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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Former US State Department Official Lunstead incites International Community against Sri Lanka at Senate Hearing

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 25 February (Asiantribune.com): Painting a Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead almost incited the International Community and Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor India. Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead almost incited the International Community and Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor India. dismal picture about Sri Lanka, advocating what this South Asian nation should do in terms of constitutional reforms, while denouncing Tamil Tiger terrorism, but indirectly connecting the terrorist outfit with Tamil grievances, projecting a doomed future for minority ethnic Tamils and the re-emergence of the Tamil Tigers if Tamil grievances are not met former American ambassador to Sri Lanka Jeffrey Lunstead almost incited the International Community and Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor India which has taken a surprisingly neutral stance on Sri Lanka issue when he gave his testimony before the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee at Capitol Hill Tuesday, February 24 on ‘Recent Development in Sri Lanka.’

Lunstead’s submissions carried more weight than Human Rights Watch Senior researcher Anna Neistat or Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz as he was a veteran U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officer who served in this South Asian nation as ambassador from 2003 through 2006. Foremost, he has close ties with the principal players of the U.S. Congress who are prepared to listen to him.

Advocating that the International donors like Japan should bring stringent conditions to its economic assistance to Sri Lanka, while tying the aid to good governance and human rights Mr. Lunstead anyway lamented that U.S. economic assistance at the lowest ebb and military assistance is almost nil.

Despite U.S. assistance to Sri Lanka is insignificant, former ambassador Lunstead indirectly reminded Sri Lanka that the United States has some clout over principal players of the International Community to bring pressure for stringent conditions tied to their economic assistance.

He then advocated a system of government for Sri Lanka. Asian Tribune needs to remind its readers that when Lunstead was ambassador in Sri Lanka, he got the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct workshops and seminars in Colombo and other districts to civil groups and organizations the fruitfulness of a federal system.

Before the Foreign Relations Committee last Tuesday he almost advocated it but sugar coated it with the term ‘devolution’.

Mr. Lunstead told the Senate Committee that the Sri Lanka Government (GSL) harasses the ethnic Tamil civilians, does not give adequate food and medicine to them and inhumanly herded them into camps, all of which are LTTE accusations when the latter is being defeated militarily to gain a cease-fire.

Jeffrey Lunstead once famously said when he was U.S. Envoy in Sri Lanka addressing a workshop sponsored by the USAID to impress civil society the importance of devolution and federal system that he was not advocating any system for adoption in Sri Lanka told the U.S. Foreign relations Committee “The first long-term issue is dealing with the need for political change. Sri Lanka's Tamils have legitimate grievances which need to be addressed. Sri Lanka's political system, which centralizes power in Colombo, needs to be changed to devolve power to local areas. This will allow Tamils--and indeed all Sri Lankans--to have a greater say in how they are governed and how they lead their lives.”

Asian Tribune carries here some selected statements of Jeffrey Lunstead which could be considered most provocative and inciting against a South Asian nation which is battling a ruthless terrorist movement which is a micro group but has a macro effect in both Sri Lanka and abroad to safeguard her sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy while striking a balance between national security and human rights.

The macro effect of the LTTE is seen in some of the statements of Mr. Lunstead given below.

(Begin Lunstead Statements) "In the short-term, as the fighting intensified and the area held by the LTTE diminished, the toll on civilians trapped between the two forces increased. Both the LTTE and the Government have shown a callous disregard for civilians. There is a desperate need for food and medical care. Both sides have fired into civilian areas. The LTTE has forced children as young as 14 into its ranks, and fired upon civilians trying to cross into Government-controlled territory. Tamil civilians who managed to flee the conflict area have been forced into camps by the Government. This situation must be dealt with on an emergency basis.

The Government has an obligation to protect its own citizens. It must do better at preventing collateral damage to civilians in its military campaign, and ensure that food and medical care reach them. Conditions in the camps are abysmal, and must be improved. After initial resistance, the Government is now allowing UN and other international and local agencies into the camps. This is an important step. The Government must also allow a competent outside agency, such as the ICRC, to be present when it screens those entering the camps, and to establish a record of those who are detained. Tamils have a real, and legitimate, fear that those taken off by Government forces will be abused and may never be seen again.

