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“Without India, the LTTE will only get stronger”

Former diplomat and outspoken political analyst K. Godage has continued to express strong views on the path subsequent governments have taken on respective peace process. He remains skeptical of the LTTE’s commitment to a peaceful and negotiated settlement. Holding that Indian support is crucial to resolving the conflict he maintains India to be the only country with a permanent interest in the issue.

Last week with the reports of a Parliamentary Select Committee probe on the Milinda Moragoda Humanitarian De-mining group,Mr. Godage who was the Chairman of the group was in the news again, strongly defending his outfit.

HARD TALK Shakuntala Perera

Q :Why is your de-mining group being probed by the Parliamentary Select Committee?

A:I have asked myself the same question too. This came as a surprise.

We know of no strictures passed on us by anybody nor has anyone raised any question in the past three years – so why now? I can only surmise – it is probably because Milinda Moragoda has in recent days been the subject of some controversy in his party; It has all the hallmarks of it being politically motivated .

The Project may have been the initiative of Mr. Moragoda but we are an independent apolitical organization involved in humanitarian dc-mining in the North and East. It has been alleged that “some volunteer organization involved in de-mining also engaged in other activities such as conducting workshops on Federalism and power devolution”. I wish to state quite emphatically that the MMIPE has neither conducted nor is it involved in any such workshops. Since we are the only Sri Lanka organization involved in de-mining I am inclined to think that this is a deliberate instance of vicious mischief calculated to bring our organization into disrepute.

Q :What is your opinion about the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiries into NGO activities in general?

A: I certainly think that it is absolutely necessary for there to be transparency and accountability; a permanent NGO Commission should be appointed under the Amended 17 Amendment; I also support the enactment of legislation to monitor the work of all NGOs.

Q :You have been very vocal on the international community’s role in the peace process. Despite an EU ban against the LTTE, the LTTE held very elaborate commemorations for Black July in the UK for instance, last week. Is this as far as international bans on terrorist groups go?

A: The UK has no economic interest in this country. We are a small country with no resources of value to them. They have no strategic interest here either. They are just not interested. That is the bottom line. Our problem has become a nuisance to them now. They have 60,000 Tamils in the UK. None of those countries are interested. This is our problem which we have to solve.

Q : There has been a lot of criticism against the government’s own representatives in those countries and their failure to do enough to counter the misconceptions spread by the LTTE in those countries. How fair is that?

A: What is enough? Embassies only do counter propaganda and PR. Do you think that the ban that came, the first time around, would have come around if they had not lobbied for it? Do you think that resolutions that came in the UN or even in the US congress against the LTTE would’ve come through if we had not canvassed it? There have been many resolutions against human rights violations against the Sri Lankan governments, where our representatives have worked to remedy them. It’s just that preventive work is never publicized! They have been doing quiet work. These High Commissioners have been able to push through despite the government being termed hard line Sinhala Buddhist or with Marxist elements. There have been many elements working against the ban. There had been a Tamil Diaspora against it, despite which they were able to pull through. Much of the time these countries are just not interested in Sri Lanka.

Q :Isn’t the mid-east crisis going to further take the global concentration away from Sri Lanka?

A: Of course, but even if Lebanon didn’t happen the international community is tired because nothing is happening. They don’t see the will on the part of the Sri Lankan government.

Q : Do you feel that it is our delay in looking for a viable solution that is shifting international focus away?

A: Certainly, because they don’t see the will on the part of the government. This is making them lose interest. The Japanese for instance have consistently held that this is a government and a non state actor using terrorism to achieve political gain. But they too have lost interest because they don’t see real commitment. Because they see the history of the situation but not where it is going. How they proceed depends largely on how the government moves and if the government and the President want to solve this issue.

Q : You have been critical of India staying away from the Sri Lankan crisis this time around. Is there a political reality for that decision or are other circumstances keeping them away?

