Japanese special envoy’s visit highlights interest

[TamilNet, Monday, 04 November 2002, 17:42 GMT]
‘Tamils and Muslims have lived peacefully for long in the east. Misunderstandings arose between the two communities after the Tamils started the armed struggle for the rights. But we now believe that these can be resolved through dialogue,' a delegation of Muslim religious and civil society leaders in Batticaloa told Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Japan's special envoy for peace building and rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka, who visited the eastern district Monday.

"The second session of the first round of talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers has been satisfactory in that it addressed the concerns of the Muslims," the Muslim leaders further told the Japanese envoy.

Mr. Yasushi Akashi’s visit highlights Tokyo's interest in playing a role in rehabilitation efforts in the war-ravaged northeast to bring stability to the island. For Japan peace in the Indian Ocean is an important aspect of its regional security. Most major sea-lanes necessary for Japan’s vital supplies pass by Sri Lanka. Japan is the major buyer of the Titanium ores, Ilmenite and Rutile, which are found in abundance on the island’s northeast coast. The naval forces of the Liberation Tigers dominate the maritime zone there.

Mr. Akashi is an ex-U.N. diplomat with long experience in conflict-ridden areas like Cambodia and Yugoslavia. He is currently chairman of the Japan Centre for Conflict Prevention, and has held various U.N. posts, including undersecretary general for disarmament affairs and humanitarian affairs, U.N. representative in Cambodia, and special envoy to the former Yugoslavia.

The nine-member team of Japanese diplomats and officials met representatives of the Federation of Mosques in Batticaloa, Deputy Minister for Housing Mr. Basheer Segu Dawood, chairman of the Eravur Town Pradheshiya Sabha, Mr. K. Abdul Nassar and other community leaders and politicians at the Lake View Inn Guest House in the eastern town to hear the concerns and views of the Muslims in the east regarding the peace process.

Mr. Akashi was told at the meeting that Muslims should be granted equal rights and there should be guarantees regarding their security and land. ‘Recently, there have been practical problems on the ground in implementing the memorandum of understanding between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. The SLMC leader Mr. Rauff Hakeem, should continue to participate in the peace negotiations between the LTTE and the GOSL’, the Muslim delegation told the Japanese officials.

Mr. Akashi visited the Kalmadhu refugee camp near Valaichenai, 32 kilometres north of Batticaloa, and had talks with Col. Rajitha Silva, the commander of the Sri Lanka army’s 32-3 Brigade in Batticaloa, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the Batticaloa peace Committee.

 

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