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In discussing the votes of the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Speaker, we should look at the situation in which Sri Lanka found itself five years ago, and what we have now. In those days, we seemed to be wholly dependent on what called itself the international community, so much so that representatives of that community thought they held the balance between conflicting forces in Sri Lanka. Sadly, so deep had the rot sunk that it was outsiders who had to make the position clear, while some of those who represented Sri Lanka spoke slightingly of military solutions to the terrorist problem, and thought it their duty to keep what they thought the international community satisfied.

The United Nations in those days in effect provided funds to a terrorist movement, and made excuses for child soldiers, claiming that the LTTE could not stop recruiting youngsters of 17 until they had amended their legislation to prevent this. Ambassadors to Sri Lanka preached to us about reconciliation, and expected us to fall in line with whatever they prescribed. High Commissioners felt free to denigrate government officials, and swallowed wholesale stories spun by crafty journalists. Funds intended to assist the Sri Lankan people were not given to government, nor indeed allocated in accordance with government priorities, but were rather given to agencies that thought their rationale was to attack government.

All that, Mr Speaker, has now changed – though I should note that there is more work to do in this respect, for instance to ensure that our national institutions are built up instead of international funding continuing to go to external agencies, with no regard for our own priorities. And we must continue to register clearly, and work in terms of, the simple fact that any country will base its foreign policy on the interests of its own citizens. Less acceptably, we must understand too that some politicians will confuse the interests of their country with their own personal electoral considerations. Unfortunately, in having relied so heavily in what the Opposition thought of as its Western safety net, we laid ourselves open to abuse when those holding the safety net put their own safety first.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2010
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