By Shamindra Ferdinando
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa says Sri Lanka remains committed to the UN ideals and strongly believes in working with the international community in a post-LTTE era, contrary to the perception among a section of the global community.
The outspoken official, who is widely credited with spearheading the overall military strategy against the LTTE, says the time is ripe for a partnership for progress.
Eradication of LTTE terrorism at a tremendous cost to the country, he said, had given all stakeholders an opportunity to work in unison for one goal.
In a candid interview with The Sunday Island where he pulled no punches, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa accused an influential section within the UN of exploiting the ongoing protest outside the UN compound at the Bauddhaloka Mawatha compound to undermine Sri Lanka.
Could they be so naïve to blame the closure of UNDP Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific situated at the Independence Avenue on the ongoing protest at Bauddhaloka Mawatha?
An irate Rajapaksa said that the Colombo-based diplomatic community and the Sri Lankan government had been aware of the decision to shift that office to Bangkok for some time.
Asked whether the government take up this issue with the UN, a smiling Rajapakasa pointed out that UN Office of the Resident Coordinator had rectified the erroneous statement attributed to the UNSG.
Rajapaksa said: "We are glad the Colombo Mission had acted swiftly, though UNSG caused irreparable damage. Almost all international wire services carried UNSG’s remarks regarding the relocation of the UNDP Regional Centre due to our failure to thwart violent protests directed at the UN personnel and its premises."
Responding to Opposition criticism of him interfering in police operation to break the NFF (National Freedom Front) siege on the UN compound, the Gajaba veteran said that he ordered the police out after they had aggravated situation by attacking protesters.
He said that on his instructions a senior Army official based in Colombo had met the UN staff and assured them of security, while Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, too, visited the UN compound.
Acknowledging that the entrance to the compound had been barricaded at one point, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that he had directed the Army to clear the entrance.
The Secretary said that a section of the international community was hell bent on punishing Sri Lanka for defeating the LTTE.
Commenting on the UNSG’s appointment of a three-member panel to advise him on accountability issues regarding alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Army, Rajapaksa asked whether anything could be as foolish as DNA leader General Sarath Fonseka’s statement that he (Rajapaksa) ordered surrendering LTTE cadres shot on the Vanni east front.
"Fonseka is on record as saying that his statement was based on what a journalist, who had been embedded with the Army, told him. This is nothing but hearsay. Did he verify this information with the commanders on the Vanni front before rushing to the Sunday Leader," he asked.
Rajapaksa said that it would be interesting to know whether UNSG’s statement over the closure of UNDP Regional Centre in the wake of NFF protest was based on information provided by any senior UN official based in Colombo or his office made it up.
He expressed confidence that Colombo-based diplomatic community would delve into this matter, though they may not come discuss it publicly.
The Dean of the Colombo-based diplomatic community is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris tomorrow (July 12) to discuss the ongoing NFF protest.
Rajapaksa urged the international community to give Sri Lanka breathing space now that 30-year menace of LTTE terrorism had been finally neutralized.
Referring to ongoing international military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and off Somalia, he said that Sri Lankan forces even went to the extent of taking losses to minimize civilian casualties.
The number of Afghan soldiers being killed on the battlefield due to ‘friendly fire’ emphasized the vulnerability of ordinary civilians in Afghanistan, he pointed out. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Island ~