to NGOs and journalists. The transition to genuine civil administration is not moving fast enough. Likewise, not enough is being done to progress a political settlement that would give all Sri Lankans a clear stake in a prosperous, peaceful future. New roads are not a substitute for this. Worryingly, the past few years have also seen a decline in press freedom and a stifling of legitimate opposition across Sri Lanka. Many fear that their independent judiciary and proud tradition of vibrant democracy and activist journalism are being eroded.

Detractors point to a host of reasons why progress has been slow. Some argue that the Government is justified in reconciling on its own terms. They also point out, often accurately, that there is more to do by all sides to advance a political settlement. Others argue elements within the Tamil diaspora have not accepted the Tiger’s defeat and pressure Tamils to reject dialogue.  Finally, some simply assert that the bitterness from 30 years of war mean many are just not ready to reconcile.  

Yet there is one very good reason that the Government should do more; a reason well known to us from our own experience of Northern Ireland. If you don't make every effort to give people a stake in politics and if you fail to hold to account those responsible for the crimes of the past, you sow the seeds for future conflict.

It is this message I tried to get across last week. Too many lives were ruined while the UK learned these lessons. Britain is a friend of Sri Lanka; a friendship based on history, cultural links and common institutions. And as a friend of Sri Lanka, it should be no surprise that we don't want them to repeat our mistakes. President Rajapaksa has banished terrorism from his country and ushered in a new period of prosperity. It is now time for the political leadership needed to heal the wounds which caused the war. An important first step would be implementing the recommendations of Sri Lanka’s own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission.

2013 will be an important year in Sri Lanka: in November it plans to hold the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The UK has not yet made a decision on attendance. CHOGM is a time to recall the values uniting the Commonwealth – values we have all freely agreed.  The Sri Lankan Government must think through exactly what will be seen when the international spotlight shines upon them.  As host, we look to them not only to adhere to the Commonwealth values of good governance, the rule of law and human rights, but to champion them.

Fundamentally though, these are not simply Commonwealth values, but the foundations on which all societies flourish. More importantly, they are Sri Lanka's only route to genuine peace and a prosperous future for all its citizens; which is very much what the UK wishes for it.
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  Comments - 48

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  • LING Friday, 15 February 2013 12:30 PM

    Those clicked unlike are the Diaspora, what else.

    RamUK Friday, 15 February 2013 12:26 PM

    tamils have to agree there is no Eelam but Sinhalese should not cheat on power devolution since 1956...agreed?

    MagodisThuma Friday, 15 February 2013 08:11 AM

    Yes...The military has retained its tight grip on the north !. Because the serpent of terrorism is trying to raise it's ugly head again !

    RamUK Friday, 15 February 2013 12:33 PM

    Lol Lol ...sam sam the fact is A garrison of 5,000 troops will remain but security will be entirely the responsibility of the police. ......since 2007 not 100,000 army for 500000 ppl

    Sapumal Bandara Friday, 15 February 2013 08:14 AM

    Mr Alistair Burt also has to request the Tamil Diaspora to drop their Elam demand and join hands with the Sri Lanka Govt.

    ravi Friday, 15 February 2013 12:36 PM

    sir we got your point thanks you The message is: 2013 is a crucial year for Sri Lanka to make 'peace with the world' or face consequences.

    Lobo Sunday, 17 February 2013 06:26 AM

    Yes, terrorize the terrorist. If you're not one then whats your issue?

    Amirthasun Friday, 15 February 2013 08:25 AM

    Mr.Alistair Burt- not only North, also East

    unchikun Friday, 15 February 2013 08:29 AM

    I have seen the military camps in the North and they look more like star class hotels. The ordinary citizens live in huts. No surprise for this observation .

    Gorakaya Friday, 15 February 2013 08:41 AM

    What's wrong with SL Army being every where in the island, not only in the north. Since the end of the war army is doing other development work. Do you want to keep them in the barracks and just pay wages ?.

    Nadi Friday, 15 February 2013 08:50 AM

    A politician who has ate up all his kellawalla.

