Japan unmoved on Sri Lanka aid
[TamilNet, Saturday, 26 May 2007, 12:04 GMT]
Japan, which provides over 60% of Sri Lanka’s foreign aid, said this week it had no plans to cut its support, despite British and German reductions intended to pressure the Colombo government into action over the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights conditions in the island. "Japan is not planning to reconsider its aid to Sri Lanka," a Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP Saturday, when asked about lobbying by Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Tokyo to support international efforts to pressure Sri Lankan.
HRW is lobbying Sri Lanka's top donor Japan to exert greater pressure on the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse to address spiralling human rights abuses.
But Tokyo said it has no plans for now to slash aid and follow the lead of Britain and Germany, which have frozen debt relief due to rights concerns.
President Rajapakse has shrugged off Britain's move to cut aid and vowing that his government would not be held hostage over aid.
"It has dramatically worsened over the last year," Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch told AFP of of Sri Lanka's rights record, during a week-long mission to Tokyo for meeting with Japanese officials.
"I think in the month of March alone, 100,000 people were internally displaced."
Japan is the single largest donor to Sri Lanka, providing 63% of the international aid to the island in 2003.
One-third of Japan's aid for Sri Lanka is used for building social infrastructure, particularly transportation facilities, AFP reported.
Japan also organised a landmark aid meeting in 2003 that raised 4.5 billion US dollars to rebuild Sri Lanka.
Despite failure to adhere to strong conditionalities imposed by the donors then, over 75% of that aid had been disbursed by 2006.
"Japan is obviously playing a very prominent role," Richardson said. "It's a lead donor, it's a coordinator of the donor consultation group."
"What we have asked Japan to do is take advantage of this position and its considerable leverage to firmly, strongly and regularly remind not just the government but other players involved of the obligations that they have to protect the civilians and human rights in general."
Japan said, however, it was not considering slashing aid.
"Japan is not planning to reconsider its aid to Sri Lanka," a foreign ministry official told AFP.
He said that Tokyo's peace envoy to Sri Lanka, former UN assistant secretary-general Yasushi Akashi, would return to the island on a new mission by early June.