Needed: Action not visits

Sri Lanka's protracted conflict has attracted many foreign experts, like ants to honey or flies to muck, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Among them are many self-styled conflict resolution and humanitarian geniuses. Their involvement in the conflict here may have served their purpose but certainly not Sri Lanka's.

Each and every peace process conducted at their best came a cropper and no traces of their multi-million-dollar reconstruction, rehabilitation or development projects exist in the North and the East, where the whole caboodle of Victim Industrialists had operated for more than two decades until a few months ago. In the newly opened up Vanni, there are only LTTE-built earth bunds and motes as far as the eye can see. What happened to the funds NGOs and INGOs obtained from donors for rebuilding?

Now, we have UN Under-Secretary General on Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes here on a four-day visit. He has come all the way, we are told, on Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama's invitation. He is scheduled to have talks with government leaders and others on the humanitarian situation in the Vanni. Predictably, nothing will come of these powwows. Holmes will have had a holiday in tropical climes and Bogollagama a boost for his ego.

This is not the time for visits but prompt action. Fifteen UN workers and 75 of their dependents, as we pointed out yesterday, have been taken hostage by the LTTE. Holmes ought to go beyond sightseeing tours and urge his bosses at the UN Headquarters to do their damnedest to rescue those UN staff as well as other hapless civilians.

It is not only the LTTE cadres trapped in Mullaitivu who are responsible for the abduction of UN workers but all the LTTE big brains and activists residing overseas and providing funds and expertise for the terrorist war here. The UN must call upon its member states harbouring Sri Lanka's terrorists such as Britain, Canada, Norway, Australia, France and Sweden to crack down on the LTTE on their soil so that Prabhakaran will be shocked into releasing at least the UN workers and their families forcibly held in Mullaitivu. Britain once used such coercive methods successfully to rescue some hostages including the late TULF MP Sam Thambimttu's wife and son from the LTTE. The UN may also solicit assistance from the internationally known LTTE supporters like Bruce Fein, Eric Solheim and Keith Vaas for this purpose or they must be hauled up before an international tribunal for aiding and abetting the LTTE's crimes against civilians.

The UN has shamed the civilized world, especially the global superpowers, it claims to represent by allowing itself to be castrated by a terrorist outfit on its last legs. It will be interesting to know what Holmes has got to say about the UN workers in captivity and how he proposes to secure their release.

We hope Holmes would not be misled by the Tiger backers in the garb of UN officials here into suggesting a course of action which will be tantamount to a bailout package for the sinking Tigers.

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