Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal wouldn’t have declared that Sri Lanka’s human rights record had deteriorated five years after the conclusion of the conflict if she had been properly briefed by the US embassy in Colombo.
Biswal had been totally ignorant of the situation here as she was misinformed, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said in an interview with The Island yesterday.
The US official met the Defence Secretary before visiting Jaffna, where she held talks with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representatives, including Ananthi Sashitharan, wife of LTTE terrorist Elilan.
An American of Indian origin, Biswal succeeded Robert O. Blake recently.
Biswal said the US believed Sri Lanka’s human rights record had deteriorated five years after the war ended. Democracy was also under threat in Sri Lanka where she said rule of law had weakened while corruption had increased during this time period. “We are concerned about the worsening situation with respect to human rights, including continued attacks against religious minorities, as well as the weakening of the rule of law and an increase in the levels of corruption and impunity. All of these factors lead to undermine the proud tradition of democracy in Sri Lanka”, she said.
“Respect for human rights and a promotion of transparent and democratic governance are essential. Unfortunately, continued deterioration in these areas is already beginning to take its toll on democracy in Sri Lanka,” she said.
The envoy was also critical of attacks on religious minorities as well as intimidation of local residents who complained that they were intimidated after they spoke with visiting foreign dignitaries to discuss Sri Lanka’s rights issues.
Defence Secretary said that Biswal hadn’t been able to comprehend that the Northern Provincial Council couldn’t be held until the defeat of the LTTE, though the elections were held on November 19, 1988 to the then temporarily merged North-Eastern provincial Council under the supervision of the Indian army.
Rajapaksa said that Biswal hadn’t been aware of the nexus between the LTTE and the TNA and the circumstances under which the latter had to call a media conference in Colombo to recognise the terrorist group as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The TNA’s relationship with the LTTE had been highlighted out by the EU following parliamentary polls in Dec 2001, the Defence Secretary said. In fact, the EU election monitoring mission alleged that the TNA benefited from pre-parliamentary poll violence perpetrated by the LTTE, the Defence Secretary said. Biswal could obtain a copy from the EU, he said.
In spite of being the main beneficiary of the LTTE’s battlefield defeat, the TNA continued to attack the government on the human rights front, the Defence Secretary said, adding that he regretted the US was giving credence to baseless allegations and lies propagated by the political grouping.
Recalling the circumstances under which the TNA on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamil speaking people not to exercise their franchise at the November 17, 2005 presidential polls, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that had the US Embassy bothered to examine gradual increase of the number of voters in the Northern Province since the defeat of the LTTE, it would have been able to advise Biswal.
The Defence Secretary said that he had informed Biswal of the increase in Northern votes since the eradication of terrorism. At the presidential election in January 2010 about five per cent exercised their franchise in the Northern Province, at the parliamentary poll in April same year it was 12 per cent. At the subsequent local government polls 45 per cent voted and the first Northern Provincial Council saw a staggering 72 per cent exercise their franchise, the Defence Secretary said. The TNA’s chief ministerial candidate alone had obtained more than 100,000 preferential votes, the Defence Secretary said, urging the US to review its position.
He noted that the Northern Provincial Council polls had been held in peaceful environment. He asked whether it would have been possible if the government had allowed Tamil parties to carry weapons. Referring to the Norwegian Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed in February 2002, the official said that it envisaged disarming all Tamil groups/political parties, while recognising the LTTE’s right to maintain a conventional military capability in the then temporarily merged North- East Province.
Responding to allegations that religious minorities were being targeted, the Defence Secretary asked whether a government in its right mind would sponsor attacks on minorities knowing the impact on its voter base. No sane political leader would allow attacks on minorities, the Defence Secretary said, insisting that an attempt was being made to portray isolated incidents as a project undertaken by the government. The likes of Biswal would never realise how the LTTE influenced violence abroad. The Norwegian who had massacred over 80 people in Oslo in June 2011 had declared that he was following the LTTE attacks directed at Muslims in Northern and Eastern districts of Sri Lanka, the Defence Secretary said.
Referring to the recent strip searching of an Indian diplomat in the US arrested on charge of fraud, the Defence Secretary said that Sri Lanka had never resorted to such measures even at the height of the war in spite of the LTTE using female suicide cadres to target high profile political targets. Today, one of those who had encouraged women cadres, Adele Balasingham lived in the UK, without being held accountable for her crimes, he said. (The Island)