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Clashing perspectives on aid to Lanka

The Govt, LTTE and donors are pulling in different directions on the issue of giving aid, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 17:17 IST

The Sri Lanka government, the LTTE, and the international donors are pulling in different directions on the issue of giving developmental aid in a situation of war and conflict.

Widely varying and contradictory perspectives on this issue have found expression in the context of the two-day meeting of the Sri Lanka Development Forum, which began in Galle on Monday.

The donor community wants aid to be tied to a reduction in the scale and intensity of the hostilities and an improvement in the human rights situation.

But the Sri Lankan government wants aid to come unconditionally because the war that it is waging against the LTTE is meant to "liberate" the Tamils from the "terrorists".

The LTTE, on the other hand, wants the donors to use aid as a lever to make the government halt its military operations and come to a political settlement with it on the Tamil question.

Donors' concerns

The donors made their concerns clear in a press release on January 6, in which they held all the parties to the conflict responsible for the gross violation of human rights in the war-torn North East.

Their report accused all of them of hampering the flow of aid to the vulnerable sections of the population there.

The donors wanted the government, the armed forces (and its Tamil auxiliaries like the Karuna group), and the LTTE, to observe international humanitarian law and allow the free and unfettered flow of aid, whether it was being rendered by the government, local NGOs or international NGOs.

Govt's concerns

The Sri Lankan government's hard line approach was made clear on Saturday, when the Deputy Minister for Finance, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, said that it would not accept any conditions from the donors.

"The government has its own agenda to address the various concerns and issues and as such we are not planning to take any conditions from the donor community," added the Deputy Treasury Secretary RA Jayatissa.

In his inaugural address at the Forum on Monday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the military actions against the LTTE were meant to "liberate the people from the humanitarian burdens" created by the terrorists and that this had "increased the demand for funds for relief and rehabilitation."

Rajapaksa maintained that the war was being waged keeping human rights in mind.

LTTE's concerns

The LTTE, which is not a participant in the forum, is of the view that all the human rights violations are being done by the government, its armed forces and the Tamil paramilitaries. Aid flow is being hindered by the state, not the LTTE.

The LTTE's political wing leader, SP Tamilselvan, said on Sunday, that the international community was not matching its strong words on the need for peace with effective action.

It was not using its clout over the government to stop the war and go for talks, he complained.

Accusing the international community of a bias against the LTTE, Tamilselvan warned that the LTTE would never go for talks while the war was on.