Right of reply - Japan on Rs. 35 m to LTTE

The Sunday Times front page lead story last week headlined 'LTTE gets Rs 35m Japan aid," has drawn the attention of Nagashima Shinji, First Secretary

(Information & Press). He writes:

"The Embassy has noted with much regret the headline news item published in your newspaper on the 26th January 2003 entitled 'LTTE gets Rs. 35m Japan aid", reported by your Diplomatic Correspondent and wish to inform you that the said news item is totally false and groundless.

"As you are very well aware, Japan has come forward to support the peace process particularly in the area of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North and East and has appointed Mr. Yasushi Akashi as the Special Representative of the Government of Japan to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North and East. It was during the recent meeting of the Sub-Committee for Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East (SIHRN) in Kilinochchi that Mr. Akashi has stated that Japan has approved the utilization of the counterpart fund generated by Japan's Food Production Grant Aid amounting to a sum of Rs. 35.23 million to be utilized for the establishment of the Secretariat of this Sub-Committee which as you very well know is not an LTTE Secretariat but a joint Secretariat of the Sub-Committee appointed by the chief negotiators Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE during the recent peace talks in Thailand for the sole purpose of co-ordinating the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the North and East.

"A press release has been issued by the Embassy categorically denying this news item mentioned above while at the same time explaining the correct position as regards the fund to be utilized for the said purpose.

"I shall be grateful if you would give equally prominent publicity to this Press Release in your very next issue of the Sunday Times, so that your readers and the international community at large may know the truth about this matter, which I am sure is the primary intention of your newspaper at all times."

The press release states:

1. In response to the request made by the Government of Sri Lanka, the Government of Japan decided to approve the utilization of the fund amounting to Rs 35.23 million for the support of the Secretariat of SIHRN (Sub Committee on Immediate Humanitarian Relief Needs in the North and East). The Fund is to be used for the purchase of required office furniture, office equipment and transportation facilities needed for the Secretariat's activities. Furthermore, the fund is released from the counterpart fund of the Government of Sri Lanka, generated by Japan's Food Production Grant Aid.

2. The Sub-Committee for Immediate Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East (SIHRN) was in fact established jointly by the negotiators of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE at the first and second round of talks held in Thailand last year for the primary purpose of "identifying humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the population and prioritize implementation of activities to meet these needs." Currently the Sub-Committee is composed of Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke, Director General, SCOPP and others from the Government of Sri Lanka and Mr. Tamilselvan and others from the LTTE. This Secretariat is, therefore, not an LTTE Secretariat but a joint Secretariat formed for the sole purpose of co-ordinating the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the North and East for which Japan has pledged its fullest support.

Our Diplomatic Correspondent comments:

It has been customary in the past for the Embassy of Japan to make prompt official announcements through news releases whenever aid or other forms of assistance is granted by their Government.

If there was no such announcement in respect of the latest aid amounting to Rs 35. 23 million, the Embassy's assertion that The Sunday Times news item is "totally false and groundless," underscores not only the high degree of discomfiture the report has generated but also the distinctly futile attempt to prove the report as being totally wrong. More so when the embassy's press release unreservedly confirms the contents of the report itself.

The Sunday Times report said the money , i.e. Rs 35 million, is for "the purchase of computers, furniture etc." The embassy press release confirms that a fund amounting Rs. 35.23 million (Rs 230,000 more than the amount reported) "is to be used for the purchase of required office furniture, office equipment and transportation facilities needed for the Secretariat's activities."

This proves the two main elements in the news report that a sum of Rs 35 million (or a little more) has been provided for office furniture or office equipment as stated in The Sunday Times. Furthermore the embassy has also made clear that the aid for the Secretariat is from Japan's Food Production Grant Aid, which as the title implies, is money meant for food assistance. Hence the embassy's claim that the report is "totally false and groundless" is a totally strange assertion and made for reasons better known to themselves.

Now to the only other point in the news report disputed by the embassy of Japan. The Sunday Times report said the money was an outright gift to the LTTE Secretariat in Kilinochchi. The report pointed out that "The money for the LTTE Secretariat, formally known as the "Peace Secretariat," is for the purchase of computers, furniture etc. Officially, the Secretariat also has a Sri Lanka government representative on it."

The embassy press release states that the funds have been granted to the SIHRN to be utilzed for the establishment of the joint Secretariat of the Government and the LTTE.

This indeed, surely, is a fragile argument on semantics. As the news report itself pointed out, officially the Secretariat has a Sri Lanka Government representative which makes clear the "official status."

But, it is no secret that the Secretariat in Kilinochchi that is entrusted with the task of rehabilitation and re-construction - a task that is identified, directed and controlled solely by LTTE. The need for such a body to be joint is to facilitate the receipt of funds. Foreign donations, like that of Japan, therefore could be received by the Government to be channeled to the Secretariat in LTTE controlled Kilinochchi. The Government nominee in that Secretariat is someone who was nominated by the LTTE.

It is the LTTE that is the final recipient which will utilize such funds for rehabilitation and re-construction. It is they who will determine the projects and priorities. Hence, the question is whether the embassy of Japan does not accept that its aid is a direct grant to, and will be utilised by the LTTE and nobody else.

Some of the other assertions in the press release have not been referred to in the news report. And on the other hand, several of the assertions in the news report have also not been referred to in the press release.

We stand by our story that the Japanese Government has granted Rs. 35 million to the LTTE.

(Please see Special Reports (Foreign) page on Japan's new role in the world)

Governor's call for prudent use of budget allocations

Southern Province Governor Kingsley T. Wickremaratne called on Southern Provincial Council members to use their budget allocations for 2003 towards improving sectors with less funding.

Delivering his policy statement for this year at the ceremonial opening of the fifth session of the fourth council at the Provincial Council Complex at Galle on Tuesday, the Governor said the decentralised budget must be used towards sectors with less funding such as environment and alternate energy.

"This is essential for the future development and welfare of the people of the Southern Province" he said.

However, funds for capital expenditure have been limited, which he said would make it difficult to realise these goals.

Mr. Wickram- aratne said the council has to find effective solutions to problems such as poverty, unemployment, wastage of resources and imbalance in resource distribution.

These issues have to be resolved by identifying the available resources in the province, he said.

Mr. Wickremaratne said the creative ability of the people in the Southern Province should be tapped and development activities embarked on.

The ability for a third world country like Sri Lanka to mitigate the impact on the social, cultural and economic sectors arising from globalisation, would be narrow, he said.

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