Dhanapala is SL candidate for UN post

The Sri Lankan candidate for the Secretary General's post says under him UN will respect sovereignty of nations, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 18:32 IST

Sri Lanka's candidate for the post of UN Secretary General, Jayantha Dhanapala, has said that under his stewardship, the United Nations will respect the sovereignty of nations.

Addressing the media in Colombo on Monday, Dhanapala said that the UN should "respect" national sovereignties when addressing issues relating to conflicts within member countries.

A former UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs, and Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Beijing, Washington and Geneva accredited to the UN, 66-year-old Dhanapala considers himself well qualified for the top world job, which will be up for grabs at the end of this year.

Asked specifically how he would tackle the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, he said that the UN's role would depend on what Sri Lanka wanted it to do.

Stressing the importance of finding lasting solutions to such internal conflicts, the scholar-diplomat pointed out that 50 per cent of the countries which had "resolved" conflicts tended to suffer a "relapse".

US role in UN

Asked how he planned to tackle the United States, the world's only super power, which seemed to dominate the UN, Dhanapala said that the US was actually working for consensus on a number issues before the UN.

"The UN needs the US and the US needs the UN. No single country can manage international relations on its own," he said.

Dhanapala portrayed himself as a "consensus builder", and Sri Lanka itself as a long-standing votary of consensus in international affairs.

He described himself as a "pragmatic and apolitical moderate", who would bring a balanced approach to the problems before the UN.

He was also a "realist", with first hand and thorough knowledge of the internal dynamics of the UN system, having been the Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs between 1998 and 2003.

This would help him adopt a practical and realistic approach to UN reform, a question he hopes to grapple with as Secretary General.

Asked whether he thought that the veto was an anachronism in a democratic world, he said that it was "exceedingly difficult" to do away with it.

"We have to be realistic. The UN is but a combination of pragmatism and idealism. As Dag Hammarskjold (a former UN Secretary General) said, the UN can save people from going to hell, but not take them to heaven."

The Sri Lankan minister for Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera launched Dhanapala's website www.jayanthadhanapala.info in Colombo on Monday.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 11:38 IST