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SL will not change foreign policy due to threats: GL

20 November 2013 08:13 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Professor G.L Peiris the Minister of External Affairs, in a brief interview spoke to the Daily Mirror about the outcomes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).  Following are excerpts of the interview.




" Of course there were people who came with an agenda of their own, we knew that this was going to happen.  But that was certainly not a reason not to have the conference here or to prevent people with hostile agendas from coming here. They did what was expected and it  didn't come as surprise. "



Q: Minister how do you view the aftermath of the Commonwealth Summit. Do you believe it was a success?
 I think it was an unqualified success and the benefits it brought to our country were manifold. One was the fact that many of the visiting foreign dignitaries were able to see and experience this country and get a first hand impression. Many of them expected to see a country that was devastated because they had been exposed to so much false propaganda. They were amazed at what they saw. The degree of development not only in Colombo but the entire country.

The businessmen who came here were from 87 countries, although there are only 53 Commonwealth nations and the business forum attracted the largest number of participants in the history of the Commonwealth. So this was one of the main objectives that we had in mind when we organised the CHOGM in this country- to dispel the fog of false propaganda that had misled the international community, and that I think we did successfully.

Many of those from developing countries told us how proud they were to have been a part of this, we were commended for almost flawlessly organising such a magnificent event. The themes, the outcomes, the ceremonies were all a benchmark. They said it established a benchmark for future Commonwealth Summits. The other benefit of course is the future financial benefits of Sri Lanka. There was a very high threshold of interest that was shown in the project proposals discussed at the business forum.

All in all the financials benefits the image of the country and the feeling that this generated from all people who participated who never believed that this would be possible. They were full of praise for every aspect of the Commonwealth Summit.




Q: You spoke of the fog of misconception, isn't it true that this summit instead of clearing that fog, helped aggravate it? Are you happy with the way the media was handled and the way that we portrayed ourselves in the eyes of especially the foreign  media?
Absolutely yes, far from the mis-information being entrenched as a result of this- people who visited the country saw for themselves that what they were saying was not true. The Press Conferences were forthright and candid, the President's message went out loud and clear. There were meetings of foreign ministers where we sat two nights and one of those meetings went till 2.45 am the morning and the other till midnight in order to finalise the communiqué.

What we saw was a spirit of solidarity from all the people. They identified with the aspirations of our people and endorsed the manner in which we were handling complex problems in relation to our people.

Far from those who wanted to denigrate the country,  the impression that was left in the minds of the leaders who came here was that remarkable progress had been made since the end of the war. They thought that this was a model for development and reconciliation.

 Of course there were people who came with an agenda of their own, we knew that this was going to happen.  But that was certainly not a reason not to have the conference here or to prevent people with hostile agendas from coming here. They did what was expected and it didn't come as surprise.

That is a small minority and by and large people who are objective and came with open minds and observed for themselves the ground situation went back with an impression that we are happy with. I think our policy of openness and transparency paid rich dividends.





Q:Despite the fact that the government has been gloating over tangible measures taken in terms of development, the cry from the international community seems to be focused on others such as the investigations into war crimes, freedom of the press, dissappearneces-which are not shown within the realms of development, what is your take on this?
 Frankly only two countries took this view and that was clearly for the benefit of the diaspora. As one leader put it they made of this a political rally to placate their domestic political interest.

They came for this conference primarily to achieve a narrow objective. The characteristic that was most striking is the total lack of uniformity and consistency.





Q: Why do you say that?
You spoke of War crimes and the violations of Human Rights and so on, take for instance the Chilcott report which they haven't published yet. But on the other hand what if we did that? In our case we appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and we published the report in full despite the fact that prior to us even appointing this there was so much cynicism.
 
Not only have we published it in full we have implemented a large part of it. Obviously it is going to take some time. Whatever that could be done in the short and medium terms have been achieved. issues such land and language will naturally take some time. In Sri Lanka its an ongoing process but in the United Kingdom the report has not been even published.





Q:The point that has been raised time and again is the fact that the LLRC was not competent to address allegations for war crimes?
No I don't agree with that for one moment on the contrary even the countries that are critical of us commended the LLRC.
But the LLRC is not the only mechanism that has been set up by us, what about the Disappearances Commission which given the mandate to give some clarity to matters which are highly speculative?

Numbers are being thrown about with no basis; take for example the number of 40,000. Sir John Holmes a high official of the United Nations publicly disassociated himself from that number because there is absolutely no basis for that number.

So in the midst of such irresponsible allegations being hurled at the government we appointed this commission it is not a military commission but a civilian commission headed by a former Judge with extensive judicial experience. Now the commission is doing its work, the LLRC report is very valuable and is recognized even by some of or detractors,. But it is not a standalone report. Its supported by other initiatives and all of that taken together shows a vigorous response from the part of the government of Sri Lanka.

 I think the thrust of the argument is very unfair   because I many other countries which had conflict, it has taken much longer to reach finality the period required in other parts of the world was far longer than four years and what we are asking for is to apply the same standard to Sri Lanka.
The selectivity comes from the influence of the Diaspora.




Q: Let us leave the foreign elements aside. Do you actually believe that the allegations that have come up are false with regard to the Human Rights situation in the country?
Let us take the Channel 4 video for example. There is nothing new. I have seen this material before and they keep using it at a time that is politically very sensitive to Sri Lanka.

 they keep putting this material out at very very sensitive times. At the last instance they wanted the viewer to believe that they had come up with new material that they had researched and found. There is nothing new about this





Q: Again Minister, let us leave that aside. The fact of the matter is that a video is there and you have to investigate it. Why doesn't your government take measures to do that?
Because it has been investigated and there were lots of technical faults that were pointed out to buttress the fact that this was not genuine at all.  I don't know have the technical knowledge but those who were appointed to do that found out that the video was not genuine. Therefore it is wrong to say that the government did not investigate into this. We have not dismissed what they have provided but instead appointed people, who are competent to do that and the conclusion was that the videos were not genuine.

So its quite wrong to say that the government has not investigated into or dismissed it without investigation. This is a piece propoganda use to further political objectives.




Q:Moving on how would the Policy shift from now onwards after the British Prime Minsiter's ultimatum  and following the CHOGM?
Our foreign Policy is not going to change due to threats. We have set in a few processes which are in motion. In fact we are engaging with the UN system and we have not isolated ourselves from it. Our position is that there is no justification for an international investigation.





Q: But are we not isolating ourselves from the western world through our foreign policy? The UN human rights chief who visited the country made a demining statement about this government on the eve of her departure?
Can anyone justify her action in wanting to go to Vellamullivaikkal in order to place a wreath where Prabakharan died. Is that sign of objectivity, is that a gesture which anyone can support? After all the main task of the UN system is to assist us with a delicate and sensitive reconciliation process. Can you possibly maintain that the action on her part is going to help or hinder the reconciliation process. Then why did she do it?

Our position is that any objective observer would come to their own conclusion and one of the main thing that CHOGM did to us is that it created solidarity as opposed to your notion of us being isolated.

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