Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Japan does not set conditions for aid - Akashi

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"Progress in peace process not quantifiable"

Japan is not comfortable with attitude of some countries in setting conditions over the provision of aid. We intend to use our assistance for humanitarian purposes to alleviate the sufferings of people. Japan wants to use its assistance program to consolidate peace and advance the peace process in Sri Lanka, said Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan for Peace-building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka, addressing a press conference in Colombo today, at the conclusion of a three-day visit to Sri Lanka.

He was answering a question whether Japan would withhold part of the aid promised to Sri Lanka at the Tokyo Conference in 2003, on the Sri Lankan peace process.

Referring to the attitude of some countries that wanted to tie down aid to progress in the peace process, Mr. Akashi said progress in the peace process was not quantifiable. He added that while there may be set backs and obstacles on the way towards eventual peace, it was difficult to say that the progress is totally lacking or not. "Even today I am sure that the people concerned are working hard to overcome the present deadlock," he said.

Mr. Akashi said: "Some people talk about conditions over aid. We are not comfortable about this phrase. We have certain guidelines for Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan. We try our level best to adhere to these guidelines. But they are somewhat different to that of 'conditions'.

"We intend to use our assistance for humanitarian purposes to alleviate the sufferings of the people. We also use our assistance to enable people to stand on their own feet, in other words, for their own self-generating development.

"More recently, Japan wants to use its assistance program to consolidate peace. In the famous Tokyo Declaration on Sri Lanka, we said there is a link between the assistance process and the peace process. The Europeans now say that Japan is not adhering to it.

"My counter-argument is how do you assess progress on the peace process. It is not quantifiable. There may be set backs and obstacles on the way towards eventual peace, but it is difficult to say that progress is totally lacking or not. Even today I am sure that the people concerned are working hard to overcome the present deadlock.

"Why should common people, the recipients of assistance, be punished by virtue of any commissions or omissions on the part of their leaders? This is more an attitude and a philosophy than policy.

"Our difference with others is more the differences of "sayings and nuances". We continue to discuss these matters so that we come to a common approach.

Responding to a question about the lack of progress in the peace process after several visits by him to Sri Lanka, Mr. Akashi said, "Many things of a military character or of a political nature, changes of government in the South, all these events have intervened or interrupted the peace process. You can deplore these changes, but some of these are inevitable in any democratic country.

"The separation of powers between different branches of government is also sometimes a hindrance to the administrative branch of government to proceed with its policies.

"While I am myself somewhat disheartened by the slow progress in the peace process, I think we are learning many useful lessons and with renewed determination.

"We are still in pursuit of peace in this country, but the principal actors are the Sri Lankan people themselves. They have to make up their minds; they have to determine and set the pace for the search for peace. An outsider and outside countries, however powerful they may be, can only facilitate, encourage and create the environment in which the pursuit of peace becomes easier.

"So we are well aware of our limited as well as useful role here and we are committed to continue," Mr. Akashi said.

Mr. Akashi met the media at the conclusion of his three-day visit to Sri Lanka to assess the progress of the Peace Process and the aspects of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka. Earlier he had met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and other political leaders, and also visited Vakarai in the East to observe resettlement of the war displaced persons there.