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Sri Lanka Wants Partners Not Monitors of Post-War Aid (Update1)

[Bloomberg, Monday, 25 May 2009 07:45 No Comment]

Sri Lanka said it needs partners, not monitors, in the international community to help the South Asian island nation rebuild after the end of a 26-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Assistance must be “according to the wishes of the people of Sri Lanka,” Basil Rajapaksa, senior presidential adviser, said, according to the government’s Web site. “We don’t want ‘monitors,’ we need partners.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ended a two- day visit to the country at the weekend with a call to the government to start the process of reconciliation with the Tamil community and for aid to reach an estimated 300,000 people displaced by the fighting in the north.

Sri Lanka’s government said last week its forces defeated the Tamil Tigers, ending their fight for a separate Tamil homeland in the east and north. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said aid workers will be allowed into the conflict zone once the army completes operations to clear rebels hiding among the refugees.

“The international community must understand that it is we, the people of this country, who had to endure this problem” of terrorism, Basil Rajapaksa said in an interview. “There is nobody else who understands the repercussions and the sufferings.”

Good Record

The government has a “good record” dealing with displaced civilians in the past, he said. It is committed to returning people who fled in recent months to their homes.

“We will ensure that when everybody in the north returns to their homes, they will go back to a place where there is security,” he added.

Sri Lanka said last week it intends to resettle the displaced people within 180 days and close the transit camps.

“Whether the government can live up to this promise remains to be seen,” Jehan Perera, director of the National Peace Council, a Sri Lankan non-governmental advocacy organization, said in an e-mailed statement today. The scale of destruction, the de-mining of villages and building the basic infrastructure needed to enable refugees to return may take “considerable” time, he said.

Ban, at the end of his visit, said there “is a wide gap between what is needed and what is available” for the refugees. “The UN and other international humanitarian agencies need immediate and unimpeded access to the camps.”

Ban called on the government to speed up the screening and registration of civilians.

LTTE Leadership

Soldiers routed the last Tamil Tiger forces more than a week ago, killing their chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran and the group’s leaders, who were holding out in a strip of land near the northeastern port of Mullaitiviu.

The LTTE acknowledged yesterday for the first time that Prabhakaran is dead, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported on its Web site.

The Tamil Tigers will now use non-violent methods in the struggle for a Tamil homeland, the BBC cited Selvarasa Pathmanathan, head of international relations for the LTTE, as saying in a telephone interview.

About 10,000 LTTE fighters, including 1,601 female members, have surrendered to the army and are being rehabilitated, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on its Web site yesterday.

The UN Human Rights Council should use its special session on Sri Lanka tomorrow to seek commitments from the government to address the “disastrous” humanitarian situation, Human Rights Watch said, according to a statement on its Web site today.

“Although the fighting has stopped the humanitarian situation is still alarming and real improvements are needed now,” Brad Adams, Asia director of the group said, according to the statement.

[Full Coverage]

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