'Suspension of Western aid will hit the poor'
Suspension of Western aid would not make Sri Lanka bankrupt, but it would certainly hit the poor in the rural areas, Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona told Hindustan Times on Monday.
The UK has suspended the disbursement of 50% of its commitment; Germany has been talking tough, and the EU has been making some noises about suspending aid. "Aid commitments from these countries are not huge. Japan, China and India give much more. But the European aid is targeted, and the projects to which they are tied, are meant to benefit poor villages, the poor farmer," Kohona said.
"Sri Lanka will not go bankrupt if it is denied British aid of 1.4 million pounds sterling. But the poor in the villages, waiting for a water supply scheme or a project of that sort, will be hit directly and instantly," he pointed out.
Sri Lankan cabinet minister, GL Peiris, had recently appealed to the West not to stop aid to his country on the grounds that human rights were being violated. He said that stoppage of aid would only affect the poor in his country.
Peiries defended the on-going war in the North-East saying that it was necessary to weaken terrorism before commencing peace talks.
Media reports said that the Sri Lankan government had invited the Norwegians to begin the peace process again, and that the Norwegian Peace Envoy, Hansen Bauer, would go to the LTTE's headquarters at Kilinochchi in a week or two, to talk to the Tamil rebel group's leadership.
However, political observers said that even if the Sri Lankan government relented, and allowed Bauer to go to Kilinochchi, suspending military operations in the vicinity, the LTTE might not be interested in receiving him. "He is not going to have anything new to tell them," a diplomat observed.