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Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999 23:34:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-UN: Hands off Domestic Politcs, say Asian Nations
Article: 78064
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.18823.19990929091610@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 511.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-UN: Hands off Domestic Politcs, say Asian Nations **
** Written 9:09 PM Sep 27, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

Hands off Domestic Politics, say Asian Nations

By Thalif Deen, IPS
27 September 1999

UNITED NATIONS, Sep. 27 (IPS) - Sri Lanka, India and China - three Asian countries long involved in civil unrest - have warned the United Nations to keep its hands off domestic political issues.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan set the tone of the argument against interference in any country's internal affairs by brushing aside repeated arguments that human rights should take precedence over national sovereignty.

"When the sovereignty of a country is put in jeopardy, its human rights can hardly be protected effectively," he said.

Sovereign equality, mutual respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in each other's internal affairs are the basic principles governing international relations today, Tang said.

China's strong stand against "humanitarian intervention" was prompted primarily by fears of a Kosovo-type intervention in Tibet - whose separatist movement has strong support in the United States.

The issue of human rights, in essence, was the internal affair of a country and should be addressed mainly by the government of that country through its own efforts, Tang stressed.

Sri Lanka, where an insurgency by Tamil separatists has dragged on for 18 years, also rejected proposals for a UN role in mediating the dispute.

Responding to statements last week on civilian casualties in the ongoing battle, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said that UN officials and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had no right to inject themselves into the domestic politics of a country because they did not possess any mandate to do so.

"With the exception of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees - involved in issues relating to humanitarian aid and refugees - other UN agencies have mandates only to be involved in social and economic development of a country," Kadirgamar said.

"They should be more concerned with malaria and mosquitoes - not domestic political issues," he told IPS.

Kadirgamar was furious about the move taken by unnamed UN officials in Colombo in expressing "deep concern" over the "extensive civilian killings in two separate incidents" in Sri Lanka recently.

The mandate of most UN agencies operating in the field is confined primarily to development, he said, "But yet some of them are trying to expand their mandates," he complained.

Kadirgamar also criticised a statement attributed to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which said it was "deeply concerned at the recent outburst of violence in the conflict in Sri Lanka, which is resulting in an alarming increase in the number of civilian casualties."

The minister said the ICRC was wrong in equating the killing of 50 civilians by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) with an air attack by the Sri Lanka air force in which 22 civilians died.

"They should have drawn a distinction between the two -- and not refer the two incidents in the same breath," he said. "It looks as if one justifies the other."

The civilian deaths in the air force attack were an accident, but the LTTE killings were not, he added. "It looked as if they were trying to make a virtue out of the retaliation."

The ICRC was not tolerated in India and had been barred from that country, he noted.

Addressing the 188-member General Assembl, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said it would be an error to assume that the days of state sovereignty were over.

"The United Nations was not conceived as a super State, it will not ever become so, principally, because there is no viable substitute to the sovereign state," he added.

To diminish, marginalise or to ignore the state would also be bad practice because, the weaker any state became, the less it would be able to promote the interests of its citizens, Singh said.

India has barred any form of UN intervention in the disputed territory of Kashmir, even refusing to permit senior UN officials including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to raise thessue at a diplomatic level.

Singapore's Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar argued that, notwithstanding Kosovo where a US-led military force intervened without Security Council authorisation, "it does not appear that the majority of states have much to fear if they treat their citizens well."

If there was to be any form of "humanitarian intervention," said Jayakumar, there should be rules and objective criteria for such intervention.

"Failure to do so will breed uncertainty and instability," he warned. "If a new balance has been struck between sovereignty and other values, it should be struck knowingly, and with our eyes open."

Jayakumar said this would pose a major challenge in the coming century if the United Nations was to remain relevant in the coming century.

"This is because we can expect to face many more situations which will pose the dilemma of reconciling state sovereignty with international intervention to redress violations of human rights," he said.



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