Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

Negotiations with Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers: US Ambassador Blake Writes One Thing and Says Another

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 28 May (Asiantribune.com): United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake categorically expressed in an interview given to Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer on May 25 that the U.S. does not advocate Sri Lanka to enter into negotiations with separatist Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

But the official report about his Mission’s role in promoting democracy in Sri Lanka as part of the overall State Department report on Advancing Freedom and Democracy, which was sent under his own signature to Washington, released Tuesday May 27 says that “U.S. government efforts to promote human rights and democracy focus on working with partners to broker a lasting peace agreement between the government and the LTTE.”

When he categorically stated to Sunday Observer that the country that he represents does not advocate any negotiations between the GSL and the LTTE this seasoned diplomat completely forgot what he wrote two to three weeks before to the State Department that the Mission he heads in Sri Lanka was working “with partners to broker a lasting peace agreement between the government and the LTTE”.

Blake told Sunday Observer:

(Begin Quote) “US is a strong supporter of Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism. We strongly believe that Sri Lanka like all other countries has an obligation to defend its people against LTTE terrorism.

“The US believes that the answer to the conflict lies with a power sharing concept which can respond to the aspirations of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

“According to Prof. Vitharana over 90 percent of their work has been done and I think the APRC has been a useful mechanism to get the Southern consensus to move forward. The most important thing is to come up with an idea which is really welcomed by the Tamils.

“I think that it is important for the government to consult a wide range of Tamils. We are not calling for negotiations with the LTTE. That is something that the government has to decide.” (End Quote)

The report the American Embassy in Colombo sent to form as part of the State Department’s 2008 Report Advancing Freedom and Democracy says:

“U.S. government efforts to promote human rights and democracy focus on working with partners to broker a lasting peace agreement between the government and the LTTE; mitigating the effects of the conflict and promoting conditions under which reconciliation can take place.”

In the introduction to the overall report of the U.S. State Department’s Advancing Freedom and Democracy – 2008 makes the following salient point about the role of the Head of Mission or ambassador in a host country:

“Part two is a statement of the U.S. government’s priorities to promote democratic principles, practices, values, and human rights. It also includes specific actions and activities, to the extent anticipated, to be undertaken and supported by the chief of mission and other U.S. officials.”

The report’s advocacy of commencing negotiations between the Government of Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers (LTTE) is considered a “specific actions and activities, to the extent anticipated, to be undertaken and supported by the chief of mission and other U.S. officials.”

Despite Ambassador Blake said in his Sunday Observer interview that his government does not advocate negotiations between the GSL and LTTE, and that it was “something that the government has to decide” the language used in the document, prepared in his office in Colombo, implies that influencing the GSL to commence negotiations with the Tamil Tigers is a “specific action and activity to be undertaken and supported by the chief of mission and other U.S. officials.”

It has been stated officially that the U.S. government officials, under U.S. Federal laws, are prohibited from maintaining any contact with a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), in this case the Tamil Tigers, leave alone influencing them to come to negotiations with the GSL.

The annual report mandated by Congressional law Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report says that “the Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports were drafted at U.S. missions abroad. They were edited by the editorial staff within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor with input from other Department of State and USAID offices”

The State Department has included Sri Lanka in its overall report because this South Asian nation is considered by the United States as one of the countries undergoing democratic transition.

The State Department says: “Pursuant to the Advancing Democratic Values Act of 2007, the Department of State has prepared this report on U.S. efforts to promote democracy and human rights in nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transitions worldwide.”

Despite the leaders of Sri Lanka forcefully say that theirs is a fully-fledged and vibrant democracy being the oldest in Asia and that the democratic nation is threatened by Tamil Tigers to advance her case internationally the United States Department of State brings a contrary view.

The State Department Report in its preamble further states “Upon consultation with NGOs, and in keeping with the (Congressional) Act’s definition of nondemocratic and democratic transition countries, we have reported on our priority efforts in 106 countries.”

Sri Lanka has been included in these 106 countries.

The report is divided into four parts. Part one is a concise statement, similar in content to the first and second paragraphs in the introduction to the Department of State’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights regarding the political and human rights conditions in each country. Part two is a statement of the U.S. government’s priorities to promote democratic principles, practices, values, and human rights. It also includes specific actions and activities, to the extent anticipated, to be undertaken and supported by the chief of mission and other U.S. officials. Part three highlights the greater range of the post’s ongoing diplomatic, public diplomacy, foreign assistance, and other public actions to address the priorities stated in Part two. Part four is a continuation of a description of post activities as they relate to the promotion of all fundamental human rights and democratic governance not highlighted previously says the introduction.

