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Japan to aid Lanka despite rights issues

world Updated: Jun 09, 2007 17:10 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran
Hindustan Times
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Yasushi Akashi, Japan's Representative for Peace Building, Rehabilitation and Development in Sri Lanka said here on Saturday, that human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government would not prevent Japan from continuing to give humanitarian and development aid to the people of Sri Lanka.

"The help is for the victims of war and tsunami. The people should not be punished for the omissions and commissions of their leaders. So, Japan will continue to help Sri Lanka," Akashi told newsmen after a five-day visit to the island, his 14 th. since the peace process began in 2002.

"There are no conditions attached to Japanese aid. But we have concerns and guidelines. We are for the Rule of Law, democracy, human rights and security," he said.

In this respect, there were "nuanced" differences between Japan and other aid giving countries, who were toying with the idea of suspending or reducing aid to Sri Lanka, Akashi said. Japan had its own "philosophy" in regard to foreign assistance and it was engaging the other aid givers on this issue, he added.

In Japan's view, it was difficult to measure or "quantify" progress in the peace progress in an ever-changing and complex conflict situation. There were various pulls and pressures in a democracy, and there was division of power between state structures which sometimes created obstacles to progress, he pointed out.

But amidst all this, what must be kept in mind was the interest of the people, the victims of the conflict, Akashi said. In this context he said that he was "impressed" with the rehabilitation and reconstruction work of the government and other agencies in Eastern Sri Lanka, though a lot still needed to he done.

The Co-Chairs of the 2003 Aid Sri Lanka Conference ( US, EU. Japan and Norway) which had tied a US$ 4.5 billion aid package to progress in the peace process, would be meeting at the end of June to take stock of the situation.

RIGHTS VIOLATIONS NORMAL IN CONFLICT SITUATIONS

Akashi acknowledged that there were "deficiencies and shortcomings" in regard to human rights in Sri Lanka, but he got the impression that these were being addressed by the government of the land.

He admitted that when he landed in Colombo on June 5, he was "depressed" and there was "tension" in the air, but after meeting the President and high officials, he was convinced about their "commitment" to human rights and a negotiated peace settlement.

About the recent evictions of Tamils from Colombo, and the disappearances and abductions in Colombo, Jaffna and the East, Akashi said that these certainly did not accord with the "values of a civilised society", but it was natural that these values sometimes suffered and were likely to be given "second place" in a country fighting terrorism.

Blaming the lower echelons of the government for the violations, Akashi said that the commitment to human rights that he found at the higher levels of the government, had not percolated to the lower levels.

Asked why he had not visited the LTTE at their headquarters in Kilinochchi during this visit, Akashi said that this time round he was concerned about the security situation in North Sri Lanka. Furthermore, he was more interested in knowing about progress in the work of the All Party Representative Committee on Devolution (APRC).

The chairman of the APRC, Prof Tissa Vitharana, had told him that within two months, a consensus-based devolution package would be out.

BAN ON LTTE NOT OFF THE CARDS

On the issue of banning the LTTE, Akashi said that Japan was "considering all options", though a freezing of the LTTE's funds was not possible as there was little in Japan to freeze.

"Japan has about 10,000 Sri Lankans and there is no evidence that there are LTTE supporters among them," he said.

However, he felt that there should be some mechanism to facilitate communication between the two sides to the conflict.

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