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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2760

U.S. has a choice: Are you with Tamil Diaspora for united Sri Lanka or with Pro-LTTE voices advocating a divided nation

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune Analysis

Washington, D.C. 11 April (Asiantribune.com): The great political experts and super brains in the United States Department of State now have a choice before them: Are they politically astute to understand the voice of reason which emerged from a twenty-odd expatriate Tamil Diaspora delegation that was on a fact finding mission and a dialogue in Sri Lanka end of March from six Western nations and Australia or voice of the Tamil Tigers that emerged from a group of Tamils domiciled in the U.S. when they met American officials on April 6?

The latter maintaining the option for a separate Tamil nation in Sri Lanka pointed out that no durable political solution is possible without the participation of the LTTE. "Tamil Americans opined that negotiations should not preclude separation as a solution and that confederation with power sharing at the center may be a viable alternative to total separation" noted a media release issued by this group after its meeting with American officials.

Dr. Susan Rice, the US Permanent Representative to UN based in New York, was in Washington at the State Department to listen to the pro-LTTE Tamils.

In contrast one of the members of "Tamil Diaspora for Dialogue" who along with another twenty Tamil expatriates who visited Sri Lanka end of March Mrs. Rajeswari Balasubramaniam a writer by profession and Human Rights campaigner who lives in the UK said "This is the time for us, Tamils, to rethink anew whether war and destruction is the final solution for Tamils who have lost thousands of them when one looks back after almost 20 years and we Tamils who have borne the brunt of suppression, oppression, battered and bruised over the years must forget the past and think anew. We know that it is not easy to forget the past after what we went through was hell for many years it is not easy but you have to forget the past".

She asserted "This message is especially for all those members of the Tamil Diaspora who are especially beating the war drums from the cool comfort and safety of their homes in foreign capitals around the world. They must think anew and learn to live in a united Sri Lanka where all could enjoy equal rights".

What did the State Department officials assistant secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher and Ambassador Robert Blake hear from the Tamil delegation who echoed the sentiments of the LTTE when Blake ask them to tell the LTTE to allow the civilians to leave the battle zone?

The media note said "the representatives responded that the Tamil civilians are given a Hobson’s choice, and appealed for expanding the current safety zone and creating a demilitarized zone under the protection of the UN agencies. Only then the Tamil civilians can be asked to choose between staying with the LTTE, or leave for protected zone or distant IDP camps".

How did the Tamil Diaspora delegation visiting Sri Lanka responded to the same question? A member of the delegation said: “Holmes had met with the LTTE’s K. Pathmanathan, arranged by the help of the Norwegian Government and he has clearly said the LTTE will not let the civilians go. I think the LTTE is immune to international pressure.

"Americans have pressurized. India and Norway are probably pressurizing them. It is obvious the LTTE is keeping the civilians for their safety. Under these circumstances, no one can convince them, unless they decide to let them go. Because they know once the civilian shield is gone, they are finished. So it’s a do or die situation for them".

The United States Department of State officials and the U.S. Permanent Representative to U.N. Dr. Susan Rice within a week heard the ‘Voice of Hope and Reason’ from a twenty-member delegation of the Tamil Diaspora in six Western nations and the ‘Voice of Despair’ from a group of expatriate Tamils living in the U.S.

Now the United States has a choice: To which group do you lend your ear to formulate your policy toward Sri Lanka?

The Asian Tribune in a previous report gave the interpretation to what went on at the State Department’s South Asian Affairs Bureau office on April 6 between the American officials and the group of Tamil expatriates.

In this report we present what the twenty-member delegation of the Tamil Diaspora, all of them highly educated professionals, from six nations found and the observations they had in their several days of tour in the last week of March (2009) meeting not only government officials but also the refugees in camps in the Northern Region and representatives of Tamil democratic political parties. To present a broader range of the Tamil delegation’s 'on the scene' observations and dialogue with a wide range of personnel the Asian Tribune obtained information from several sources for the benefit of not only the regular readers of this Online Daily but also for those in the U.S. State Department’s Research and Intelligent Unit which monitors developments which the U.S. is interested in.

The Sri Lankan government began what it described a dialogue with the large Sri Lankan Tamil communities living overseas, hoping they will help to rebuild the war-shattered northern parts of the country.

A twenty-member delegation comprising members of the Tamil Diaspora in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland was in Colombo in the final week of March.