    Jayantha Friday, 15 February 2013 08:55 AM

    Most of the post conflict crimes are arising from the military personals who are idling in barracks, but in the case of Sri lanka, they are being used for development work currently under way in North & East,
    Rest of the world must learn from us how to utilize post conflict excess man power in military for the development of its own country,

    Bodu Bala Sena Friday, 15 February 2013 08:57 AM

    Absolutely Alistair Burt! Absolutely!

    filldam Friday, 15 February 2013 09:08 AM

    Dear "frog" - you don't know what is happening out side your well..!! Don't display your "racisms" or "ignorance" in public..! Military doesn't rule any part of the country except north and east. Even the Governors are military fellows.

    Jan Chandra Friday, 15 February 2013 09:09 AM

    I suppose you realize that Rome was not built in a day. After 30 year war it is reasonable for any country to give security the highest priority to avoid the scourge of terrorism in the future. The army needs to be in Jaffna, as Sri Lankan terrorism was nurtured from India, in particular Tamil Nadu, which is only 22 miles away. Useless commenting if you cannot see through the reality.

    Jayantha Friday, 15 February 2013 01:45 PM

    Its a conquered territory. So this is normal.

    reader Friday, 15 February 2013 12:00 AM

    so what this is srilanka and they can be at any location they want via DM Android App

    sam Friday, 15 February 2013 09:18 AM

    how is Northern Ireland doing these days?
    - Have you solved the root cause of the problem?
    - Is army is not present in NI?
    - How long it took British government to investigate NI shootings.

    GP Friday, 15 February 2013 09:19 AM

    Well said. Fact that cant digest by the government and uneducated civilians of the country.

    Chaminda Tilakumara Friday, 15 February 2013 09:26 AM

    Mr Burt, I must remind your that UK Tax payers money was used to finance suicide bombings, arm child soldiers, assassinate moderate Tamil politicians and in general, financed terrorist activities in SL. Furthermore, British Politicians benefited from speaking on pro-LTTE platforms. To add insult to injury, Mrs Balasingham who encouraged many Tamil girls to be LTTE terrorist cadre and suicide bombers is given a safe haven in the UK. Therefore, the people of SL would appreciate an apology from the British government for aiding and abating terrorism.

    Silva de Mervin Friday, 15 February 2013 02:22 PM

    Wait Ali,

    Our big boss is visiting temples after temples for divine blessing and so our problems will be solved sooner than later.

    So hold on Ali!

    filldam Saturday, 16 February 2013 08:40 AM

    Militory can be there anywhere in the country, no problem.What they are engaged in is the problem. Government terrorising the minorities means - inviting someone from outside for their rescue..!

    noone Saturday, 16 February 2013 08:42 AM

    Sorry

    disgusted Saturday, 16 February 2013 02:52 AM

    SO THE BRITS WANTS A MILITARY FREE NORTH.
    SO PULL OUT THE BRITISH ARMY FROM NORTHERN IRELAND AND AFGHANISTAN.
    THE UK POPULATION WOULD LOVE THIS

    C Dahanayake Friday, 15 February 2013 09:43 AM

    You must know that North and east is part of Sri Lanka a unitary state.Let me know in any country in the world security forces not operating entire area of that country. WEST you can go and fly a kite

    weha Friday, 15 February 2013 09:50 AM

    The army is used to intimidate people not to protect, yes protect the rogues may be.

    VISA Friday, 15 February 2013 09:53 AM

    World war II end in 1945 , still US troops are in Japan,korea,Germany & italy. In Philippines till 1991. For us Elam war is world war us. We loss more than 100,000 Sri Lankans from population of 22 million. We are protecting our country. Not any one else country.

    hello Friday, 15 February 2013 09:58 AM

    Also please go and get lessons from the ordinary people in the north. Then you will learn.

    kali Friday, 15 February 2013 03:31 PM

    If any one needed proof of who has the jurisdiction over Sri Lanka then they should cast their mind back to last week when Manmohan Singh refused to see MR and sent his Intelligence chief.
    It was not for tea and a biscuit but to deliver a strong message which only lasted 30 mins not enough time for even a biscuit.
    The CIA or Scotland Yard or the KGB dont have meetings with political leaders.
    It is a bitter pill for the Sinhalese die hearts to take but Sri Lankan army should be confined to the barracks as the Indian Army will be revisting the north s soon as there is a change at the top in India.
    I will see you all in my promised land. "I may not reach the mountain top but as a people we will reach our promised land "

    hello Friday, 15 February 2013 09:59 AM

    This man seams to understand the SL situation very clearly. The message is: 2013 is a crucial year for Sri Lanka to make 'peace with the world' or face consequences.

