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Talk at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India – 29 October 2010

The Sri Lankan experience of the last few years should be of enormous interest internationally. In a context in which the war against terrorism is failing on several fronts, Sri Lankan success in this respect should be a model for the rest of the world. However the discourse in what is termed the international community is quite otherwise, and indeed Radhika Coomaraswamy, the most senior Sri Lankan official within the United Nations system, is reported to have warned us that several Non-Governmental Organizations were anxious to ensure that the model would not be followed.

Why is this? After all the facts in favour of Sri Lanka speak for themselves. We defeated a terrorist group often described as the most dangerous in the world. We rescued nearly 300,000 civilians which that group had held hostage, intending to use them as human shields, killing them when they tried to get away. We have resettled almost all those civilians more quickly than in any comparable operation in the world, and we have provided them with basic infrastructure including fully operational schools.

In the period before terrorism was eradicated from our soil, we continued to provide social services to all our citizens, including those in areas controlled by the terrorists. This included free books and uniforms for school children, while we continued to conduct public examinations, which just once the terrorists tried to disrupt, only to be overwhelmed by the determination of parents to continue to benefit from what the state provided. We were able to ensure supplies of food throughout this period, and healthcare that continued through to the end of hostilities. The International Committee of the Red Cross was present throughout this period, and was able with the assistance of the Sri Lankan government and navy personnel to take away about 14,000 people to government run hospitals in the course of the conflict.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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