[Posted on the ACSLU Blogs Page]
Aid Noose Tightens ?
The Press Release of the British High Commissioner (see below) is another step in the progressive tightening of the aid noose around Sri Lanka's neck. It will be recalled that Germany suspended aid to Sri Lanka, and has attempted to use its position as Chair of the EU to see that this becomes standard EU policy. The British declaration can be seen as a step in this process.
The British Government is conducting a review before releasing the next installment of Tsunami "aid". The strings attached to this aid include "human rights, hostilities, defence spending and accountability systems. The first three conditions clearly relate to the policy towards the separatist insurgency. The last condition relates to the alleged misappropriation of Tsunami funds, especially in the early days when these funds were alleged to have been paid into private bank accounts of politicians. In the last year the Rajapakse Government engaged in a series of low-to-medium level hostilities against the LTTE in the course of which places like Mavil Aru, Sampoor and Vakarai in the Eastern province were taken from LTTE control. In the course of these operation a great hue-and-cry was raised by the "international community" (IC) on human rights and displaced persons grounds. No doubt these reports will be closely scrutinized by the British as also the alleged support of GOSL for child recruitment by the TVMP ('Col Karuna' faction).
The investigation of matters directly dealing with the anti-terrorist operations is a direct violation of the sovereign rights of the country. It has nothing to do with the Tsunami. There is also a reference of aid given to "de-mining; promotion of conflict resolution and programmes to promote the rights of children". These are also linked directly to policy in connection with fighting the terrorist insurgency. It must be remembered that "conflict resolution" is a code word for negotiations with the terrorists, a policy which Britain does not apply to itself in connection with terrorists active in Britain. The "rights of children" do not refer to the right of children to be free of ethnic cleansing but to avoid recruitment into paramilitary forces especially of the LTTE and TVMP. Thus the "aid" given by Britain is being used to affect the policy of the Sri Lanka in combating terrorism and territorial disintegration in Sri Lanka.
The re is a denial that the aid granted as debt relief will not related to possible "de-proscription" of the LTTE in the UK. Of course the matter of proscribing terrorist groups is an internal matter for the UK and there is no reason why it should be related to aid given to Sri Lanka. But the mere fact that the issue of de-proscription is mentioned means that is included in the British Government's agenda. Of course we know that proscription of the LTTE in Britain has been a cosmetic affair. Thus despite the proscription one of the LTTE's chief leader Anton Balasingham lived without let or hindrance in Britain for a long time.
Thus the current review and subsequent reviews will mean that the freedom of Sri Lanka to deal with the terrorist insurgency will be severely curtailed. No other independent government will allow this kind of scrutiny under the cover a giving "aid". It is a measure of weakness of GOSL that it has to humiliate itself by bartering away its sovereignty in exchange for aid. While other Asian countries have made themselves relatively independent Sri Lanka in the fifty years since the Great Hela Revolution has fritted away the assets it had in sterile chauvinistic conflict.
In December 2005, the British and Sri Lankan governments signed an agreement for the provision of £41 million of debt relief. The debt relief was to be used for post-tsunami recovery and poverty reduction work and would be paid in yearly instalments of about £4 million between 2005 and 2015. The two governments agreed a number of conditions against which these yearly instalments would be made. These conditions relate to human rights, hostilities, defence spending and accountability systems.
As part of the process leading to the release of the next instalment of debt relief, the British Secretary of State for International Development wrote last week to the Sri Lankan government to seek clarification that these conditions were still being met.
Debt relief was just part of the British government's response to the tsunami. We donated over £6 million to immediate relief and reconstruction in Sri Lanka. We contributed in excess of £140 million, from which Sri Lanka benefited, for longer-term reconstruction and rehabilitation in the region.
In addition to tsunami assistance, the British government has contributed more than £13 million to activities in Sri Lanka including de-mining; promotion of conflict resolution and programmes to promote the rights of children in Sri Lanka. Most recently in September 2006, we contributed £500,000 in response to an urgent plea for funds to help internally displaced people.
Recent press reporting has suggested that debt relief is linked to possible de-proscription of the LTTE. As British Minister, Dr Kim Howells, made clear during his visit to Sri Lanka this week, the British government is not considering de-proscribing the LTTE. The issues of debt relief and de-proscription are not in any way linked.
The British government remains committed to helping the people of Sri Lanka develop the conditions necessary for a sustainable peace in their country.