The Leader omitted salient points in the answers given to the various questions asked. It may have felt diffident about carrying criticism of the Minister of External Affairs and the Head of the NGO Secretariat, but given how badly the incompetence of such individuals affects the country, it seems desirable to publish the interview in full.

>Q. How will the listing of Diaspora groups impact on the reconciliation process?

This seems to have been a hasty decision without proper consideration of the possible consequences. The general tendency of our decision makers in promoting reconciliation seems to be to do too little too late, but this time it is a question of too much too late.

Basically we should four years ago have sent a very clear message about the disruptive impact of certain diaspora groups while working positively with the majority. Four years ago, when I still had an executive position and met the British Foreign Office they told me that we should be talking to the Tamils, which I said was obviously the case. However when they mentioned the TGTE I told them that was an outrageous suggestion, and they should distinguish betweent the TNA and Tamils in Sri Lanka, who are our people on behalf of whom too we fought terrorism, and separatist movements which had encouraged and financed terror.

Unfortunately we have a Foreign Minister who cannot make such distinctions, but simply bleats and follows whatever is the fashion of the moment. So he, and his monitor, sabotaged discussions with the TNA, but did not deal firmly with the more cynical of the international community when they played ball with separatists with a history of support for terrorism. They have still not investigated the Audit Query about our former Representative in Geneva, now Foreign Secretary, giving an important contract to someone thought to be supportive of the LTTE. Indeed they have suppressed the file. But now, having been indulgent for so long, now when they proscribe everyone in sight, it will be difficult for anyone to take this seriously.

The Foreign Ministry has done nothing about the LLRC recommendation to build up positive relations with the diaspora. Instead, as happened with Dayan Jayatilleka, they engaged in adverse propaganda about those who talked to the moderate Tamils. No attempt has been made to work with multi-racial groups in Britain or Australia, where there are very moderate Tamils. But when you have a lunatic situation where the person supposedly in charge of implementation of the LLRC initially was suspicious of people simply because they were Tamil, you have a recipe for disaster. So we have now institutionalized a blunderbuss sort of approach which will alienate the positive people – while I have no doubt those who are engaged in nefarious pursuits will slip through the net.


> Q. Would this send a negative image to the international donor agencies operating in Sri Lanka?

I think the donor agencies have no illusions about the failure of government to develop clear guidelines. They appreciate that lots of good things have been done with their support, but that nothing of this targets reconciliation is now apparent. I have recently drawn up guidelines, on the suggestion of a very helpful donor decision maker who unfortunately has now left us, about how we could work together more coherently on support for reconciliation. And we need to involve the more humane ministries, who can work together with NGOs without being overcome by mutual suspicions. We must also ensure better consultation of local communities, but we should set in place mechanisms for this, and give greater responsibilities to Divisional Secretaries, rather than leaving proposals to emerge without coherence from individual NGOs which cannot see the whole picture.

> Q. There is a fear that the next step after listing the Diaspora, the  government is going to target the NGO’s over funding received from the  Diaspora. Is this a good move?

Doing this now seems another sign of panic, following the intrusive resolution in Geneva. I think the idea of targeting NGOs is wrong, but we should certainly have better monitoring mechanisms about funding. I have long advocated this, but those in authority are so incompetent that they have failed to set in place the necessary measures.

Soon after I entered Parliament, I asked several questions about funding, but government failed to reply, and I don’t think they have even bothered about checking on the tax position of various organizations that get massive amounts of funding. I was told rather sanctimoniously that they could not tell me about tax that was paid, but that was not what I asked, I simply wanted to know whether tax was in fact paid. But I suspect the then Deputy Minister of Finance did not even understand the point I was making.

The President asked me some years back to do a report on such funding, but I do not think anyone bothered to read it. Then, in 2011, he asked me to advise on NGO activities that should contribute to reconciliation, and initially Lakshman Hulugalle, who is in charge of the NGO Secretariat, was very cooperative, and even suggested giving me an office in the Secretariat. I think he understood that he simply did not have the capacity to monitor things properly and ensure productive use of funding.

But then, after I did not vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, he panicked, and stopped returning my calls, and I realised my shelf life in that area was finished. But of course nothing was done, and I don’t think he has the slightest idea about the massive funding received by a few agencies in the last year. Frankly I don’t suppose he would even care, since I don’t think he knows anything about the history of such agencies.

The point I kept making was that, while we could not demand that donors did what we wanted with their money, they had no right to do what they wanted without consulting us. We should have mutually agreed guidelines, which we tried to develop when I was Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, with a mandate to coordinate assistance. But then the Northern Task Force pushed us out so that it could build up the monolith that has proved so disastrous in the North in terms of winning hearts and minds, even though it has done wonders in terms of construction. The Secretary to the Task Force, who is very competent, did ask me to check on some NGO reports, but then he was not able to work on what I produced, even though he has subsequently confirmed that those I said were not working had in fact done little.

But unfortunately those who have no discriminatory skills continue, as the President said perceptively, but unfortunately without taking remedial action, to clasp everything to themselves. Then, when problems arise, they come down like a ton of bricks, and destroy everything. The recent effort to sabotage the massive UN/EU grant is another case in point, but fortunately the President intervened and saved that project.

> Q. As the former head of the peace secretariat, which played a role in facilitating peace between the LTTE and the government, do you feel that  having a confrontational approach with the Diaspora is good for the future?

It will be disastrous, because it ignores the many positive people in the Diaspora. But I fear that we are adopting what I have characterized as the Western practice of confrontation on the basis of oppositioning, rather than the more inclusive and circular Eastern approach. J R Jayewardene did this in destroying the moderates, amongst both the Sinhalese and the Tamils, until he was left with the LTTE and the JVP, which led to torment for the country for many years. It looks like the dwarfs who dominate decision making now want to repeat history, whereas the President if left to himself would follow the traditional SLFP practice of moderation, of working with all sympathetic forces instead of lumping anyone who was not totally on
one’s side with the diehard opposition.

> Q. How should Sri Lanka deal with the whole UNHRC issue and the resolution which was adopted recently?

We have been provided with a lifeline by the statesmanlike speech of the Indian representative in Geneva, and this has been fleshed out now by the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo. But in fact they have said nothing new, because this was precisely what the LLRC recommended, and we should have worked on that swiftly and systematically. But unfortunately we fell into the American trap and, when they claimed the LLRC was not enough, our mirror images of extremism claimed it was too much.

You will remember that, when practically everyone welcomed the LLRC, it was only the Americans, the CPA and the TNA who were excessively critical, the last two I believe following the American lead as they had done over Sarath Fonseka. I should note though that I think the then American ambassador was more civilized, and, having realized her error over Sarath Fonseka, she would have been willing to work with us – but as she told me, when I advised her not to listen to the extremists, but to follow what the two Peirises were saying, neither had any credibility. That is what opened my eyes to the problem the President faces, that those who should know the world better are more interested about their own survival and playing to the gallery they think calls the shots, so they proved no match for the extremists.

I believe the President, who appointed the LLRC, who immediately tabled its report in Parliament, who wanted an action plan and then got his efficient secretary to produce one when those he first entrusted with the task did nothing, would like to move forward. But I can only hope he listens to those members of the SLFP who have now at last begun to understand the problems they will face if they leave decisions to interlopers with no understanding of traditional moderate and people friendly policies.

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