Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Dhanapala Touts Ability to Lead United Nations

by Kazuo Nagata, The Daily Yomiuri, December 13, 2005

TOKYO - With one year left for the United Nations to choose a successor to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, one of the two declared candidates stressed Tuesday his experience at the world body as giving him an edge over potential rivals, making him a credible reformer.

"I believe I have a better chance of succeeding than if somebody unfamiliar with the internal workings of the U.N. system tries to approach the task. I don't think this task can be undertaken by somebody with experience of national government only. This organization (the United Nations) is unique," Jayantha Dhanapala told The Daily Yomiuri when asked about his qualifications to tackle the daunting task of U.N. reform.

The 66-year-old diplomat, currently senior adviser to newly elected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, served as U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament from 1998 to 2003 under Annan.

"Reform of the United Nations will be necessary. I'll therefore pledge (if elected secretary-general) to implement reforms agreed upon by member states," Dhanapala said.

He pointed out that "half the battle" for the United Nations is reaching agreement on reform. The rest of the battle is implementing the plan - something that will be largely up to the next secretary-general - and this is where his experience will count, he said.

So far, the only other declared candidate is Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, but names such as South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon and outgoing Polish President Aleksander Kwashiewski also have been raised as possible contenders.

Dhanapala stressed that the person who succeeds Annan on Jan. 1, 2007, should be from Asia, which has not had one of its own at the top U.N. post since Burma's U Thant stepped down in 1971. "I welcome more (Asian) candidates because Asia is a continent of rich human resources ... It's our (Asia's) obligation to give the international community as wide a range of choices as possible," he said.

Dhanapala was in Tokyo to present himself as a candidate, holding a series of meetings with senior Japanese officials, including Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

Japan is serving as one of 10 nonpermanent members on the U.N. Security Council through the end of 2006, when the board will elect the next secretary-general. A candidate must obtain votes from at least nine countries, including all five permanent members, to be elected by the council.

Dhanapala said he and the Sri Lankan government still supported the formula of expanding the council's permanent membership by adding the so-called Group of Four - Japan, Brazil, Germany and India - plus "an African country."

He said Japan was qualified to be on the council permanently, being a major economic power and contributor to the U.N. budget, while also having increased its political role He especially praised Japan for playing a "constructive role" in mediating conflict between his government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, hosting a series of key talks throughout the peace process.

Suggesting the past few years have been a difficult period in the U.N.-U.S. relationship, especially over the Iraq war, Dhanapala said he was determined to restore the world body's smooth ties with the superpower if elected secretary-general.

"I will expend all efforts to ensure the (U.N.-U.S.) relationship is a harmonious one," he said, adding that the United Nations, with its "unquestioned legitimacy and universality," should be indispensable to U.S. interests.