Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ACF criticism of Govt should be viewed against its own culpability -- SCOPP

The Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) has expressed astonishment at what is calls "the effrontery of Action Against Hunger (ACF)" which claims it has no trust in a Government investigation into the massacre of 17 of its workers two years ago, and has therefore closed its Colombo office and left the country. The SCOPP media release also states the following:

The decision was taken to leave after questioning at the investigation made clear the manner in which the agency had forced its local staff, contrary to UN regulations about caring for local workers, to go into a dangerous area when some of them had even asked for leave to avoid this. Though the workers pleaded to leave the danger area soon after they had been sent in, they were forced to stay on despite a massive LTTE attack which led to days of intense fighting.

At the press conference in Colombo after the massacre was discovered, way back in August 2006, journalists questioned the role of ACF and its local and foreign executives who had made the ill- advised decisions, and asserted that they were responsible for the deaths. Requests for an open inquiry into what had happened were ignored, and the UN which was also asked to intervene in this regard did not assist to make clear the wider responsibility for the tragedy.

Subsequent efforts to raise the issue were met by wild allegations that ACF was being held responsible for the murders, while there was no response to requests that the culpability of ACF, in contravention of international norms concerning care for local staff, be examined.

Requests for reasonable compensation for the victims, whose families were awarded a nugatory proportion of the salary expatriate staff receive, have also been ignored.

Some of the anger and despair of Sri Lankans had begun to emerge during the inquiry, which may explain the hasty departure of ACF. Its pitiful attempts to blame the government inquiry, which it had observed without criticism for over a year previously, should be examined in the context of its own culpability, which has remained shrouded even though it was initially raised anxiously by journalists and human rights organisations at the time of the deaths.

The Peace Secretariat did not pursue its view that an independent inquiry into the ACF action was desirable, since it seemed reasonable to await the results of the national inquiry.

However, the current ACF stratagem of finger pointing to conceal its own role should be addressed firmly, and it is hoped those who care about the victims, Sri Lankans and others, will at least now request an independent inquiry into the matter with full compensation for the victims the release said.

Courtesy: Government Information department

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