    Nodrog Saturday, 16 February 2013 03:25 AM

    tamils should learn to live along with the other communities in one country instead of demanding separatism...agreed?

    kali Friday, 15 February 2013 03:54 PM

    Rubbish you dont know what you are talking about. The army is there to terrorise

    Yuri Friday, 15 February 2013 03:56 PM

    Ram Do not waste time on them, they are very simple mind people, they know only their problem their life. they can not think other way

    Achcharu Friday, 15 February 2013 10:13 AM

    Wonder if the 'unlikes' for above indicate that the average Srilankan is put to un-ease by the sight of the Srilankan Military? If the reason is not political, the question is Why?

    rakavan Friday, 15 February 2013 04:15 PM

    Yes, had Sri Lanka said this is what their fight against LTTE would entail, wonder if any of the Western countries who supported the 'fight against terrorism' would have come to their aid.

    Gemini Friday, 15 February 2013 04:37 PM

    This is one and only country for Srilankans. It is a unitary state.We need to protect it. We can have our army in every nook and corner of our country.

    Ben Hurling Friday, 15 February 2013 04:38 PM

    Burt, We will see how you will withdraw from Afganistan in 2014. Hope you are not planning to let Taliban rule again once you have left. This is our country. Our troops can go where ever then want.

    anura Friday, 15 February 2013 04:55 PM

    The war was won by SL govt. at a very high cost, both in terms of human life and resources. The author agrees that positive things have transpired since end of the war towards transitioning into normal life. If things are going well we need to let them continue that way. It appears that there is an apparent urgency from others about the progress. We all need to take a deep breath and be patient with the progress as long as we see the progress.

    Banana Friday, 15 February 2013 10:32 AM

    Dear Mr. Burt, The UK should be investigated for harboring LTTE terrorists and their supporter and for abetting terrorism for permitting the LTTE to raise funds in your country. You, as a right minded person cannot deny this.

    The Sri Lankan military presence in the north is purely to prevent the resurgence of LTTE terrorism in that region, as you very well know the rump of which is still active. Ask Channel 4.

    Please also note that more than 50% of Tamils in Sri Lanka live outside the north and east and thus face the same daily problems that the Sinhalese majority has to put up with.

    Sri Lanka is only 4 years out of a 30 year vicious war, where the LTTE put the IRA to shame in their brutality. Therefore, Sri Lanka must make 200% sure that the LTTE does not revive again.

    Sandya Friday, 15 February 2013 10:38 AM

    Yes, we have our military on our own soil, unlike your military presence in other countries.

    ibba Friday, 15 February 2013 11:12 AM

    Amrith

    SL Army is there in south and central too
    . It is very surprising no.
    they are not in Afghanistan or Iraq like others.

    kingasanga Friday, 15 February 2013 07:47 AM

    SL Army are every were in this country by supporting countries
    development. Please get lesson from those hard working SL Army personnel

    Gamamahage Friday, 15 February 2013 11:37 AM

    Then what the heck are British troops doing Afghanistan ? Are they having a loose grip there ?

    Mewan Friday, 15 February 2013 11:49 AM

    Where SL places its security forces internally should not be a concern to any foreign nation.

    Lobo Friday, 15 February 2013 12:08 PM

    There are still pockets of LTTE supporters in the N&E financed and guided by the diaspora. The Army needs to be there to maintain the peace and ensure terrorism does not gt the chance to raise its ugly head again. Also, how come the UK is still entertaining Adele Balasingham and other LTTE groups???

    undercover Friday, 15 February 2013 12:06 PM

    Pl. understand - it is not where the Army stays but its the
    interference in Civil affairs. This is not so in all other
    Provinces.


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