The introduction further states: “As the report shows, we have concentrated our efforts on practical ways to strengthen the core elements that must be present in countries around the globe if human rights and democratic principles are to be exercised and protected effectively: (1) free and fair electoral processes, with a level playing field to ensure genuine competition; (2) good governance, with representative, transparent, and accountable institutions operating under the rule of law, including independent legislatures and judiciaries; and (3) robust civil societies, including human rights and democracy defenders, independent media, and labor unions”

(Begin Quote)Sri Lanka

Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports – 2008
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State

Part 1

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic that continues to be fractured by the ethnic conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an organization advocating a separate ethnic Tamil state.

Government security forces expelled LTTE troops from the east by July 2007, and military confrontations occurred regularly in the north. In January 2008 the government withdrew from the 2002 Cease Fire Accord between the government and LTTE. Overall respect for human rights declined countrywide, but especially in the conflict-affected areas. Several reports documented participation by the army, police, and progovernment paramilitary groups in armed attacks against civilians, torture, kidnapping, hostage taking, extortion, and extrajudicial killings.

The LTTE, which maintained control of large sections of the north, continued to attack civilians and engage in torture and arbitrary arrest and detention; denied fair, public trials; arbitrarily interfered with privacy; denied freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; and practiced forced recruitment, including of children. The LTTE carried out politically motivated killings, suicide attacks, and bombings of civilian buses in the south.

Part 2

U.S. government efforts to promote human rights and democracy focus on working with partners to broker a lasting peace agreement between the government and the LTTE; mitigating the effects of the conflict and promoting conditions under which reconciliation can take place; pressing the government to develop a constitutional power-sharing proposal that will give greater rights to its minority populations; strengthening governance to ensure accountability and transparency; pressing the government to curb and render justice for human rights abuses; promoting freedoms of the press and religion, fair labor practices, and the rights of women and children; and speaking publicly on these issues to raise awareness and encourage progress.

Part 3

U.S. programs to advance democracy include supporting the Peace Secretariat for Muslims (PSM); providing technical assistance and training for national initiatives to develop a political framework to resolve the conflict; strengthening the justice sector; and expanding and networking community fora across the conflict-affected North Central and Eastern Provinces to support human rights monitoring, good governance, and peace building. The United States also provides technical assistance and training to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and the secretariat for coordinating the peace process. U.S. officials consistently urge the government to halt all human rights abuses, including religious freedom violations, and hold perpetrators accountable. U.S. officials also repeatedly urge the government to accept the presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, due to the fact that the country's human rights institutions are not able to prevent or report on the country's human rights problems.

The United States works to promote a democratic political process, good governance, and a strong civil society. In July 2007 a U.S.-funded program strengthened the technical capacity of local government by training 1,612 officials to improve service delivery and financial management and increased citizen participation in local planning. The United States supports policy advocacy in local government and assisted the Ministry of Local Government and provincial councils to develop a national policy declaration for local government. In 2007 the United States assisted the Election Commission with the completion of a computerized national voter registry. The embassy continues to engage civil society actors to support people's fora, a community consultative process to promote reconciliation and improve citizen oversight of government. As part of the U.S. strategy to promote tolerance, 12 political parties active in the south and 14 from the east of the country participate in district-level multiparty dialogues on regional priorities.

U.S. efforts to promote freedom of speech and the media include diplomacy and technical assistance programs. The ambassador regularly meets influential media personalities from a wide range of outlets to hear their concerns about pressure on the media. In 2007 the ambassador visited the offices of two prominent Tamil newspapers to show public U.S. support. The United States continues to fund a regional media program, and with U.S. support, media houses in both the south and the east provide training and production support to district-based journalists and staff of community-based organizations. A U.S.-funded implementing partner continues to broadcast current affairs programs in both vernacular languages weekly on three regional radio stations in the south, east, and central hill country.

Part 4

The United States supports anticorruption efforts, judicial reform, and efforts to promote the rule of law and religious freedom. In 2007 a U.S.-funded anticorruption program provided training to 336 staff from the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and from the auditor general's department. The U.S. government supported the first national household survey on corruption, which was released to the public and government authorities in July 2007. Another U.S.-supported project continues to train mediators from the Ministry of Justice's Community Mediation Boards Program and to support NGOs working with marginalized communities to train informal paralegals to represent the interests of their communities. The United States funds two ongoing anti-trafficking projects to provide law enforcement training on trafficking in persons awareness and victim identification, in addition to a case management database to allow more effective monitoring of trafficking crimes and victims. To promote religious freedom, the ambassador has expressed concern to the government about the negative impact anti-conversion laws could have on religious freedom.

A U.S.-funded four-year program is helping to create the National Plan of Action for Decent Work, which is designed to promote good labor standards and protection of labor. Another U.S.-funded program aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

Training focusing on respect for human rights is a key component of all military programs. The United States is working to expand its education and training programs to focus specifically on human rights and civil-military relations. In 2007 a joint military law exchange ran a seminar on human rights, humanitarian law in military operations, rules of engagement, and military justice(End Text).

- Asian Tribune -

Share this


.