Friday, October 17, 2008

SL situation does not warrant dramatic foreign action - Downer

While certain political leaders in Tamil Nadu are reproachful the Sri Lankan government of genocide and urging the Central Government of India to interfere immediately to bring the on-going war against the LTTE to an end, a former Australian Foreign Minister and UN Special Envoy tasked with resolving the Cyprus disaster says the situation in Sri Lanka does not warrant dramatic foreign action.
Delivering the third Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial talk at the BMICH on Wednesday UN Special Envoy for Cyprus and former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the level of aggression in Sri Lanka did not meet the standard needed to justify dramatic international act.
"Although the violence [in Sri Lanka] is disturbing," said Downer, "it cannot by any stretch of mind's eye be put in the same category as the mass killings and racial cleansing of the Balkans throughout the 1990s."
Uncalled for intervention, Downer said, was not necessarily going to make matters better.
He said the UN was built on the basics of national sovereignty and for many member states national sovereignty was an absolute. "Yet if the UN is to become truthfully effective," he said, "its members have to recognise that in certain circumstances humanity is more significant than sovereignty."
That, he said, had by now been accepted by the adaptation by the UN General Meeting in 2005 of the doctrine of 'responsibility to protect."
The question however was whether uninvited interference was justified, Downer said adding that he thought in some circumstances it was. He said: "Certain criteria have to be met, though. First the state of affairs has to be so extreme that a large number of lives would be lost without intervention. Secondly, those contemplating intervention should only do so if they are satisfied intervention, including military intervention, would make matters better, not worse. That is an important consideration. It is possible the attendance of foreign troops could exacerbate, not improve, a situation."
Downer said his visit to Colombo evoked in him nostalgic reminiscences of a voyage to Sri Lanka when he was only a child of four years. He said he had travelled with his relations by a P&O liner in 1956.
The late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Downer said, would have liked to see the UN take on the subject of terrorism more energetically than it has. He regretted that the UN could not even agree on a meaning of terrorism.

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