2ND LEAD (Adds details)

Rights questions bedevil Bogollagama UK, US visit

[TamilNet, Saturday, 17 March 2007, 12:55 GMT]
"The five year old Ceasefire Agreement is in tatters and the Government [of Sri Lanka] seems more and more determined to pursue a military solution. But what are the costs? With widespread reports of abductions and disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture, today's Sri Lanka is beginning to look like Pinochet's Chile," says Allan Little, BBC's Hard Talk, in his introduction to an interview with Rohitha Bogollagama. The foreign minister has completed his visit to UK and is currently in US, and his visit is plagued by questions regarding the worsening Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka.

PDF IconHard Talk: BBC interview with Bogollagama
While on the ground, peace efforts are at a standstill, Sri Lanka military is engaged in offensives in the east, and the international rights bodies accuse Colombo of rights violations, Foreign Minister Bogollogama says Colombo is pursuing a negotiated settlement, and that "there is no military solution in sight, nor is it in our minds."

Rohitha Bogollagama
Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama
When asked of allegations by the Canadian National Allan Rock regarding child soldier conscription and training camps "within stone-throws of checkpoints," and security force involvement in massacres such as the 17 aid workers killed in August, the Foreign Minister says the SLMM is not a judicial body, and that Allan Rock's statements were procured prematurely.

These are criminal issues which need investigations and prosecution, a task impeded by the presence of the LTTE in certain regions - "Prosecution lies on the existence of evidence; in the absence of evidence we have to seek evidence," Bogollagama adds.

When asked of bombing from the air, and the sea, with respect to balancing the humanitarian issue with the threat of the LTTE, he said, "What do you expect a sovereign state to do? We need security for the people. We need the national security. We are not targeting civilians."

PDF IconBogollagama talks at CSIS, Washington
Concluding, the Foreign minister states "all human rights issues are matters of grave concern," and that the government is interested in resuming peace talks, and hope the LTTE is open to returning to the negotiating table.

Related Articles:
16.03.07   Colombo forcing refugees to return home- Rights Group
01.11.01   Tough time on Hard Talk

External Links:
UN: UN refugee agency urges Sri Lanka not to forcibly return displaced persons
BBC: HARDtalk interview with Rohitha Bogollagama


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