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Thank you for your questions. I should note however that there is an agreement that the substance of negotiations between the Government and the TNA should remain confidential. I am aware that this has been breached on occasion, but I believe I should not in any way contribute to this, so I will respond in general, rather than deal with particulars that might be seen as breaching confidence.

I think you are wrong to say that government has not embarked on significant development programmes in the North. I believe that physical progress has been fantastic, and that the level of services provided now far exceeds what was there before. Roads, irrigation works, schools, hospitals, are at levels unthinkable in the past when the Vanni was neglected by successive governments, and then destroyed during the period of LTTE control.

However we should move more quickly on human resources development, which is slow throughout the country, except in the Colombo area, because we still think in terms of centralized delivery. That should change, with more partnership, of the private sector which must be facilitated to help in human development too.

I think there have been delays in the reconciliation process caused by continuing distrust. I am sorry the TNA did not accept the olive branches the government extended in 2009, and instead went into their alliance with Sarath Fonseka. Unfortunately, after that, government thought they could not be sincere about concern for the Tamil people, and were more interested in trying to topple this government. I think we should have ignored that factor earlier, and engaged in discussions earlier, but I think it is important for both sides to appreciate why the other is so wary.

With regard to the question of Tamil civilians in custody, there has been some confusion, as I have tried to explain in different articles elsewhere. There are in fact two categories. One is the former LTTE combatants, with regard to whom I believe government has done a great job, in terms of rehabilitation. Many have been released, and I found them generally very positive about the process – though I think we should now be doing more to ensure productive futures for them. More than half, including all the females, have been released by now. Access is provided to their families and we hope that most of them, except the few who might be charged, will be released by the end of the year.

The second category is those taken into custody on suspicion of clandestine involvement with the LTTE. I was involved in the past in an initiative to expedite dealing with these, and I believe we did well towards the end of 2009 in reducing the numbers. Our position, at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, as Secretary of which I chaired the committee the President had set up, was that we could not recommend release or otherwise, but the State had a duty to proceed quickly, and release all those against whom there were no charges. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2011
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