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The Foreign Ministry and awareness-raising

The Government’s two-pronged approach to resolving Sri Lanka’s conflict has been neatly and forcefully summarised by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama. On the one hand, the State would be marshalling all its resources to defeat terrorism. On the other, it would be working out a political solution to the problem.

This could be described as the classical approach to quelling the terror menace. It involves the adoption of tough law and order measures as well as the use of a political strategy. These components are complementary and are not at variance with each other. If terrorism is to be defeated, both approaches need to work in tandem.

This dual approach has characterized Government’s handling of the conflict. While responding to military threats posed by the LTTE, on a day-to-day basis, the Government has also been endeavouring to evolve a political solution through the APC-APRC process.

While tough law and order measures need to be taken to debilitate the Tigers it needs to be recognized that terror does not operate in a vacuum. It is the product of grievances experienced by some and a reasonable solution needs to be found to these grievances at the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, the ruthlessness of the LTTE has reached such proportions that the State cannot hold anything back by way of law and order measures while putting down terror. In short, the Government needs to muster all its resources in the fight against terror.

One such instrument in the defusion of terror is communication and awareness-raising. We are glad that the Foreign Minister has understood the effectiveness of this tool. Proof of this was given on his first days in office when he addressed the heads of all foreign missions in Colombo on the Government’s programme of work in the Foreign Affairs sphere.

In fact Minister Bogollagama could not have been more concise and cogent in his definition of the functions of the Foreign Affairs Ministry when he said that it would be his endeavour to transform the Ministry into a “Window of Sri Lanka to the world outside.”

These changes, we hope, would come sooner rather than later. The Foreign Ministry has to not only implement the Government’s external affairs policy but be a conduit of information to the fast paced world around us. It has to also promote closer interaction between Sri Lanka and the world community.

Moreover, in the fight against terror, the Foreign Ministry must be an awareness - raising instrument among the international community. In this respect, the Ministry is a precious resource which has to be put to good effect. We are glad that the Minister has addressed his mind to this dimension of the Ministry’s role.

He has already got off to a good start by acquainting the diplomatic corps of the Government’s policy on ending the conflict. It is also certainly a good idea to hold regular meetings with the diplomatic corps to keep them informed about developments here.

As the Minister indicated, no resource should be spared if the terror menace could be defeated. We hope the Foreign Ministry would touch more and more hearts and minds.

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