Annan hopes for peace in Lanka after tsunami relief
The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan hopes that the inter-ethnic cooperation which he saw in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka, will accelerate the peace process in the war-torn island.
Addressing the media in Colombo on Sunday, Annan said that the cooperation between the Tamils, Sinhalas and Muslims, which he saw in Hambantota and Trincomalee, was "extraordinary."
In Hambantota, in the predominantly Sinhala South, he saw a mosque housing people of all religions. In the Tamil area of Trincomalee, he found Tamil and Muslim children playing together in a relief camp housed in a school.
"The ordinary people of Sri Lanka have come together in an extraordinary way. I hope the political leaders will also come together," Annan said.
He urged the people and the leaders of Sri Lanka to see the reconstruction process as an "opportunity to accelerate the peace process."
Asked if he felt bad for not being able to visit the LTTE-controlled areas (media quoted UN officials as saying that the Sri Lankan government did not want him to visit the Tamil rebel-held areas of North Sri Lanka), Annan said that he hoped to come to Sri Lanka again, visit all the parts of the country, and "celebrate peace."
He said that he got an idea of what was happening in the various parts of the island by taking to the Tamil alliance leaders, the Government and other political representatives.
Asked to comment on fears that his not going to the rebel-held areas might jeopardise the UN's relief efforts there, Annan said that the UN was not a "one man show".
"And we are here for the long haul," he stressed.
On the widely held fear that the huge amounts of money now pouring into Sri Lanka might by siphoned off by corrupt officials or directed to the wrong places, Annan said that the UN had mechanisms to see that this did not happen.
The UN Special Coordinator for tsunami relief Margareta Wahlstrom added that there would be joint mechanisms comprising representatives from the UN, the host Government and NGOs, to see that the aid was utilised properly and that there was no corruption and misuse.
The Secretary General added that the UN was conscious of the fact that it was accountable to the donor nations, which were dishing out the money. Proper accountability was necessary to get more funds from the donors, he said.
He further said that there would be a meeting of donors in Geneva on January 11 to finalise contributions.
"I hope, we will receive the billions of dollars we are asking for," Annan said.
He clarified that allocation for tsunami relief would be separate from the Millennium Fund.
Speaking on the Palestinian elections, Annan said that the election would give the Palestinians an opportunity to elect their own leaders and hoped that the polls would "open new prospects for peace by re-energising the peace process" in that region.
He also hoped the new leaders of Palestine would get the support of their people and the international community.