|Accustomed as we are to being lectured on human
rights by western nations and assorted international
institutions, it was a refreshing change this week
when United Nations Under Secretary General of
Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes declared that he
was ‘happy’ at the ‘new’ progress seen in resettling
the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in the North,
after being ‘frustrated for several months.’
Holmes is on his fourth visit to the island in
the post-war era and had earned a reputation for
being biased against the Sri Lankan authorities. We
can only guess as to whether he had suddenly turned
a new leaf, or whether there was in fact a faster
scheme to rehabilitate the IDPs in operation.
Perhaps it was a bit of both.
Whatever the reasons, it is welcome news. Just as
much as the government in Colombo did not flinch in
the face of relentless pressure from the
international community, during the final stages of
the Eelam War, it has not blinked when confronted
with such pressures in the aftermath of the battle,
steadfastly refusing to subscribe to dictated
agendas in resettling the displaced.
This led to some unsavoury confrontation between
the government and certain western nations and
international organisations. If the comments made by
John Holmes are a yardstick, it appears that the
world at large is finally coming to terms with the
fact that it serves to work with the Sri Lankan
authorities, rather than being constantly at
loggerheads with it.
The reality is that Sri Lanka has won its own war
on terror against, arguably, the most ruthless
terrorist organisation in the world. Unpalatable
though that may sound to some countries - especially
those nations whose sympathies were with the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the
cause that they espoused - this is now a fact.
If the objective of these western nations and
other organisations is to ultimately better the lot
of the IDPs, then there is no better way to do it
than to work with Sri Lanka, with criticism that is
constructive, and not by constantly resorting to
censure and condemnation, reproach and retaliation.
Sri Lanka, it must be realised, is still fighting
a battle to win the hearts and minds of the IDPs,
even though Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead and the
LTTE virtually decimated. Certainly, we agree that
more needs to be done, and that too, done as quickly
as possible. Yet, there are limitations on the
ground and miracles cannot be worked overnight.
If Colombo is encouraged in this task, with
financial support and fruitful engagement, instead
of hostile homilies being dished out every other day
by one official or another, we are certain more can
be done to improve the conditions that the IDPs find
themselves in, and that, this would eventually lead
to a faster re-settlement process.
John Holmes’ statements, we hope, are no flash in
the pan. Just as much the Sri Lankan authorities
should make every effort to meet their own
deadlines, the international community, we earnestly
hope, will applaud and approve that certainly is the