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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2764

USA: Sri Lankan-Americans demonstrate for peace in Sri Lanka

Washington, 05 October, (Asiantribune,com):Sri Lankan Americans in the Greater Washington area on Wednesday (4th October) held a mass demonstration for peace opposite the White House in Washington DC.

The rally was held to protest the brutal killings, ethnic cleansing and forcible recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE, to support the Sri Lanka peace process and to commend the U.S. administration for its recent arrests of LTTE agents in the U.S.

This event was attended by almost Sri Lankan - Americans cutting across ethnic and religious persuasions. Sri Lankan Americans from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania also participated in the rally.

The demonstrators were particularly appreciative of the action take by the U.S. administration and for its tangible support to Sri Lanka. They also highly commended the FBI for the recent investigation and for apprehending 16 LTTE agents in the U.S. They urged for continued vigilance to prevent U.S. soil being used by the LTTE and its front organisations.

The rally included a colourful display of banners and placards as well as U.S. and Sri Lanka flags and music. The main banner read ‘Sri Lanka supports the global war on terrorism’ while there were sub banners saying, ‘FBI: Thank you for busting the LTTE’; ‘Sri Lanka Tamils Want Democracy Not Terrorism’; ‘LTTE: Stop Recruitment of Child Soldiers’; ‘Sri Lankan Americans also support the Peace Process’.

The crowd also carried numerous placards with pictures. They included: LTTE – STOP Suicide Bombings; Save Tamil People from LTTE Terrorism; Democracy – Yes / Terrorism – No; One Sri Lanka for all Communities; LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, PM of India; LTTE – Disarm & Talk Peace; LTTE – Invented the suicide jacket; LTTE – Stop Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims; Al-Qaeda destroyed Twin Towers – LTTE bombed our Central Bank; Ban TRO and other LTTE Front Organizations; LTTE – Banned in USA, UK, Canada & India; LTTE – STOP killing Tamil Leaders.

Among those who participated in the demonstration was prominent Sri Lankan Muslim leader Mr M H M Azwar who joined the group of Washington based Muslims attending the rally. Commenting on the event Mr Azwar said, "Today, I witnessed a true display of solidarity among Sri Lankans in Washington DC. This kind of demonstrations which are being held in several cities in the world have greatly helped in clarifying what is happening in Sri Lanka.I am particularly glad to see a sizable Muslim participation in the event, on this 11th day of the Holy month of Ramadan."

After conducting a peaceful demonstration for over three hours opposite the White House, the convenor of the event, Mr. Sudath Gunasekera addressing the rally said, "the intention of the organizers had been fulfilled as this rally had drawn people from all walks of life. This is a great moment of unity among Sri Lankans in Washington. We see this as a beginning, not as an end. We will move forward as a group to spread the true picture of what is happening in Sri Lanka to the opinion makers and the people of the USA".

A petition to President George W. Bush initiated by the four Sri Lankan associations in Washington D.C. – the Sri Lanka Ranga Kala Kavaya, Apey Kattiya, Sri Lanka Association of Washington D.C. & Greater Washington and Friends of Sri Lanka in the USA (FOSUS) was also released on this occasion. (Petition is attached).

Another petition addressed to Ms Anne Veneman, Executive Director UNICEF that is being circulated internationally to demand action against "the LTTE war on children", was also signed by all participants as well as by many who came to witness the event.

Given below is the full text of the petition to President George W. Bush initiated by the four Sri Lankan associations in Washington D.C.:

His Excellency, President George W. Bush

President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C.

The associations of Sri Lankan Americans in the USA salute you for your leadership and indefatigable efforts to eradicate terrorism from the global scene in collaboration with other democratic countries. International terrorism has emerged as the greatest single threat to democracy and national development and your continuing focus on this issue has our wholehearted support.

Sri Lanka, a strong ally of the USA from South Asia, has suffered from terrorism for three decades. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) highjacked the leadership of the minority Tamil community in that country by systematically assassinating the leadership of the political parties representing Tamils in the Sri Lanka parliament and terrorizing the Tamil communities in the North and East of the country into subservience. In the absence of any notable international assistance to combat terror in this small country in the past, the elusive fascist leader of the LTTE, V. Prabhakaran, was able to build up a formidable international network of support for his terrorist organization. The LTTE built up support communities in Western Europe and North America by trafficking in illicit immigration of Sri Lankans into these countries and cultivating political leaders and non-governmental organizations.

By funding these new immigrants to set up small businesses and by imposing a monthly tax on the Tamil Diaspora in these countries through coercion, it built up resource bases. The LTTE acquired a merchant naval fleet which is engaged in transporting arms from some South East Asian countries which are then sold to terrorist movements.

The LTTE’s penchant for violence is insatiable. It has assassinated most of the Tamil political leadership – the then leader of the parliamentary opposition, Mr. A. Amirthalingam, and internationally renowned Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, are just two of them - through this period and cowed most of the others to subservience. It has carried out continuous attacks on civilian targets in Sri Lanka, killing thousands of people and this trend continues unabated. Notably, it bombed the Central Telecommunications headquarters in Colombo, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka building in Colombo, the principal Buddhist shrine in Kandy, the Colombo Airport, two trains in the suburbs of Colombo and several commuter buses.

