Potential U.S. Congresswoman Declares LTTE terrorism and Sri Lanka Tamil Grievances do not Tally
Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Las Vegas, Nevada. 14 September (Asiantribune.com): If Sri Lanka is the most misunderstood country in the world and, a state senator who is destined to enter the United States Congress from the State of Nevada in a most favorable political climate for the Democratic Party this election year to declare that she understands that Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers is a terrorist movement and not a liberation organization and that they do not represent the minority Tamil grievances, Sri Lanka has taken a step forward in winning the heart of a U.S. lawmaker and to make the U.S. Congress understand the real issues confronting this Indian Ocean island nation.
A group of Sri Lankans and other well wishers who gathered to support the candidacy of Professor Dina Titus, incumbent Democratic Minority Leader of the Senate of the State of Nevada Legislature, for the November 4 United States Congressional election for the Third Electoral District in Nevada convened by the Asian American Democratic Caucus of Nevada of which a Sri Lankan Sanjeewa Sedera is the chairperson she said that a terrorist organization should be treated like a terrorist entity and such organizations cannot be brought to the negotiating table.
Titus, a political science professor at the University of Nevada and a 20-year state senator, was the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 2006. Although she lost the governor’s race statewide to Republican Party candidate Jim Gibbons, she beat Gibbens in the 3rd Congressional District which she is contesting in the November 4 general elections.
In the November 2006 election for the 3rd Congressional District the then Democratic candidate lost by a slim 4000 votes at a time Republican Party voter registration in the District was far higher that the Democratic Party. According to the latest official statistics released by the Nevada State Election Office the registered voters identified as Democrats surpasses that of Republican by 26000 votes in Titus’ Congressional District.
With this favorable political climate for the Democrats in the nation and in Nevada political pundits and strategists expect an easy win for Dina Titus at the November 4 general election to enter the United States Congress.
And, Sri Lankans in Nevada have taken a progressive step forward, while actively getting involved in the election process endeavor to apprise state and national political activists about the true situation in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is threatened by a separatist/terrorist organization called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, popularly known as Tamil Tigers, to her territorial integrity, sovereignty and democracy. Tigers are fighting for a separate Tamil minority independent state in Sri Lanka’s north and east despite they have lost considerable support from the 12% Tamils whose majority (54%) live outside predominantly Tamil north and east provinces. The Government of Sri Lanka last year liberated the Eastern Province from the clutches of the Tigers and held democratic provincial elections after a lapse of 14 years giving regional political and administrative responsibilities to the Tamils, who constitute a majority in the province, and to the other two ethnic communities Sinhalese and Muslims.
At the Sri Lankan forum held on Friday, September 06 at the residence of Douglas Perera, vice president of Sri Lanka America Association of Nevada with the auspices of the Asian American Democratic Caucus spear headed by its chairperson and convener Sanjeewa Sedera, this Asian Tribune writer reminded Democratic Congressional Candidate Dina Titus some salient issues confronting Sri Lanka’s fight against Tamil Tiger terrorism bringing some parallels with the situation in the United States after the 9/11 attacks on striking a balance between national security and human rights.
This writer brought to the attention of Dr. Titus that the grand design of the Tamil Tigers for decades to get the international attention was to project their struggle as a liberation struggle to redress the grievances of the minority ethnic Tamils by successfully combining the Tamil Tiger terrorism and Tamil minority grievances. The writer said that no Sri Lankan government in the past endeavored to separate the two, or separate facts from fiction, until the advent of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the elected Executive President in November 2005 who has unleashed a military offensive to defeat Tiger terrorism and address grievances of all communities with a special emphasis on Tamil issues.
He reminded the U.S. Congressional candidate that the United States did not call for a truce or secession of hostilities with al Qaeda and those terrorists should be treated like terrorists.
This writer also reminded that 54% of the 12% minority ethnic Tamils are out of the despotic clutches of the Tamil Tigers living in other predominantly Sinhalese majority districts and provinces. He said after a lapse of fourteen years the government held democratic elections in the Eastern Province, which consist 68% of minority ethnic Tamils, after militarily defeating the Tamil Tigers handing over governing responsibility to the local people restoring their basic human rights all these years denied by the Tamil Tigers who controlled a vast area of the province. Now the government forces are in a battle to defeat the Tigers in a cluster of areas they control in the Northern Province, he said.
