Some countries are providing a “safe haven” to “theoreticians of terror in Sri Lanka”

Coming down heavily on countries that demanded accountability for the civilian deaths in the last stages of the Eelam war IV in early 2009, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that for most of those who demand accountability, it was only a “verbal apology for civilian deaths that are dismissed as collateral damage in heavy bombings.”

He said the Sri Lankan success against terror was achieved “with much less of the assets, and none of the deceit and duplicity of those [the U.S. and its allies] who have been waging a War on Terror for more than a decade; those with much more economic and fire power than we had and many more allies than we ever had, but are still caught up in the killing fields made by unmanned drones and other lethal devices that attack civilians, too.”

Mr. Rajapaksa accused some countries of providing a “safe haven” to “theoreticians of terror in Sri Lanka,” and regretted that “the very individuals and institutions that point their fingers at us for our defeat of terror seem to be unaware of the truth about our prolonged battle against terrorism, and the very nature of those terrorists.”

Mr. Rajapaksa said that Sri Lanka was on the path of reconstruction and reconciliation, and sought to consolidate the peace that had dawned after a protracted battle. “We are diverting all our energies to put the tragic years of terror well behind us. We are building a new society, learning from the lessons of the past, and moving towards the promise of future success,” he said, and added that Sri Lanka remained committed to protecting human rights and equality for all.

Media exchanges

Describing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as an “under-performing regional forum,” N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said that because of the commonalities that exist in the region much more could be achieved.

Making a plea on behalf of the media, he said that an environment should be created where bonafide journalists in the region should be able to travel freely across countries in South Asia. Noting that the region had a thriving media across all platforms – print, electronic and the web – he appealed for a free exchange of media products across countries. While the internet had made it possible to access media products of other countries, Net penetration was poor, he added.

‘Strengthen existing bonds’

Calling for a strengthening of existing bonds, Kalyan Banerjee, president of Rotary International, said that if the region placed economics over the regional politics, cooperation in both areas would grow. Describing Polio Plus as a major success of the Rotary, he recalled instances where the programme helped unite people in a manner never witnessed before.

Sri Lankan Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivarad Cabraal said that to derive benefits of regional cooperation, member countries must be ready to open themselves up to their neighbours, and do so in a spirit of mutual trust. Also, to closely balance competing interests, regimes must develop their institutions to accommodate increased integration and cooperation.

Habil Khorakiwala, chairman, Wockhardt Group, India, wanted India to play a lead role in strengthening the bonds among people in the region. Rajendra K.Saboo, past president, Rotary International, said that the conference was being held at a time when there was need for a new vision for South Asia.

K. R. Ravindran, past director, RI, said that the conference was returning to Sri Lanka after 29 years. Rotarian Sushil Gupta said that the movement would take up issues that affected communities in South Asia but would shun any political affiliation. Rotarian Benjamin Cherian said that the aim of the conference was to bring people in South Asia closer.

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