The dialogue emerged amid what the government has described as the final stage of a major military offensive to crush a decades-old separatist campaign by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The Tamil Diaspora delegation was led by an Australian Tamil newspaper editor, Dr. Noel Nadesan who described their several days of observations, dialogue and listening tour an encouragement for the Tamil Diaspora to effectively involve in political and economic upsurge of the Northern and Eastern Regions and usher in peace in whole of Sri Lanka.

They had met ministers Rohitha Bogollagama, Prof. Tissa Vitharna, DEW Gunasekera Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga Secretary Justice Ministry Suhada Gamlath Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohonne, Secretary UDA Dr. Prathap Ramanujhan, Secretary Social Services Ministry Mrs. Rajeswary Jegarajasingham and former IGP and Presidential advisor Chandra Fernando.

During their stay in Sri Lanka, the delegation also had the opportunity to interact with leaders of major Tamil political parties, including TULF leader, V. Anandasangaree, EPDP leader, Minister Douglas Devananda, Minister Vinayagamoorty Muralitharan, PLOTE leader, D. Siddharthan and TELO leader, N. Srikantha.

A member of the delegation Dr. Rajasingham Narendiran said that the delegation members were highly impressed by Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa during his three hour presentation on Re-awakening of the East program of the Government "We found that through the Central Government they had done tremendous work which we would have preferred if it were implemented by the Provincial Government", he said.

He further added: "Definitely from what we have heard from the Government they have done a tremendous job in the East since the region was liberated from the LTTE. Specially in providing the infrastructure - road building, house building and in reviving the agriculture. Plenty of things have been done. We hope that they could maintain this trend and improve further".

The visit took place on the initiative of the Australia based Tamils. They visited Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the Northern Region in Vavunia as well as the Ambepussa rehabilitation centre for ex-LTTE cadres located 35 miles east of Colombo. They also met Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, a Member of Parliament and president’s brother, and expressed their concerns over the trapped civilians in the coastal strip of the Mullaitivu in the battle zone in the East.

Dr. Rajasingham Narendran, a veterinary expert living in Saudi Arabia described the dialogue between the government and the visiting Tamil Diaspora as "very positive, interactive and answered many of the questions we sought answers for and has convinced us that the Government is genuinely interested in resolving the problems the Tamils confronted with".

Asked what made them to engage in a dialogue of this nature he said "In the overseas Tamil Diaspora the campaign by the LTTE is so negative and exaggerated. The LTTE is trying desperately to convince the foreign leaders and politicians abroad. But we really wanted to come and see what is going on and to speak to the Government leaders of Sri Lanka. Therefore we took part in the dialogue with the representatives of the Government and got the real picture of what is happening with regard to the North and East crisis".

Dr. Rajasingham Narendran in his first hand observation of refugee camps administered by the government said this contrary to what the U.S. State Department officials were made to believe by the pro-LTTE activists in the United States:

"We could not go into the war zone, but we went to Vavuniya and met the Internally Displaced Persons. It is very pathetic to listen to them. Most of them had injuries and several of them were shot at by the LTTE when they were escaping. Some of them were with amputated legs with serious injuries. Families have been separated, husbands have been separated from their wives. Some even paid ransom to the LTTE to flee from their grip. But now almost every one of them is happy with the IDP centers created in Vavuniya. The Government is doing its best to see that the IDPs are safe and looked after well. The people in the IDP centers are happy. There are shops, banks, medical centers, libraries and places of worship within the centers look into their needs".

Following is the Memorandum presented by the twenty-member Tamil Diaspora to the government at the conclusion of their visit to Sri Lanka:

Memorandum to the Government of Sri Lanka from the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora

2009 April 1

Introduction:

At the conclusion of a two-day dialogue in Colombo from 28th to 29th March 2009, between the Government of Sri Lanka and a group of 21 participants from 09 countries drawn from Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, this Memorandum was submitted for the consideration of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Vision:

Making peace is more difficult than making war. But a start has to be made somewhere. It is hoped that this dialogue will be one of many endeavors leading to a road map for all communities in Sri Lanka to co-exit in a non-violent environment.

Objective:

The primary Mission is to engage the Sri Lankan Government in realizing the vision as outlined above. The way forward lies in a two pronged approach, namely on the economic and political fronts.