This writer raised another salient issue with Democratic Congressional candidate Dina Titus about striking a balance between protecting human rights and national security, an issue mostly misunderstood by the international community.
“It is a very delicate endeavor to strike a balance between human rights and national security. Here in the United States we have a strengthened national security sometimes at the expense of certain human rights. The United States endeavored, after the 9/11 terrorist strike, to strike a balance between human rights and national security. There were credible reports that ‘Waterboarding’ was used as an interrogation tool. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 set up a system of ‘FISA Courts’ which would decide when it can approve for the federal government to spy on people. The government is conducting ‘warrantless surveillance’ by avoiding FISA Courts which most critics denounce as a violation of human rights. For national security these are certain laws and measures needed. They obviously violate human rights but the nation was safer after 9/11” explained this writer.
He wanted Ms. Titus to understand that in combating Tamil Tiger terrorism Sri Lanka is trying to strike a balance between national security and human rights. “Here is a situation where the international community is pressing Sri Lanka on issues of human rights, and in the meantime they have completely forgotten that she is fighting a ruthless terrorist enemy to safeguard the nation, and terrorism is put to a side highlighting human rights” this writer further noted.
This writer said, on behalf of the Sri Lankan community in the State of Nevada this brief presentation was given for Prof. Titus to get a complete and undistorted picture of the Sri Lankan situation before she enters the U.S. Congress because once she is there Tamil Tiger front organizations, professionals and agents who represent the Tamil Tiger agenda will be approaching her to give a distorted version of the Sri Lankan situation.
The briefings that were given by Sri Lankan activists before she arrived at this September 6 gathering and the explanation forwarded by this writer seem to have brought dividends when Democratic candidate for U.S. Congressional District Three of the State of Nevada political science professor and 20-year State Senator Dina Titus declared that “once you designate an organization as a terrorist organization, as the United States Government has done, it should be treated as a terrorist organization that cannot be brought to the table.”
But she noted that the Government of Sri Lanka on many occasions invited the Tamil Tigers to the negotiating table, sometimes they came and other times they failed, and “I am aware that the Tamil Tigers was not sincere when they came to the negotiating table.”
In her long submission to the gathering, among other topics that relate to the State of Nevada in particular and United States in general, Dina Titus gave the following encouraging words to the Sri Lankan community not only domiciled in Nevada but also to those who are in other parts of the U.S. and even for the Sri Lanka Government to comprehend:
“As a teacher I have done some homework and understand what’s going on in Sri Lanka. Once I am in the U.S. Congress, I do not allow some lobbyist to approach me and tell about the issues confronting Sri Lanka; I will turn to you for advice and counseling.
“I will come back to you to get help on issues confronting Sri Lanka that I do not know a lot about.
“I have been in the State Legislature for twenty years and I know how the politicians work and the legislature works.
“I tried to do some reading about the situation in Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers, and I am aware that the Tamil Tigers have been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States government. I am also aware that the USG has frozen assets of a so called charitable organization operating in the U.S. which has been revealed a functioning front organization of the Tamil Tigers.
“The United States has a strong and close relationship with Sri Lanka; we gave a lot of aid and assistance after the 2004 Tsunami. And the U.S. has supported Sri Lanka through USAID for her economic development.
“And I do understand the difference between a terrorist organization and a nationalist organization. And I also understand the difference between a terrorist organization and agitation for the redress of minority grievances.
“They are not the same.
“Once you recognize an organization as a terrorist organization it should be treated as a terrorist organization, not as another organization that can be brought to the table.
“And, I understand that the Government of Sri Lanka had extended that hand to the Tamil Tigers and invited them to the negotiating table to work things out but the Tamil Tigers has not shown its sincerity, sometime they don’t show up or withdraw abruptly,.” concluded Dina Titus showing full well that she understood the situation in Sri Lanka noting at the beginning that, once in the U.S. Congress, no Tamil Tiger lobbyist could approach her to confuse her mind.
- Asian Tribune -