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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister vows to apply pressure to have the UNESCO Director General retract statement

Colombo, 06 December, ( Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has said, Sri Lanka will not permit any international organizations to be a vehicle for the LTTE by justifying its modes of operation in various forms and manifestations. Such action when committed by any international organization will not be tolerated and the Foreign Ministry will exercise all means at its command to ensure that such statements are retracted or corrections made by the relevant agencies and authorities in the international arena.

The Minister made this observation in a special Ministerial statement made at the commencement of Parliament today regarding a public statement made from Paris on 3 December 2007 through UNESCO Press Release No. 2007-154 titled " Director-General condemns bombing of rebel radio station in Northern Sri Lanka", where it was stated that :

Director General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura has condemned the air strikes on the Voice of Tigers radio station that killed five of the station's staff. A total of more than 10 people are reported to have been killed I the attack.

"I condemn the bombing of the Voice of Tigers Radio station" the Director General declared, "regardless of the content of the broadcasts aired by the Voice of Tigers, there can be no excuse for military strikes on civilian media. Such action contravenes the Geneva Convention which requires the military to treat media workers as civilians. Killing media personnel is not going to help reconciliation and I urge the authorities to ensure respect for the basic human rights of freedom of expression"

Sri Lanka army planes struck the radio station near Killinochchi in the North of the country on the afternoon of 27 November. Voice of Tigers is the radio station of the Tamil Tiger rebels. Ten civilians are said to have been injured in the attack. There are conflicting reports about the total number of casualties.

The Minister said upon learning of this statement by Director General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, on his instructions our Ambassador in France and Permanent Delegate to the UNESCO, Chitranganee Wagiswara registered Sri Lanka's strong protest of the statement made by the UNESCO Director General, in which he has "condemned" the recent air strike on the Voice of Tigers (VoT) radio station, and described it as a "civilian" radio station.

In a letter of protest from the Government of Sri Lanka to the Director General of UNESCO, it was noted:

1. " that the Government was surprised that the UNESCO saw it fit to issue such a statement on an attack on a clandestine radio station directly operated by the LTTE, a well known terrorist organisation, which is proscribed in a number of countries including India, US, Canada as well as the member states of European Union.

2. that only two days before the UNESCO statement, the LTTE exploded a bomb in the Colombo suburbs killing 19 innocent civilians including women and children and that earlier the same day an LTTE female suicide cadre made a failed attempt to assassinate a Cabinet Minister who belongs to the Tamil community.

3. that the VoT is neither legal nor legitimate and its programme content promotes and glorifies terrorism and hence it cannot be considered as a "civilian radio station". In the same vain, those employed at the VoT facility cannot be considered as "civilian" media personnel.

4. that reference in the UNESCO Director General's statement to the "Geneva Convention" is totally out of context and not applicable as there is no war or confrontation between two sovereign states in Sri Lanka.

5. that the LTTE radio facility is in contravention to all internationally accepted norms and that no international convention could give protection to this illegal station operated by a terrorist group, the letter asserts that being a propaganda organ of a terrorist group, the VoT station was a legitimate target for attack, in the fight against terrorism in Sri Lanka.

6. that it would have been much more appropriate had the Director General obtained all the facts relating to the incident prior to issuing this ill informed statement.

7. that the Government of Sri Lanka remained deeply perturbed by the contents of his statement and demanded the retraction of the Director General's statement."

The Minister said the Director General was out of Paris yesterday and is expected to return and scheduled to meet the Ambassador on 6 December, Thursday.

He assured parliament that the Foreign Ministry will bring all pressure possible to have the UNESCO totally retract the statement.
- Asian Tribune -

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