West misled by LTTE sympathizers – Defence Secretary

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Nations hounding Sri Lanka internationally should engage constructively with the government, Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said.

He said, “Sri Lanka’s journey since the dawn of peace has seen the country transform from a nation in the throes of many post conflict challenges to a country that is amongst the most peaceful, stable and secure in the world”. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was delivering the Keynote address at the seminar on ‘Political and Diplomatic Challenges Faced by Nations During and after Conflict Confined to Borders’, jointly organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) and the High Commission for Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Sri Lanka at the LKIIRSS yesterday.

The Defence Secretary said, the government’s unwavering commitment and resolve to overcome all the challenges it faced in the post conflict situation has laid the foundation for a prosperous future for all our citizens, irrespective of their diversity and differences.” “Unfortunately, the international pressure brought to bear on Sri Lanka especially by the Western nations misled by LTTE sympathisers can cause international investors and even tourists to stay away from the country. This will have a very adverse impact on the country’s economic situation, which will be most felt by the people in the former conflict areas.

“Instead of narrowing the scope of their engagement with Sri Lanka because of the many misrepresentations and lobbying effected by special interest groups in their own countries, the nations that are pressuring Sri Lanka internationally should engage constructively with the government. It is only then that they will see for themselves the good work being carried out here despite significant constraints,” Rajapaksa said.

The Defence Secretary said that though the natural tendency of most governments would have been to severely punish the cadres for engaging in brutal terrorist activities, President Rajapaksa held a different view of the LTTE cadres who had surrendered or had been captured by the military.

“President Rajapaksa believed that the LTTE cadres had been misled and that they deserved a chance to lead normal lives in a peaceful nation. As a result, it was decided that the vast majority of cadres would be rehabilitated and reintegrated with society as soon as possible and that only the cadres most involved in terrorist activities would be prosecuted”, he said.

Talking of the resettlement of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), the biggest challenge any government would face after a conflict, the Defence Secretary said that resettlement of all IDPs was completed in less than three and a half years. It is particularly noteworthy that with the exception of a very few, all the IDPs were resettled in their places of origin.

“Resettlement was even carried out in areas such as Vellamullavaikkal where the final battles took place. Certain political parties and various activists claimed that this would never occur because they alleged there were mass graves in those areas. However, resettlement did take place, and the resettled people themselves can attest that the alleged mass graves never existed.” Restoring political plurality in the war affected areas has been a major challenge because it is not easy to find and motivate suitable people to come out and join the political process, he noted .”

However, strengthening multi party democracy in these areas is a critical factor to combat the doctrine that has been fed to the people by the LTTE for many decades, The Defence Secretary said. Although it is only the beginning, the work that has been achieved by the

mainstream political parties as well as newly established groups in these areas is commendable. It is doing a lot to dispel the LTTE’s false doctrine and restore proper democracy in these areas”, he said.

Acting High Commissioner for Pakistan in Sri Lanka Amna Baloch, External Affairs Ministry Secretary Karunatilleke Amunugama, Executive Dirctor of LKIIRSS Asanga Abeyagoonesekera and many others also spoke. (Courtesy: Daily News)