A: India has more than enough on its plate. I don’t expect them to be involved. Even at the Vadamarachchi debacle they intervened because they had the interests of 50 million Tamil constituencies in their South. Then on the Provincial Councils too, no attempt has been made to make it work. The Tamils have not accepted it and in the South too it doesn’t work well. And we made no real move to work at devolution after that. They took 1272 casualties with another 2000 maimed for the security of Sri Lanka. And they were chased out. They did wait for us to get our house in order and pass legislation and make reality of the devolution. There may have been a handful within Indian Foreign Ministry with certain imperialist tendencies who wanted to bring us within their orbit. I don’t really blame them for not getting involved. What I say is that they are only people with a permanent interest in what happens to Sri Lanka. They tried to work with the Norwegians. The Norwegians are here by leave of India. They have been reporting to India. This is why Opposition politicians have been running to India. But now India has other preoccupations. They have their own problems, the insurgencies. The government is weak in the coalition. They are dependent on the Southern vote. Because of that they are reluctant to come and get involved. But they can come in as co-chairs. I don’t expect them to come in any capacity other than that.

Q :In this scenario how difficult would it be for a Sri Lankan government to go on its own without Indian support?

A: Well, without India the LTTE will only get stronger. India’s political and strategic interest, and even the law and order situation in Southern India, is all involved where they are concerned. But the path we go today with no change in the unitary constitution will not help the situation.

Q : But isn’t the stalemate in the peace process also affecting faith and confidence building measures?

A: The aspect of the talks apart, other aspects of rebuilding or improving restructure facilities, are the real part of the process where the people are concerned. And the LTTE realized that with the international funds pledged for development if we had gone ahead with the plans planned for, the people would no longer be interested in militancy. And even the talks had reached core issues, so the LTTE pulled out of that too. They didn’t want to go to Tokyo either because they felt they would be cornered further. Of course the Ceasefire Agreement remained, because it was in their interest to keep it going. They were able to strengthen themselves as they have done with every previous ceasefire. In fact the late Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi (Indian intelligence) once told us that the LTTE were building bunkers and were not interested in peace. But late President Premadasa didn’t believe it. All the signs were there but no preventive measures were taken. Then President Chandrika exchanged letters with them, of course with goodwill, but it didn’t work out. The CFA this time again gave them time under political work; which was a naïve expectation, to infiltrate in to government controlled areas without our soldiers being able to do the same thing. The CFA was crafted with Norwegian help and we didn’t have a say in it. Our military didn’t know anything about it. President Chandrika should’ve been shown that, but wasn’t. So it was formulated and signed secretively. The intention was to appease the LTTE. The government let their guard down. Nothing was done to prepare the forces so we were left in a severe state of unpreparedness when Mahinda Rajapaksa became President. And in the midst of this there are some elements saying we should go to war.

Q : Then we are looking at a process where every successive government’s ‘commitment’ to peace has followed a clear pattern of appeasing the LTTE, who were never interested in peace?

A: There is no doubt their agenda was something else. This time around too they are no different. They are not interested in a peaceful solution. If we think that they are then we are foolish. That is why we have to build confidence among the Tamil people. We need to reach out to them. The Tamil language is still not an administrative language in this country.

Q : Is nothing being done to win the Tamil people?

A: No, nothing. We can prepare for talks and have various political committees but we need a plan that talks to the Tamil people and their needs. There must be political will to do that and to let power go from the centre for a viable solution.

Q : You don’t believe the All Party Conference has the capacity to fulfill that?

A: No. They are talking of devolution. But at what level? We have the Provincial Councils where there are Ministers with all the necessary infrastructure, but what have they really achieved? So we have missed a number of opportunities and lost out. This time we have an opportunity because the President wants a negotiated settlement. The question is whether he understands the implications downstream?

-Daily Mirror

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July 31, 2006 - Posted by | Media, Media Journalism, News, News and politics, South Asia, World News

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