Gareth Evans - a flamboyant and opinionated Gilderoy Lockhart

I have two questions based on the ICG report on women’s insecurity in the North and East:

1. The ICG is critical of the government for not doing enough to address the security concerns of women in the North and East, who face a “desperate lack of security”. How do you view this?

As yet another exampe of the tendentious nature on the ICG’s interventions on Sri Lanka. You may be remember the desperate efforts made by the ICG head, Gareth Evans, his sidekick in Colombo Alan Keenan and the latter’s old mate Rama Mani to suggest that Sri Lanka was a situation ripe for the doctrine of Responsibiity to Protect to be applied. Gareth declared that there had been ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka and, when I asked what he meant he asked Alan Keenan to explain (clearly

Alan Keenan - slimy, slithery Nagini of the forked tongue

he had no idea what was meant by the speech he unthinkingly delivered). Alan said – this was in 2007 – that he was referring to what the LTTE had done to the Muslims in 1990. But the speech would have led one to believe that they were referring to what had happened recently with government responsibility.

I think we have to be very careful about what is happening now given that ICES, which was the chosen instrument for R2P, with Radhika Coomaraswamy and her protege Rama Mani pushing it is now going through yet another upheaval, the purpose of which is to

Ambika Satkunanathan ... another Radhika protege

install another Radhika protege Ambika Satkunanathan in the Director’s chair. Even worse than Rama Mani. Ambika had direct LTTE connections, which I brought up with the UN where she worked. They said she had got over them, it seemed to be seen as simply a youthful love affair with an LTTE representative, but I still thought that it was wrong of the UN to have her in an influential position during the conflict. Now if Radhika – who has fallen out with the guy she claimed was responsible for the financial mess, and she only signed the cheques he put in front of her – succeeds in getting her way, we might have even more problems to face in the future, with ICG again leading the way with misleading claims.

2. The report states that the heavily militarised and centralised control of the Tamil-speaking areas with mostly male, Sinhalese security forces creates serious problems for their safety, security and ability to access assistance. Do you have any plans / recommendations  to rectify this situation in your capacity as the Presidential Advisor on Reconciliation?

I say misleading because the security problems women face are real, but these have very little to do with the security forces. It is both fashionable as well as politically pointed to blame the army, but in fact the real problems lie elsewhere. I am reminded of the attacks made on the security forces with regard to abuse at Manik Farm, whereas the complaints were of abuse by the IDPs themselves – the UN gave us one instance of a soldier going at night into the tent of a female IDP, being joined by another, and leaving several hours later. As I told one ambassador who said that she had not heard of any instances of abuse by the military, but their presence made women more vulnerable, such blanket assertions drew attention away from the real problem, which is vulnerability within the community, given the large numbers of single women, and shifting attitudes to sexuality that have been exacerbated by the war situation.

We have discussed this issue at length in the initial meetings of the District Reconciliation Committees, though there was more concern about increased consensual sexual activity too and unwanted pregnancies. These could also spring from vulnerability leading to succumbing to pressure not necessarily with full consent, which is also a problem to address. We have suggested several remedial measures including much more cohesive work at Divisional levels by all those concerned with social work and counselling, and the development of support groups, also using the good offices of religious personnel. This should be worked on intensively, with more and better training of counselors.

Unfortunately I can only advise, so whether our recommendations are taken up will be uncertain. It would make sense for government to set up a Ministry to coordinate such work, and deal with the human elements as efficiently as the infrastructure is being set up, but there is generally less recognition of the importance of this aspect, just as there is insufficient attention to dealing on the basis of evidence with pronouncements such as the ICG makes, with no come back.