'Let the civilians leave', Akashi urges LTTE
We hope that even now the LTTE will change its
attitude and let the IDPs in areas it still holds move to other areas,
as several thousands of others had already done, Japan's special envoy
for Peace Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka
Yasushi Akashi told a media briefing in Colombo on Saturday(May 2).
"It is heartwarming that people from the South of Sri
Lanka, most of them Sinhalese, are collecting goods and money for the
internally displaced people from the north. I hope this spirit of
harmony and friendship will prevail in the future," he said.
One of the major tragedies that led to the breakdown
of the peace process in Sri Lanka was the LTTE's failure to attend the
Tokyo Conference in 2003, for which it was invited, and which produced
the Tokyo Declaration, which was a road map to peace in the country, he
Commenting on conditions in the IDP transit centres,
where he said they could be better, but for the sudden influx of several
thousands within two weeks.
The media briefing was held at the end of a busy
schedule during which Akashi had a two and half hour meeting with
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, where the focus of discussion was the
humanitarian conditions regarding the IDPs and the government's military
operations against the LTTE to eradiate terrorism.
Akashi who had visited major IDP facility, said he was
impressed by the commitment and dedicated efforts of the leaders of the
relief operations to help ease the conditions of the people, and the
good coordination and cooperation between the government departments and
officials and the UN, UNHCR, UNICEF and other relief agencies.
There were vocational training facilities already in
place, education was provided to children, and some of the IDPs had even
planted vegetable plots around their shelters.
He was pleased that President Rajapaksa had attached
great importance to the position that the solution to the problem in Sri
Lanka was not military but political, and was firmly committed to
ensuring that all the people of the country could live together in
friendship and harmony.
Answering questions on reports of heavy armed attacks
in the No Fire Zone, he said there were such reports, "but I do not know
from where the firing was coming. There was no way of establishing the
veracity of the various reports received."
He expressed hope that the government will remain
faithful to its policy of restraint and zero tolerance of casualties,
and in keeping with its statement of April 27, restrict military action
to self-defence and absolutely necessary action for humanitarian
Questioned on conditions for Japanese bilateral aid to
Sri Lanka if the current humanitarian military operations continue,
Akashi said the Japanese policy on country aid was based on certain
criteria for each country, for longer term development, although the
situation could be reviewed in the future if the necessity arose for
With regard to the Co-Chairs, he said Japan did not
agree with the view of the other Co-Chair members that economic
assistance should be linked to success in the peace process.
"Problems caused by the misjudgment of leaders, should
not be used to punish the people," he said. Responding to another
question whether Japan disagreed with the Western position on the need
for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka, he said the
two matters had different political connotations, and he was not certain
whether was any such commonly agreed western position on the issue.
He said the Japanese Cabinet had last week decided to
give US$ 4 million as aid to Sri Lanka specifically for non-food, water
supply and other needs of the IDPs.
He had been assured by President Rajapaksa that 80
percent of the present IDPs would be resettled in "by end December this
year and there were constraints" with regard to the progress of
de-mining operations, and the need to conform to international standards
on resettlement, to which Sri Lanka was committed.
Courtesy : Daily News