.LTTE assassins gunned down 150 worshippers at a sacred Buddhist site in the city of Anuradhapura, another 120 at a mosque in the Eastern Province and continues to invade villages in the Northern and Central Provinces to massacre entire communities.

It assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India, President Premadasa of Sri Lanka and hundreds of other leading politicians and public officials in Sri Lanka. These deadly attacks received little publicity in the international media due to the support base the LTTE built up internationally. On the other hand, LTTE operatives in the USA have in the past openly stated at public seminars that it believes that it can gain its ends only by violence.

The LTTE prides itself in inventing two of the most horrendous tools in the armory of modern terrorist organizations.

One is ethnic cleansing that it started practicing in northern Sri Lanka in the mid 1980s that other terrorist organizations in the Balkans and elsewhere copied later.

The second is suicide bombing. The LTTE invented the most sophisticated suicide jacket which is now widely used in the Middle East and Afghanistan by al-Qaida terrorists.

It recently celebrated its Heroes’ Day to commemorate the martyrdom of its 272 suicide bombers.

It continues to forcibly recruit child soldiers who are then conditioned to become Black Tiger suicide bombers or cannon fodder to lead attacks on security forces. UNICEF estimated that 300 children were taken by the LTTE in August 2006 alone for this purpose.

The Government of Sri Lanka has tried to curb the LTTE by defensive actions against continuing LTTE military attacks to occupy parts of the sovereign territory of the country and by peace negotiations. But each of the three cease fire agreements, signed when the LTTE was militarily weakened, resulted in the LTTE increasing its armaments and fighting capability to launch fresh attacks on the country. As we know from our own experience in the USA, negotiating with terrorists is usually unproductive till the leadership of a terrorist organization is eliminated.

Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in Asia. The British government introduced universal adult franchise for elections to the legislature in 1931 when Sri Lanka was still a British colony. Since then, governing legislatures have been chosen by popular vote without any reversion to military or dictatorial rule as in some other ex-colonies. Minorities in Sri Lanka, like the Indian Tamils and the Muslims, have acquired special minority rights through negotiations and parliamentary legislation.

The use of terror to create a separate ethno-linguistic state in a small country is unacceptable in this day and age. Since the LTTE began to dominate portions of territory in the north and east of the country, the people in those parts have been denied their democratic rights and subjected to brutal oppression. In the 2004 November presidential elections the LTTE forcibly prevented the people living under its control from voting. Large numbers have fled these areas, leaving behind a small population of about 400,000 in a country of 20 million people.

In its efforts to serve all the people of the country, the government continues to pay public servants working in LTTE dominated areas, knowing that these officials have to take orders from the LTTE and also pay taxes to the organization. It dispatches food and other essential supplies to the value of over Rs.2.0 billion per annum to these areas, knowing that the LTTE taxes these supplies before it reaches consumers. It allows foreign aid programs in these areas, knowing that the LTTE extracts 20% of the value in additional taxes while the government has to repay the donor institutions.

The government makes investments in the LTTE dominated areas without obtaining any tax returns from these regions while the LTTE taxes the people and goods transported or sold. Unlike in some other parts of the world where violent protracted conflict has resulted in humanitarian crises in territories controlled by rebel groups, the LTTE controlled areas in Sri Lanka have never faced a serious humanitarian emergency because the Government of Sri Lanka makes every effort to provide normal services, including health and education, to the people of those areas.

Sri Lankan Americans are grateful to the USA and the present administration for its tangible support for Sri Lanka. The designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization in Canada and the European Union is undoubtedly due to the example and influence of the US administration. The assistance to the Sri Lankan military has helped to forestall the expansion of the LTTE through its current undeclared war on the government. The recent highly commendable action of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in apprehending some of the LTTE activists operating in the USA who extort money from resident Tamil communities, buy arms for its separatists war and terrorist activities, and try to corrupt US officials, has our highest appreciation.

While we are sincerely grateful to your administration for what it has already done for the establishment of peace in Sri Lanka, we would urge that this support be strengthened and continued. The world cannot allow the expansion of terrorism in South Asia through the actions of the LTTE in Sri Lanka which have encouraged terrorists elsewhere in the world. We wholeheartedly accept your vision that the cancer of terrorism has to be destroyed to make a better world for democracy to flourish and for people to live in peace and harmony.

Yours sincerely,

The Sri Lanka cultural association, Ranga Kala Kavaya
Signed: Upali Perera

The Sri Lanka cultural association, Apay Kattiya
Signed: Dias Amarawardhana

Sri Lanka Association of Washington, D.C. & Greater Washington
Lasantha Dahanayake

Friends of Sri Lanka in the USA (FOSUS)
Kenneth Abeywickrema

- Asian Tribune -

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