Italian Ambassador
on Island news item and edit
"In the article entitled "UN confirms DM charge on ING0 vehicles in LTTE hands", which appeared on The Island of 31 July, and in the one entitled "‘Probe INGOs with terror links", which appeared on The Island of 1 August, it is affirmed, respectively, that "The Italian Government had sent ten truckloads of supply to LTTE through the Omanthai entry/exit point in early January 2005", and that "The Italian Government send ten truckloads of undeclared goods into the LTTE held areas in January 2005".

Those reports represent, yet again, another example of careless and superficial journalism, of which, lately, we have seen many examples in Sri Lanka, far from that ethical principles that every journalist should uphold, as pointed out, several times, by the Minister of Mass Media and Information, when he stresses the need for a more responsible media. The inaccuracy of those articles could have been easily prevented, had their authors taken the trouble to contact this Embassy on the matter.

For the benefit of your readers, I would like to set the record straight. After the tsunami, there was in Italy an enormous outpouring of empathy for the terrible disaster that befell Sri Lanka. Italy, with the Department of Civil Protection, was the first country to send emergency supplies, and, since then, over 100 million Euros, in public and private funds, have been donated for post tsunami reconstruction projects.

The above mentioned articles probably refer to the shipment of emergency goods donated by the Italian Government in order to help alleviate the situation of tsunami victims in un-cleared areas. It was a humanitarian initiative which, I can guarantee, was carried out with the authorization, the approval and under the control of the Government of Sri Lanka, which had perfect knowledge of the nature of the emergency goods that were delivered.

It is worthwhile recalling that, at that time, there were high hopes, in Sri Lanka and among the international community, that the terrible sufferings of the people affected by the tsunami and the reconstruction efforts that were in the process of implementation would create a favorable environment for the solution of the conflict, as occurred, later, in the case of Aceh in Indonesia. In this regard, the P-TOMS Agreement raised many expectations that, unfortunately, were never to materialize.

The implications of the two articles that appeared in The Island are offensive to the Italian Government, and I deplore the fact that your newspaper should play in such a casual, inaccurate and superficial manner with such important issues.

I believe The Island is aware that the Government of Sri Lanka has continued paying the salaries of public servants in un-cleared areas, even though it knows that some of that money will be forcibly taken by the LTTE, but I do not suppose that the Government of Sri Lanka can be accused of aiding the LTTE.

I am disappointed at the unsubstantiated allegations so lightly leveled against Italy, a country that has always strongly and unreservedly condemned any form of terrorism - and which prides herself to be counted amongst the best friends of Sri Lanka.

I would appreciate if you could publish this letter on your newspaper.

Pio Mariani
Ambassador of Italy

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