Published on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 15:26
"Immense care was exercised by the Armed Forces to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, while the LTTE relentlessly kept putting civilians in harm's way", Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa said delivering the keynote address at the Pakistan - Sri Lanka Joint Seminar on 'Political and Diplomatic Challenges Faced by Nations during and after Conflict Confined to Borders' at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Affairs (LKIIRSS) Monday (11)
The seminar was organised by the High Commission of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in collaboration with the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Affairs (LKIIRSS).
This is the first ever seminar between Pakistan and Sri Lanka that has brought together eminent personalities from both countries to the deliberate on the ramifications of conflicts on nations. The thematic relevance of the seminar to current narratives of the two countries will provide an introspective opportunity to develop framework for mitigation, averting and management of internal conflicts. The expert panel will provide inputs and frameworks for creating holistic paradigms to resolve political, economic, and defence issues at home and diplomatic challenges faced in the international arena.
The need to address post conflict humanitarian crisis, establishing rule of law, maintaining macro- economic stability and development of social services and infrastructure, challenges in countering extremism and terrorism, promoting pluralism and diplomacy in times of internal conflicts will be some of the topics discussed at the seminar.
Making the keynote address secretary defence said that there are many challenges that nations can face after the end of a conflict confined to its borders and the Sri Lankan experience in dealing with its post conflict challenges are worthy of close examination. He said that the security forces had to take special precautions to protect the lives of the hundreds and thousands of people that the LTTE was keeping as a human shield during the humanitarian operations. He maintained that the government established a transparent system in dealing with the IDP issues and the strategy adopted sets a good example to be followed by others in similar situations.
He noted that due to the terrorists destroying the private and public properties and heavy mining of the region during their retreat the resettlement of the IDPs took time and that the government took positive steps to assure their wellbeing of the IDPs during that period. Accordingly, the Government established high quality semi-permanent shelters at the LakshmanKadirgamar Village and AnandaKumaraswamy Village in Manik Farm to house these civilians he said.
The secretary lamented that due to misinterpretations of the government's plans some international donor organisations did not understand the extent of the problem that had been caused by the LTTE in the areas the civilians had been displaced from and sadly this lack of trust in the Government's intentions on the part of the representatives of these International Organisations was very unfortunate, and it is still more unfortunate that such mistrust continues to be voiced amongst some in the international community even today.
He further said demining posed a big challenge, but the Government with the support of a number of foreign organizations unhesitatingly undertook it immediately after the war ended and within three years two main priority areas identified for demining were cleared.
He told the gathering that contrary to certain claims by certain political parties and various activists almost all the IDPs were resettled in their former places of origin even in areas such as Vellamullavaikkal where the final battles took place thereby debunking the myths of mass graves. Resettling the IDPs after a conflict situation is a task that any Government should undertake with great urgency as it is the best way to help the people who were most affected by the war return to normal lives quickly he said.
Speaking on the de-radicalization of ex combatants the secretary said that, a 'six plus one' rehabilitation process model was adopted for all beneficiaries while special attention was given to the 594 child soldiers. Adult beneficiaries were initially housed in well maintained Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARC). The primary focus of the rehabilitation and reintegration programme has been to equip the former LTTE cadres with alternative means to a meaningful existence the secretary stressed.
The secretary further said that war time restrictions have been lifted and armed groups have been disarmed and their members encouraged to enter mainstream politics.
He revealed that many LTTE activists in Tamil expatriate communities have projected an incorrect picture about the Humanitarian Operation in their host nations and due to that those Governments exert pressure on Sri Lanka at various forums, including the United Nations Human Rights Council over the last few years that has become a major challenge that the Government has to face in the present and the future context.
In conclusion the secretary said that Sri Lanka's transformation into one of the most peaceful nations is the result of a government that has shown unwavering commitment and resolve to overcome all the challenges that it faced in the post conflict situation and it is this commitment that more than anything shuold be the lesson to be drawn from the Sri Lankan experience.
Acting High Commissioner for Pakistan in Sri Lanka HE Ms. Amna Baloch in her speech said that Sri Lanka and Pakistan share excellent economic, cultural and defence ties and Sri Lanka has seen much development since the end of war. She also said that bilateral economic ties should be strengthened to reach greater targets. She reminded that her country has always stood by Sri Lanka when it was isolated. Pakistan had extended unconditional support to Sri Lanka during the war and will continue to do so, she stressed. She also recalled of Pakistan's consistent support to Sri Lanka at Geneva. Ms. Baloch also mentioned Pakistan's grants to the island in the fields of education, medical assistance, and water supply and said that cooperations should be diversified for mutual benefit.
The Executive Director of LKIRSS Mr. Asanga Abrgoonasekara presented a special memento and a copy of the periodic review of the LKIRSS to Secretary Defence during the occasion.
Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mr. K Amunugama, Mrs. Sugandini Kadirgamar, distinguished diplomats, members of the diplomatic corp, tri forces commanders,
Director General of the Civil Defence Department, senior military officers, university dons and a number local and foreign of dignitaries were present at the occasion.