Sri Lanka sliding into humanitarian nightmare- Geneva Group

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 February 2008, 04:37 GMT]
Pointing out that the number of civilian deaths has jumped sharply after the election of Rajapakse Government and that "the present government displays little appetite for peace," Director of Small Arms Survey in Geneva, Robert Muggah, in an article appearing in Canada's The Star, recommends that if Sri Lanka rebuffs pressure to abandon military solution "U.S. and the EU could consider withdrawing the country from the General System of Preferences," U.N. should appoint a special envoy to start documenting under-reported armed violence, and U.N. should use article-99 to take up the issue in U.N. security council.

Robert Muggah, Research director of the Small Arms Survey, Geneva
Robert Muggah, Research director of the Small Arms Survey, Geneva
"Much like previous administrations led by Jayawardane, Premadasa or Kumaratunga, Rajapaksa claims that a military solution to the LTTE question is within his grasp. The current government differs in one important respect: It has dropped all pretense to negotiate a political settlement," Dr Muggah writes.

On India's approach to dealing with the Sri Lanka conflict, Muggah says: "[T]he efforts of South Asia's regional power, India, have yielded comparatively little to stem Sri Lanka's slide into violence. Although India has long played a Janus-faced role in Sri Lanka, it is alarmed by the contagion effects of the long-running war. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that more than 20,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are languishing in southern India and thousands more have sought safe haven since the resumption of war. While this has irritated India's own sizable Tamil population, the Sri Lankan government's repressive tactics risk triggering militarization in refugee camps and at home."

Sri Lankan war will likely continue without end, if the current military strategy does not change course, Muggah cautions, and recommends the following to prevent Sri Lanka from "collapsing entirely":
  • First, cautious diplomatic pressure must continuously be applied in order to convince the government and the LTTE that a military solution is not viable,
  • Second, if rebuffed, the U.S. and the EU could consider withdrawing the country from the General System of Preferences, which applies reduced taxes and levies to certain Sri Lankan exports, such as tea and textiles,
  • Third, because there are no international observers to monitor human rights in Sri Lanka, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could appoint a special envoy to the country.
  • Fourth, given regional implications or even little-used article 99 of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council should be encouraged to take up the issue. On the recommendation of a special envoy, the council can identify political and economic sanctions to bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations, Chapter 15, reads: "The Secretary General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which is in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

Robert Muggah is research director of the Small Arms Survey in Geneva and is the author of Relocation Failures: A Short History of Internal Displacement and Resettlement in Sri Lanka

External Links:
TheStar: Sri Lanka: A country spins out of control
UN: Charter of the United Nations


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