Diplomatic Breakthrough for Sri Lanka: Opponent of Tiger Terrorism Elected to U.S. Congress from Nevada
Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Las Vegas, Nevada, 08 November (Asiantribune.com): While on the campaign trail for the Third U.S. Congressional District in the State of Nevada political science professor and incumbent opposition leader of the Nevada State Senate Dina Titus had a dialogue with a group of Sri Lankan expatriates of issues, challenges and crises faced by the South Asian nation Sri Lanka.
Dina Titus is a political scientist in the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, and no one could mislead or hoodwink her. She has a twenty-year experience as a state senator, well informed of political developments here and abroad, and teacher of political science for twenty years.
But a Sri Lankan triumvirate who led their expatriates and took the initiative to expose the Democratic Party U.S. Congressional candidate to the challenges Sri Lanka faced completed their endeavor with a significant achievement.
Dina Titus was elected a U.S. Congresswoman from Nevada in the November 4 general election on the Democratic ticket and enters the portals of the Capitol Hill with a substantial understanding of the issues Sri Lanka currently face in her endeavor to defeat Tamil Tiger terrorism and restore human and democratic rights to a section of a captive minority Tamil population in LTTE-controlled areas in the north.
As Professor Titus told the Sri Lanka expatriate gathering that once she is in the U.S. Congress, she will not allow some lobbyist to approach her and tell about the issues confronting Sri Lanka; "I will turn to you for advice and counseling and I will come back to you to get help on issues confronting Sri Lanka," she said. "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."
The political agenda the triumvirate had was to win the heart and mind of a potential congresswoman on a vital issue that Sri Lanka faced; Tamil Tiger terrorism that threatened the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the democracy and the manner in which the Sri Lanka administration headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa endeavors to strike a balance between national security and safeguarding human rights.
The triumvirate knew these were the two vital issues that need to be explained to Prof. Dina Titus, two issues which have been misinterpreted by the LTTE lobby in the West especially in the United States. And, that lobby is now out of bounds in Congresswoman’s chamber in Washington for the LTTE when she takes oath of office in January 2009.
The gathering in early September was organized by Sri Lankan political activist Sanje Sedera who chairs the Asian American Democratic Caucus in Las Vegas, a chartered organization by the State of Nevada Democratic Party, and Douglas Perera, a well known Sri Lankan social worker who is the deputy chairman of Sri Lanka America Association of Nevada. This writer was the other in that triumvirate.
Sedera, now a known Democratic Party activist and a proven leader in assembling expertise for political organizational work and recognizing talents for forward and upward movement of political campaigns worked hard to get a sound footing among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Dina Titus’ congressional candidacy and other several state-wide contests. As the head of the Asian American Democratic Caucus of Southern Nevada and as a Sri Lankan American Sanje Sedera provided briefing material to Dina Titus on Sri Lanka’s war on terrorism to defeat Tamil Tigers.
Douglas Perera who has wide acceptance among the Sri Lankan residence in Southern Nevada and one of the Sri Lankan social activists in Las Vegas who was instrumental in launching an ambitious US $ 40,000 ‘Tsunami Project’ in 2006/07 undertaken by the Sri Lanka association to rehabilitate a school in the Southern District of Galle in Sri Lanka is almost the epicenter of Sri Lankan social and political work in Las Vegas. No Sri Lankan parliamentarian, cabinet minister, invester/bussinesmen or entertainer passing through the western states of the U.S. will miss Perera’s hospitality at his Las Vegas residence. And the high issue in those conversations is how to improve Sri Lanka’s image among lawmakers, state or national, in his adopted country. In early September, Congressional candidate Dina Titus found her way to Perera’s residence for the milestone and far-reaching briefing about Sri Lanka.
After that September briefing session at Douglas Perera’s residence the Asian Tribune reported: "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, declared 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."
She said that a terrorist organization should be treated like a terrorist entity and such organizations cannot be brought to the negotiating table.
Asian Tribune in that report further noted: "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."
This writer as the key note briefer 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.
It is in response to this writer’s comments US Congressional candidate told the September gathering that a terrorist organization should be treated like a terrorist entity and such organizations cannot be brought to the negotiating table which the Sri Lankan community here now consider that as a significant statement in the light of her electoral victory to enter the US Congress next January.
Professor Dina Titus declared: "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.
What was comprehended by the erudite political science professor was what this writer reminded in his briefing 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," this writer reminded.
This writer noted: 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 ‘warrant less 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 to which Ms. Titus said will never happen.
Dina Titus enters the United States Congress next January with a clear understanding of the current situation in Sri Lanka, a significant achievement for Sri Lanka’s overseas public and official diplomacy.
- Asian Tribune. -