Memorandum:

1. The Diaspora Tamils believe that LTTE gave protection to the Tamil people. In the absence of this "protection" and amidst anti-Tamil rhetoric from certain members of the Government, most Tamils perceive a sense of insecurity to live in Sri Lanka.

2. We recognize the urgent need for a democratic and interactive leadership to evolve amongst the Tamils.

3. The Government of Sri Lanka must make efforts to ensure:

* Safety and security of all Tamils in Sri Lanka;

* Due process of law and order to become the bedrock;

* The re-assurance of the Tamils that they are not a defeated people and that the defeat of the LTTE is not the defeat of the Tamils;

* Political and religious leaders should repeatedly assure Tamils that they are equal and valued citizens of Sri Lanka, whose culture and way of life will be permitted to flourish within a united Sri Lanka;

* At least the State media – print, radio & TV – to project such perceptions within zeal.

4. The 13th Amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka as presently enacted should be implemented in letter and spirit to the fullest possible extent, immediately.

5. Short term measures to be implemented in the North:

* all efforts should be to taken to serve the lives of the civilians trapped in the conflict area and the surrendering LTTE cadres to be handled compassionately;

* re-settlement of IDPs to their original homes and habitations should be handled with reasonable speed and sensitivity;

* rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts should start immediately to encourage those who have been dispersed throughout the island to return to their original places of habitation;

* elections in the North should be held only after the guns have been silenced and violence ceases; conditions should be created for “true democracy” to come into play before elections are held;

* a nominated transitional Provincial Council should manage affairs in the North until conditions conducive to conduct democratic elections are established, pending improvements to it by the APRC.

6. The Diaspora should be invited to:

* A:

i) play a greater role in the rebuilding of the North and the East;

ii) contribute material and expertise to the rebuilding efforts;

iii) Funds for (a) cultural and educational development,

(b) medical and health services,

(c) reconstruction and development should be generated in consultation with the Diaspora.

* B The Government should liaise with a constructive group of the Diaspora to continue the dialogue that has been initiated on this occasion and to expand its scope.

A communiqué issued by the Government of Sri Lanka regarding the unprecedented initiative in establishing a dialogue between the government and the overseas Tamil Diaspora clearly gives the position it has taken to address myriad of issues facing Sri Lanka:

"The Government of Sri Lanka is committed towards developing a partnership with the Sri Lankan Diaspora in promoting a new era of peace through reconciliation among the different communities and implementing an economic plan to reconstruct the war ravaged North of the country. This pledge was made by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at the inauguration of a two day Sri Lankan Diaspora Dialogue in Colombo on March 28 (2009) organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The Minister, elaborating on the involvement with the Diaspora in the post conflict era, stated that the initial engagement should evolve into a partnership with the Government as a stakeholder. This partnership, he said would be through political empowerment of the people and economic development of the North.

"The Minister pointed out this dialogue that the Government has now initiated as being the first opportunity for the diverse views of the Tamil community of Sri Lankan origin living abroad to be freely articulated. Hitherto, their voices have been stifled by the oppressive control of the LTTE on the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. The Foreign Minister expressed his confidence that this interactive dialogue with the Diaspora would develop into an inclusive process leading to sustainable peace and stability in Sri Lanka.

"He underscored the important role that the Diaspora has to play in addressing the current humanitarian situation in the North. He called upon them to add their voice to the growing chorus within the international community to exert pressure on the LTTE to free the helpless civilians who are being held hostage as human shields, confined to the fast receding sliver of land along the Mullativu coast, yet to be cleared.

"Minister Bogollagama emphasized the Government’s paramount concern for the safety and well being of the entrapped civilians. Sri Lanka is now on the verge of defeating terrorism and the time has arrived to look towards the future to re-establish democracy in the North and rebuild the infrastructure and facilities which have been destroyed. In this regard, he highlighted the re-establishment of the democratic institutions of governance which has now empowered the people of the Eastern Province, in tandem with the reconstruction and economic development.

"Minister Bogollagama pointed out that the LTTE committed its biggest blunder by rejecting the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, and its violent and destructive opposition to the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution has now led to the disastrous consequences it is now facing.

"The Minister of Science & Technology and Chairman of the All Party Representatives Committee, Prof. Tissa Vitharana described the political process underway to identify the areas for wider devolution of powers to the provinces, and expressed his confidence that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be able to see through this difficult and challenging task. The Government has made this position known to the international community, which has also offered its encouragement".

- Asian Tribune -

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