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“no crimes were committed by the army.” - Sri Lanka Prime Minsiter in NY

Rebuilding Sri Lanka after 25 years of civil war will require resettling thousands, encouraging foreign investment, and preventing a resurgence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), said Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake.

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Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake speaks at Asia Society, Sept 24, 2009. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

The war between the government and the LTTE ended in May 2009 after the military reportedly killed Tamil leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. “Sri Lanka suffered for almost three decades of destruction from terrorism by the LTTE,” said Wickramanayake. Despite victory, he said, “residual effects and related problems remain.”

Speaking at Asia Society headquarters in New York, the prime minister said resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) is the country’s largest post-war challenge. However, he made clear that a full resettlement will take time. “You cannot have a solution overnight,” he stressed. Wickramanayake said an estimated 280,000 still remain in internment camps, as a result of the conflict.

“It is not an easy task to provide welfare to these people all at once... yet we accepted this challenge," he said. "Today, the [displaced] are being resettled systematically and efficiently.”

In an effort to expedite the recovery of the war-torn north and east, Wickramanayake called on the international community to begin investing in the island nation. “We need the support and cooperation from nations that can afford to,” he said. The prime minister stated that the government has already begun substantial reconstruction projects in the two regions.

Wickramanayake also called on nations to help Sri Lanka clear the large number of mines scattered throughout the country’s north. “Terrorists have planted landmines in playgrounds, holy sites, farm fields, and roads,” he said. “We are not ready to push our people onto these death traps.”

“Accept that we have a big problem,” the prime minister urged, “ and help us.”

In a question-and-answer session moderated by Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl, Wickramanayake addressed allegations of human rights abuses by the military and criticism of the government’s treatment of displaced Tamils. The Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have both been criticized by the United Nations over alleged human rights abuses during the conflict. Wickramanayake bluntly denied allegations of human rights abuses, saying “no crimes were committed by the army.”

When pressed by Metzl to clarify under what conditions the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would be allowed access to internment camps, Wickramanayake would only say that he supported the ICRC's work "to the extent that [they] will not disturb the normal peace and tranquility that remains within the camps." However, he would not provide any specifics.

Reported by Jamil Afridi, Asia Society Online

courtesy: The Asia Society

10 Comments

Asking for international help is okei but accountability to war crimes committed by Sri Lanka's army & its successive leaders past & present is mandatory for a national reconciliation. Sri Lanka leaders should stop defending in vain that there were no war crimes committed by the army. Sri Lanka's Human rights records are well known worldwide.

Unless Sri Lanka comes out transparent with what they've done with the Mullaitivu population and declare to negotiate a political solution under UN supervision, the sanctions should continue and country be isolated like Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan etc....

Posted by: Cholan | September 25, 2009 08:40 AM

The government also said that not a single civilian was killed during the last stages of the war though there had been more than 5000 bombing missions by the airforce, hundreds of thousands of shells and mortar bombs fired by the army.

Posted by: Thamilan | September 25, 2009 09:15 AM

President of Iran said in UN that Holocaust is not a historical fact because concentration camps were never built by Nazis.

Prime (paid) minister of Sri Lanka said in UN that his army never committed any crime. Even President of Sri Lanka didn’t have the courage to deliver this brave statement with his traditional cloth in UN.

Last 40 years, more than 100K youths from South, 150K people from North and East were killed by natural disasters?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2009 09:31 AM

*** “no crimes were committed by the army.” ***

He means "NONE WORTH MENTIONING"

;)

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | September 25, 2009 10:48 AM

Prime Minister is in "international sarong raise mode"

Posted by: Fran | September 25, 2009 01:08 PM

One cant hide the truth for ever. History is full of people who tried to hide their acts using various ruses. If the governemnt has nothing to hide, why dont they allow the international press to talk to theose in the camps?. There is a report of a argentinian pilot who was arrested in spain for his involvement with the junta in the 80's, the nazi's and war crimnals from the Balkans are still being hunted. We will wait and see what the truth is.the only thing we can promise is we the tamils wont forget.

Posted by: venthan | September 25, 2009 05:12 PM

I was at the Aisa Soceity that night.

It was unbearable to sit and watch this man lie and lie and lie. When he said that the Sri lankan army did not commit any crimes. I yelled out ' You lie".. when he said there was freedom of the press in Sri lanka. I yelled out " not when you jail a man for 20 years hard labor?" This earned me the embassy photographer taking 10 more photos of me.

It was unreal!. the audience listening to the know-nothing moderator asking him bland questions, none of the audience's questions asked as we were censored, and this man claiming that the IDps were not even a speck of a problem and everyone should " forget about the past. and invest in Sri lanka for the future"

In his case the 20,000 Tamils massacred on the beach and the 300,000 Tamils in concentration camps JUST DONT COUNT,, afterall they are in the past. i wish I could have gotten close to him and told him to his face how dispicable he is.. Right up there with Nazi war criminals form WW2

Posted by: Dr Ellyn Shander | September 25, 2009 09:12 PM

Dr Ellyn Shander | September 25, 2009 09:12 PM
Please Madam, never ever go to Malaysia. You would then be bundled into a cargo plane to Colombo. With you, then the plight of IDPs too become unknown to the world. About 40000 were killed during this year from Kilinochchi to the bank of Nanthikadal and none of the leaders from the great western countries bothered to mention it.
Easwaran

Posted by: K.Easwaran | September 26, 2009 12:56 PM

Sri Lankan politicians are world renowned liers!!! They are getting better and better at it!!! Every other country in Asia is progressing, but Sri lanka is only progressing in the art of abduction, killings, imprisonment, human rights violations, bombing and shelling its own citizens and begging from other countries without shame!!! The bank balance of the "Royal family" is swelling at the expense of the victims of state violence!!! The victims are there to showcase and get money from other countries!!!

Posted by: nandasena | September 26, 2009 04:17 PM

"In his case the 20,000 Tamils massacred on the beach and the 300,000 Tamils in concentration camps JUST DONT COUNT,, afterall they are in the past. i wish I could have gotten close to him and told him to his face how dispicable he is.. Right up there with Nazi war criminals form WW2"

Dr Ellyn Shander

Does the mass killings of civilians in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan counts.....
How about killings of innocent Sri Lankans by the LTTE terrorists using money provided by you and Tamil diaspora? Who is going to reconcile for the victims of those crimes....
Don't try to be a fake hero with just hollow words.

Posted by: SLFireBall | September 26, 2009 08:36 PM

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