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Sunday, 16 August 2009





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Global support for Lanka’s anti-LTTE drive - Minister Bogollagama

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama

In the aftermath of the dramatic arrest of the self proclaimed new LTTE leader, Selvarasa Padmanathan alias KP last week, many predictions, locally and internationally, are surfacing while the government categorically stated that its close friendship with friendly countries around the world had helped nab the notorious arms dealer of the outfit.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, the government’s crusade against the LTTE would never see an end though KP is in the net but would continue until it hunts down all remaining LTTEers.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer he said that KP is now in Sri Lanka. Most of the countries helped take him into custody.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

Q: How do you see the arrest of KP?

* The arrest of KP is meant to weaken the LTTEs international network

* No matter where he was ar rested but now he is in Sri Lanka.

* Sought the assistance of the Malaysian government to arrest him.

* KP will be dealt with according to law first in Sri Lanka.

* No requests from the international investigators to the Foreign Ministry to interrogate KP.

* Investigations to nab other LTTEers are going on.

* The government will go after KP’s `wealth’.

* Sri Lanka needs more de-mining experts.

* India will soon send 500 de-miners.

* The Opposition Leader is far from reality.

* The picture the Opposition Leader gives about IDPs is totally misleading.

* High powered delegations praised the commitment of the government to provide better facilities for the IDPs.

* Foreign Service is not politicized and out of 160 officials in the diplomatic service only 21 were recruited during my tenure.

* Will bring back the underworld king pins who escaped overseas.

* We are well off to have our own parties.

A: It is the developed stage of the counter terrorism campaign and also an action to eliminate the LTTE’s international network. Our good relations with the world and the commitment to eradicate terrorism have borne fruits.

Q: His arrest has created a confusion with Thailand and Malaysian authorities denying he was arrested on their soil. Where was he really arrested?

A: As far as Sri Lanka is concerned what matters is where he is now.

And the answer for that is that he is now in Sri Lanka. That is all.

Q: It is reported that KP has some involvement with a group called Tamils for Obama to infiltrate the US State Department. Will the Obama administration influence our investigations into KP’s role?

A: No, I believe that the alleged group will not be able to influence the President of America.

Q: Did you seek assistance from the Malaysian Government to arrest KP during your visit to attend a conference last July 22?

A: Yes, I did make several requests to get him for us and Malaysia is one of those countries.

Q: India has requested that KP be handed over to them for trial in connection with the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Will the government consider their request?

A: Every now and then, there had been similar requests coming through even for Prabhakaran when he was alive. What we are looking at is that KP is a person wanted by Sri Lanka where he will be dealt with according to the law of the land. Other developments will be considered later.

Q: It is also reported that international investigators are seeking permission to question him. Will they get access to do so?

A: As far as Foreign Ministry is concerned, we have not received any request from international bodies or delegations to interrogate KP so far.

Q: Is there any estimation about the wealth amassed by KP and what will happen to the massive international assets that were handled by him?

A: We are now pursuing these aspects. As I told three months ago, the government would go after not only KP, as a fugitive wanted by the INTERPOL and one wanted for crimes committed in Sri Lanka, but also all the LTTE’s funds and assets as well. We know that all he got are terrorist funds.

Q: Has the government already identified other LTTE accomplices who have links with KP?

A: It is a process that is currently going on.

Q: Some of these prominent LTTEers like US-based lawyer Rudrakumar still openly handles LTTE affairs while the US and many Western countries, have banned the LTTE in their countries. Why do you think they have failed to bring them to book?

A: These are matters we are currently pursuing. Details about the criminals who are associating with this person should not be discussed openly as we cannot divulge the information in the public domain.

Q: How important was the support of our international friends to net KP?

A: Our goal had been to seek the support of our friends overseas inner counter terrorist efforts both in Sri Lanka and internationally.

Now we have shown that we are capable of having tangible results in our counter terrorist initiatives. I think we cannot discuss these in detail in the public domain as the investigations are still going on. Some more investigations are being pursued. I think the best thing to give surprises like how KP was dealt with.

Q: KP in his statement announced his plans to persuade the LTTE onto the path of non-violence. If he still tries to enter into politics will the LTTE be given an opportunity to do so?

A: He is being dealt for not what he intends to do in future but what he has done in the past. Therefore, we have to first deal with the criminals for their commission of crimes.

Q: Do you think that your crusade against the LTTE abroad is over with the arrest of KP?

A: Not at all. So many links will be established and so many steps will be taken in our counter terrorist activities.

We have been most rigorous in our pursuits in crushing the LTTE. But we undertook a very silent mission to achieve these targets.

We are very much committed to good and cordial foreign relations. Today we see a much expanded goal in it. Visits from overseas, number of international summits and conferences that are taking place today in Sri Lanka at the level of Foreign Ministers and Heads of States show how much the foreign relations have become a major part of Sri Lanka’s program.

