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In considering the individuals within the UN system who have tried to undermine the Sri Lankan government, and in the process also contributed to undermining the good work that the UN in general tries to do, we should look carefully at the various examples of what might be termed pernicious excess.

Most obviously we have those who have gone out on a limb, and been found out, so that even the usually complacent UN system had to deal with them with relative if still inadequate firmness. Prominent amongst these in the last couple of years were John Campbell and Bernard Dix. The latter in fact behaved badly openly only after he had left the services of the UN in Colombo, but then he turned up in Geneva where he was escorted round to various missions by Amnesty International. He did a sort of magic lantern show with slides, which were obviously not very revealing since we did not hear of them later. What gave them, and his critical narrative, substance was his status as an employee of the United Nations, which most regrettably Amnesty was selling for all it was worth.

I told the normally scrupulous Peter Splinter, head of Amnesty in Geneva, that it was really very naughty of him to make use of an emotionally overwrought individual who was in breach of his contract. Peter however seemed to think such conduct was not reprehensible. Fortunately the UN system disagreed, and the UN head in Colombo made sure that Mr Dix stopped using his position to advance criticisms that were fraudulent and proving an embarrassment to the UN as well as to Sri Lanka. Sadly the UN did not see fit on this occasion to issue a statement making its position public, but the system seems to have worked, for that was the last we heard about Mr Dix and his tale of woe. Doubtless he will be recycled elsewhere at some stage, not least because he had been taken into the UN system after a stint with Solidar, which was at the height of its influence at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Resettlement of the displaced from Welfare Centres

The recent rapid progress with regard to resettlement of the displaced from Welfare Centres is immensely welcome. It is also indicative of a coherent planning process that was carried out without concern for disruptive pressures that took no account of national needs.

Thus until May 2009 it was obvious that government had to be extremely careful about the possibility of an LTTE resurgence in the Vanni. With the destruction of the main LTTE leadership that danger seemed less intense, but there was continuing need for vigilance, particularly in the context of some countries trying to privilege the rump of the LTTE that remained abroad. Though that danger too seemed less with the arrest of Mr Pathmanathan, the determination of that rump to resurrect separatism, and therefore the further risk of terrorism, meant that care was still necessary. We had to keep checking as to whether there were enough hardcore experienced activists amongst the displaced to promote an LTTE resurgence.

Though the checking seemed slow, it was obviously absurd for anyone not involved in security matters to second guess those in authority in this regard. But whilst the checks were being conducted, planning for resettlement was proceeding apace, with even the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi District Secretariats working on selecting and readying sites from as early as June 2009. In any case the deadline the government had set itself remained steady, except only that the initial assumption that the bulk would be done by December shifted to January.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2010
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