Seek pragmatic changes, not focus entirely on war-crimes accountability, says Donald Camp
[TamilNet, Saturday, 12 February 2011, 16:39 GMT]
Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Donald Camp, in a seminar held at the US think-tank, American Enterprise Institute, said while everyone was appalled at the events during the final stages of war, focusing entirely on accountability and prosecution will not be pragmatic, as the Rajapakse Government will not allow any investigations to take place. Instead, Camp advocates helping Rajapakse to "do the right thing." Camp, without saying how, mentioned "decentralization of powers," "co-ordinating with the UN Panel," and "reducing security presence in Jaffna," as possible actions that Rajapakse should be assisted to take to capitalize on the post war environment.
As a preamble to the event the AEI website said, "[s]ince the end of Sri Lanka's brutal twenty-six-year-old civil war in 2009, the country has largely been under the radar for Washington's policy community. But with its strategic location, economic potential, and deep ties with Asia's two rising giants--China and India--Sri Lanka is too important to ignore. This panel discussion will look at all aspects of the current situation--including geopolitics, peace building, and accountability--with a view to determining how US engagement can promote a more positive postconflict environment in Sri Lanka."
Speakers at the forum included South Asia expert Lisa Curtis; International Crisis Group advocacy director Jennifer Leonard; Karunyan Arulanantham, M.D., one of the founders of the Tamil Peace Initiative; and Don Camp, former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.
Donald Camp, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
Jennifer Leonard, ICG
Dr Karunyan Arulanantham, Tamil Peace Initiative
Lisa Curtis, American Heritage Institute
Ms Curtis said that human rights concerns during the final phases of war limited US's engagement with Sri Lanka. She said only now the Sri Lanka Government is taking small steps in reconciliation in starting a dialogue that addresses Tamil community's concern.
Dr Karunyan said that changing the centralized power structure in Sri Lanka to devolve power is fundamental for reconciliation and to ensure that the conflict does not continue. Stressing that accountability to war-crimes is a key element to move forward, Dr Karunyan pointed out the need for US engagement with a wider section of Sri Lankan community. He said that working only with Colombo has previously exacerbated the dysfunctions within the Sri Lanka Government.
Ms. Leonard addressing the resettlement issue, said that refugees still face daunting obstacles even while they are being resettled, and that ICG believed that Colombo has not approached the issue of resettlement issue with the "urgency and openness" that is required.
She also said that the "terror machinery" established during LTTE times is still in place in Jaffna.
Camp pointed to a wikileaks cable that indicated the Tamils on the ground are not keen on immediately addressing the war-crimes accountability and prosecution, but are willing to move forward with improvement of day-to-day living standards. He also said that since high levels of government officials and military commanders will likely be implicated in any war crimes investigations, Rajapakse Government is not likely to allow any probes.
It was pointed out that fear and war-weariness are the likely reason for this stand of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and that the diaspora need to articulate the need for the truth to come-out, and war-crimes prosecutions are fundamental to future reconciliation.
The AEI said the following about its mission on its website: "The American Enterprise Institute is a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned argument, facts, and the highest standards of research and exposition. Without regard for politics or prevailing fashion, we dedicate our work to a more prosperous, safer, and more democratic nation and world."