COLOMBO: The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will do his bit to reconcile conflicting interests in Sri Lanka during his three-day visit to the island beginning on August 31.
From his program it appears that he will press for unity and cooperation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils; between the predominantly Tamil North and the predominantly Sinhalese South; and between Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran and the leaders of the Tamils’ main party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
To convey to the Sinhalese majority that the UN is not merely an advocate of Tamil rights but is interested in the welfare of the Sinhalese too, Ban will visit Galle on September 1 to address a conference on: Reconciliation and Coexistence: Role of Youth. During his last visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009, he visited Vavuniya in the North , flew over Mullaitivu, where the heaviest fighting had taken place, and talked to refugees in a Northern camp. He did not visit any place in the Sinhalese South.
On September 2, Ban will be in Jaffna where he will have talks with the Northern Province Governor Reginold Cooray, visit war refugees living in a camp, and meet the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
But in order to stress the importance of unity in the Tamil leadership, Ban will not meet Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran separately, but together with other leaders of the TNA. In the normal course, he would have met the Chief Minister separately. But by getting the Chief Minister to sit with the TNA leaders, Ban will be encouraging them to sink their differences and work together for the political and economic advancement of the Tamils.
Presently, there is little no economic development in the Northern Province due to political differences between Chief Minister Wigneswaran and the TNA, led by R.Sampanthan.
That brings one to the other purpose of Ban’s visit – to promote ethnic reconciliation for the sake of equitable and sustained economic development of Sri Lanka. On September 2, he will be speaking in Colombo on ‘Sustaining Peace – Achieving Sustainable Development Goals’, focusing in particular on Goal 16, namely, the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
Ban, who will be meeting a cross section of people during his visit, besides President Maithripal Sirisena and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will be stressing the need for reconciliation and how reconciliation will ensure sustained economic development, which is one of the main goals of the UN.
During his last visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009, within days after the end of Eelam War IV, Ban had stressed the need for resettlement and rehabilitation and political devolution on the basis of the India-sponsored 13 th Constitution. This time round he is expected to urge moves towards reconciliation and equitable economic development and pledge UN aid for these.
Thus, Ban will be discarding the one-sided approach of the former High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, whose manifestly pro-Tamil stand had alienated the then government of Sri Lanka and the majority Sinhalese, some of whom hurled filthy abuses at her which further strained relations between the UN and Sri Lanka.