Right of reply
I write with reference to the article titled "NGO, INGO moles", by
Dr. Susantha Goonatilake, published in your newspaper of 9th January
In the article the author presents an inaccurate, distorted,
defamatory and misleading account of the activities of NGOs and INGOs in
general and of the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies in
In nearly all violent disputes around the world which were settled
peacefully in the last two decades NGOs and INGOs played an important
role to prepare the ground for negotiated settlements and to help
sustain them by promoting a comprehensive culture of peace.
They offered opportunities for dialoguing, for mutual understanding,
for generating innovative solutions and compromises and they helped all
parties to enhance their capacities to engage with each other to look
for political rather than military solutions for their conflicts.
This is also the goal of the peace-related NGOs and INGOs mentioned
in this article.
They do their work in the interest of all peace-loving Sri Lankans
and in full accordance with President Rajapakse's aim of establishing an
"honourable peace" for all people of this country. The Berghof
Foundation for Conflict Studies was established in 2001 through an MoU
with the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs.
Its main objective is to promote a peaceful settlement of the
conflict by providing opportunities for dialoguing and exploring
peaceful options for all parties.
One of the Foundation's guiding principles is multipartiality: that
it works with ALL the statkeholders to the conflict. This includes apart
from the government the political opposition parities, the LTTE, the
Muslim parties, Tamils of Indian origin, the public and private sector
and civil society. Working with all of them is aimed at understanding
their interests with a view to finding a common ground towards a
peaceful solution to the conflict.
The Berghof Foundation has never promoted the division of the
Nor does it promote one ethnic group over another. Rather its aim has
been to promote respect for the culture and views of all ethnic groups
that constitute this country. Its activities are aimed at promoting
trust and understanding and at strengthening the relationships among all
communities in order to transform this conflict from war to peace.
Berghof has never sought to "train" Sri Lanka's security forces as
alleged by the author.
At the specific request of the Defence Review Committee in 2002/3
that consisted of a former Army Commander, the Defence Secretaries, and
the Secretary to the Treasury, the Foundation facilitated workshops
between the military and civil society.
These workshops were aimed at promoting a discussion between members
of civil society and the military and strived to strengthen
relationships and develop an understanding between these stakeholder
There was no attempt to "disband Sri Lankan armed forces' nor to
bring the "forces under foreign heel" as alleged by the author. All
these activities were conducted with the complete knowledge and approval
of the Ministry of Defence.
It is extremely demeaning and belittling for the persons concerned
that the author states that decision-makers, advisers, politicians and
senior civil servants in Sri Lanka could be brain washed.
The Berghof Foundation does not take a stance on the political
positions of the different stakeholders to the conflict.
Its aim is to enable parties themselves to develop solutions based on
an understanding of each other's political positions and interests.
The author alleges that a few months ago Berghof attempted to train
Air Force Officers on 'demilitarization'. This is a complete
At no point has the Foundation attempted to 'train' the Air Force on
The author seems to be living in world of paranoia and insecurity.
The gist of his article suggests that Berghof and other NGOs are seeking
to divide this country through their activities.
On the contrary every aspect of Berghof's work has been aimed at
finding a non-violent solution for the conflict within the context of a
united Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a democracy. Different groups and individuals have a
right to debate and discuss different points of view, so long as it is
done non-violently and does not incite people to violence.
Regrettably the author does not seem to accept the right to free
debate and discussion.
Instead his comments are highly defamatory.
Dr. Norbert Ropers, Director, Colombo, 9th January 2006