"The first long-term issue is dealing with the need for political change. Sri Lanka's Tamils have legitimate grievances which need to be addressed. Sri Lanka's political system, which centralizes power in Colombo, needs to be changed to devolve power to local areas. This will allow Tamils--and indeed all Sri Lankans--to have a greater say in how they are governed and how they lead their lives.

"The second long-term issue is wider than the ethnic conflict. It is the growing assault on dissent, which takes place in a culture of complete impunity. Sri Lanka has maintained its democracy, despite some rough patches, for over 60 years since independence. The recent murder of prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickematunga was but the latest in a series of incidents. Tamils and Sinhalese suffer alike from these attacks on basic freedoms.

"Many Tamils have been abducted and have simply disappeared, as documented in the State Department's Human Rights Report. It is sad to say, but it is almost a certainty that these attacks have been carried out by elements of the Government. Impunity seems total. No one has been prosecuted for any of these incidents, and no member of the security forces has been prosecuted for any abuses. Past efforts to break the culture of impunity have failed. For instance, the Government in 2007 invited the international community to set up an "International Independent Group of Eminent Persons" (the IIGEP) to observe the work of a Government Commission of Inquiry into a number of human rights abuses, including the murder of aid workers. The IIGEP terminated its mission in 2008, reporting that it had encountered an "atmosphere of confrontation" and an "absence of will on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka…to investigate cases with vigor, where the conduct of its own forces has been called into question."

"The Government now faces a choice. It can fail to treat its Tamil citizens properly, fail to engage seriously in political reform, and continue to allow human rights to be violated and dissent to be threatened. If so, unrest will continue, violence will certainly recur, and the promising future which has always seemed just out of reach will recede even further. Or it can act immediately to show its Tamil citizens that they are valued as highly as every other Sri Lankan. It can make the dramatic changes that will give better governance to all Sri Lankans, and set a standard for responsibility and accountability which will diminish human rights violations and strengthen democracy. The decisions made now will affect the island, for better or worse, for decades to come.

"What can the U.S. and others do? The U.S. military relationship with Sri Lanka is almost nil, with military assistance terminated. U.S. development assistance is relatively small. However, Sri Lanka will require massive assistance to rebuild war-devastated areas and to meet Sri Lanka's other development needs. The U.S. could join with other donors, both bilateral -- Japan, the EU, and others -- and multilateral, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. A powerful and united donors group could insist that development assistance will flow only if strict conditions are met. These could include genuine devolution of power, quick resettlement of displaced persons, and a clear improvement in the human rights situation. The U.S. should also seek close coordination with India, Sri Lanka's close and large neighbor. With its own large Tamil population, India has a significant stake in the outcome in Sri Lanka.

"With long experience in these matters, I will not pretend that meaningful donor coordination and aid conditionality are easy to accomplish. They are easy to propose but fiendishly difficult to do. If the U.S. and other donors made World Bank and ADB loans conditional on these changes, and if Japan, Sri Lanka's largest bilateral donor, conditioned its own assistance, Sri Lanka's friends could have a major impact. Without such changes, the prospect is for an inevitable recurrence of the ethnic conflict.(End Lunstead Statements)

The former American ambassador to Sri Lanka has almost given a lecture to Sri Lanka how she should put in place a system that suite that country. Before the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee Lunstead has impeached the Rajapaksa government something the U.S. State department is unable to openly make. Some accusations are so serious that one wonders whether the GSL could ignore the scenario painted by Lunstead to the Senate Committee. Despite Lunstead says that he does not speak for the United States Government he is in fact continues to have the State Department mindset. In fact Richard Boucher, State Department assistance secretary for South Asia, once said in Colombo at a press briefing that he advocates ‘Homeland’ for the ethnic Tamil minorities.

Does Mr. Lunstead aware that 54% of ethnic Tamil minorities are living in other districts away from the Northern and Eastern Region among the ethnic majority Sinhalese?

- Asian Tribune -

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