A destabilized Lanka can trigger fresh exodus of illegal immigrants – ex-FM


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lankan government expects the international community to take a fresh look at the post-war recovery projects in the Northern and Eastern Provinces as resettlement of the war displaced as well as the rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres gather momentum.

Defence and External Ministry sources told The Island that the Colombo-based embassies should evaluate the ground situation on their own without depending on NGOs and the LTTE rump. In spite of UNOCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) releasing factual ‘situation reports’, regarding developments in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, interested parties continue to raise concerns, sources said.

The government welcomed the recent visits to the North and East by senior British HC officials. Responding to a query by The Island, a British HC spokesperson said: "The British High Commissioner John Rankin visited the Vanni and the Deputy British High Commissioner Mark Gooding visited the Jaffna and Trincomalee Districts in June 2011. They saw first-hand that many people, formerly displaced, have been able to return to their places of origin and that de-mining work was making progress.  They were also briefed on the numerous continuing challenges in these areas, such as on-going humanitarian efforts, longer term economic development, security, and reconciliation."

Government sources said that Sri Lanka appreciated UK Defence Minister Dr. Liam Fox visiting Colombo to deliver the Kadirgamar memorial lecture over the weekend. The visit wouldn’t be to the liking of the LTTE rump as it would bring back memories of the LTTE assassination in August 2005, which effectively ended hopes of a negotiated settlement.

Former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told The Island that post-war achievements were significant since the conclusion of the conflict in May two years ago in spite of ongoing destabilization efforts. Bogollagama, who held the foreign affairs portfolio during eelam war IV, alleged that the LTTE rump had brought in some key Australian politicians into their anti-Sri Lanka campaign. Bogollagama was responding to Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd throwing his weight behind the controversial ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ produced by the UK-based Channel 4 News.

Bogollagama said that those who passionately believed in ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ had conveniently forgotten that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office strongly disputed what the documentary said with regard to the UNSG’s visit to Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the war. The former FM said that it would be foolish on Sri Lanka’s part to expect Channel 4 News to be fair by Sri Lanka, when it didn’t care even for the UN chief.

Responding to a query, Bogollagama warned that a destabilized Sri Lanka would cause a fresh exodus of would-be-immigrants and Australia would definitely be a key target. Recalling an understanding reached between the governments of Sri Lanka and Australia to curb illegal immigration during his tenure as the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Bogollagama said that foreign governments shouldn’t fall into the LTTE trap.

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