Countering terrorism is an important item in our agenda. We have links, engagements and connections with all those engaged in counter terrorist activities. Then only we can have a better counter terrorist strategy.

If you are not known abroad well or if I cannot speak enough and more with other Foreign Ministers personally through the phone, we cannot engage in counter terrorism. But, today I am in a position to talk to them at any time.

This is possible because Sri Lanka is well connected to the world. Other priorities of the Foreign Ministry are political engagement and economic diplomacy.

Q: Several high profile delegations visited Sri Lanka to get a first hand account of the situation in the IDP camps. What are their responses?

A: Their impressions are improving daily. The last visit was made by the Canadian Minister of International Co-operation, Beverley J. Oda.

When she met me she said that her own assessment with regard to IDPs was that things in the camps have improved and commended the government for taking steps to ensure the welfare of the displaced in the North within a short period of time under challenging circumstances.

She said she never expected things to improve to that extent before she visited there. Now she has a different picture about the existing situation in camps.

The Canadian government would now increase its humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka. This is the best example of how the international commendations are coming in for the government and its efforts to provide maximum for the IDPs.

Q: How important is the international assistance to speed up the activities to resettle the IDPs?

A: I think what is really needed is the assistance to clear land mines in the North. No doubt we need international support to clear land mines. We need the support to improve infrastructure the way the Indian government is doing now. They are giving us shelter, lots of interim support, assistance to develop infrastructure and so on. This is the support we are getting right now. Some of the countries are directly supporting us. We need more bi-lateral support for resettlement.

Q: India has pledged to send 500 de-miners to help Sri Lanka to expedite de-mining in the North. Why is there a delay in sending them here?

A: There is no delay in sending them and they are currently making arrangements to send them soon. De-mining is a specialized area. We need more de-miners to expedite the work in the North, where lots of mines were said to be buried.

Q: However, the Opposition Leader has accused that the government is deliberately keeping the IDPs and exploiting them to get financial assistance. What is your comment?

A: One problem with the Leader of the Opposition is that he is far from reality. The picture that he is painting does not represent the real situation.

I believe that he will soon understand the reality when the IDPs speak for themselves after they return to their homes.

They know how much the government is committed to provide facilities for them, to get them back to their villages and to usher democracy in Sri Lanka.

Q: So, what is the real situation in these camps where it is alleged that the health and living conditions are poor?

A: I repeat what the Canadian Minister said. She said the things have improved and there are improving further. There can be small issues but on the whole things are going smoothly.

Q: There is an allegation that most of the diplomatic postings are done politically. What do you have to say about this?

A: I don’t think it is true because all the 160 diplomatic personnel have been given the opportunities and when they have completed their three years period, they come back to the country for a period of one or two years until they get another posting.

So, this rotation is working very well. We had created so many missions now. Sometimes we do not have enough people to support all these missions.

And that is why we want more and more people into the Foreign Service. Since I became the Foreign Minister, we have been taking in a batch every year.

This year we took 11 and previous year we took 10. Out of 160 who are in the service we have taken only 21 during my tenure of two and half years.Therefore, we are committed to expand the Foreign Service which is doing well.

Q: Recently, the government has started appointing military high rankers as diplomats. How effective is this to crack down the LTTE internationally?

A: We need experts in intelligence, economic affairs and political affairs.

That is what Foreign Service is all about. We will not confine only to one segment and I am very happy that we have a mix of these personnel in our diplomatic service who can ultimately hold responsibilities of representing the country in all aspects.

Certainly by appointing military officials we hope to get the best in from those countries.

Q: Is it true that the former Ambassador Dayan Jayatilake was asked to return before his term was over?

A: No. Normally they have their term of office and when the term is over they have to return. When his original term is over he has to come.

Q: The government has pledged to destroy the underworld but the notorious underworld king pin Kudu Lal has escaped to London.

How did he have a visa to London and does the Foreign Ministry help bring down these criminals wanted by the Police?

A: People find various ways of going out of Sri Lanka. But, the moment they are overseas, we will work with the INTERPOL and will seek the extradition following the Common Wealth Extradition treaty between UK and Sri Lanka.

Q: You are known to be a Minister who has spent lots of public money on foreign trips and on your personal agendas like your daughter’s birthday party. What do you have to say?

A: It is totally untrue and my daughter is better off to have her own birthday party. No one said its was my daughter’s birthday party. Those who want to be misled can cast allegations but there is no substance in those. We can have enough and more birthday parties of our own!

Q: It is reported that you are opposing the erecting of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s statue?

A: These are all wrong and false rumours. In fact, we have already started the construction. I have gone all out to design and given the approval to construct the statue at the entrance of the Kadirgamar Centre.

But not in the Ministry. If we are going to have statues in the Ministry, then how many statues will come up, and we have to start it from D.S. Senanayake himself.


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