Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

International Community Holds Responsibility for Devastation of People of Tamil Eelam

by Sabesan, Australia, June 11, 2007 [translated from the Tamil]

These actions have, quite naturally, raised false expectations among the Tamil diaspora that there has been a shift in the positions taken by the said western countries on the Sri Lankan conflict. But the current actions by the western world are not the result of a change of heart. The purpose of this analysis is to dispel any illusions that Tamil people might have with regard to their recent actions and statements...

The western world, which purports to provide financial aid to alleviate the sufferings of the Tamil people has, on the other hand, continued to provide arms and military assistance to the Sri Lankan government, thus contradicting its stated aim of peace-making.

Recently some western countries have condemned the human rights violations of the Sri Lankan government and offered additional financial assistance to the affected Tamil people.

The Australian government has pledged $5.25 million to provide life-saving and other essential humanitarian services for those affected by the intensifying conflict. Likewise, the British government has also offered 1million to assist the displaced in the north-east. As usual these countries have expressed deep concern over the increasing violence and human rights violations in Sri Lanka and have called for the resumption of peace talks. The U.S. government has also joined the chorus.

Sabesan cartoon Uncle Sam Sinhalese leader June 2007These actions have, quite naturally, raised false expectations among the Tamil diaspora that there has been a shift in the positions taken by the said western countries on the Sri Lankan conflict. But the current actions by the western world are not the result of a change of heart. The purpose of this analysis is to dispel any illusions that Tamil people might have with regard to their recent actions and statements.

While we welcome the financial assistance, these countries offer for emergency humanitarian operations in Tamil areas, we wish to point out certain important issues.

The western world should not forget that it was the Sri Lankan government that bombed and destroyed the many infrastructures that they helped build in the Tamil areas during the early stages of the peace process. The western world, which purports to provide financial aid to alleviate the sufferings of the Tamil people has, on the other hand, continued to provide arms and military assistance to the Sri Lankan government, thus contradicting its stated aim of peace-making.

Another important point is the suggestion by these countries that they would freeze financial aid to Sri Lanka. For the keen observer, one thing will be clear. And that is, the western world might publicly pronounce an aid freeze, but would continue to provide other forms of indirect financial assistance to Sri Lanka, for they have the dubious honour of having done so elsewhere in the past.

Today, 60% of international financial aid to Sri Lanka comes from Japan. In 2003, 63% of such aid was provided by Japan. While Britain and Germany are talking about halting their aid to Sri Lanka on account of gross human rights violations prevailing in the country, Japan is not prepared for such punitive actions. “There will be no change in Japan’s aid programs to Sri Lanka”, Japan’s Foreign Ministry stated recently. However, it is the western world that not only backs Japan’s aid programs to Sri Lanka, but also provides various other forms of financial assistance. The harsh reality is, real peace will dawn in Sri Lanka only when the western powers end their military and arms assistance to the government of Sri Lanka.

A few weeks ago we discussed Britain’s recent overtures to end Sri Lanka’s conflict. We cited a few underlying reasons for its initiative, such as the upcoming general elections in the U.K. where there is a considerable number of Tamil constituents; the ever-increasing human rights violations of the Sri Lankan government; the growing isolation of Britain due to its involvement in the ‘war on terror’; and Britain’s regional and economic interests. We also pointed out that Britain’s approach towards Sri Lanka has fundamentally remained unchanged, and that the Tamil people should not be deluded by certain cosmetic measures being proposed.

Now, there are reports stating that there is a change in America’s position also, and that the recent views expressed by America’s former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jeffrey Lunstead, reflect this new stance! These assertions, we wish to emphasize, are totally fallacious. Indeed, it should be said that it is America’s stance that causes the present ruination of Tamil Eelam and its people. The rationale for our contention can be explained as follows.

Ambassador Lunstead’s viewpoints appeared in a 41 page analysis titled ‘The United States’ Role in Sri Lanka’s Peace Process 2002 -2006.’ Overall it might appear to contain some positive views on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. An in-depth study, however, will reveal how the U.S. has been wholely supporting the Sri Lankan government’s chauvinistic policies that are totally against the interests of the Tamil people. Let us take a brief look at the report.

Ambassador Lunstead in his analysis points out an important matter – Foreign Military Financing (the program under which the U.S. provides grants to other countries for the purchase of U.S. military equipment) for Sri Lanka in 2002 and 2003 was zero. In other words, no military funding was provided to Sri Lanka until after the peace talks commenced. However, in 2004 the U.S. provided $2.5m for military assistance to Sri Lanka, and this assistance, Lunstead says, continued at varying degrees in the following years.

Lunstead also says that, prior to the start of the peace process, visits from senior U.S. military officers were rare. He quoted an observer stating: "Before the Peace process, Sri Lanka might get a visit from one flag-rank U.S. officer per year. By 2004, it seemed there was one visit a month.”  He also reveals in his analysis the various military training and educational programs provided to the Sri Lankan military officials by the US during the peace process.

Here, we should note an important point. Why did the USA, which claims to have not provided military assistance to Sri Lanka during the war time, do so during the peace process?

The answer is, the LTTE and Sri Lankan Government had a military equilibrium when the peace talks commenced, and America deliberately disturbed this equilibrium in an attempt to weaken the Tamil side. This is a gross injustice America meted out to the people of Tamil Eelam.

If America had provided so much military assistance openly ‘as part of its strategy for promoting the peace process,’ how much more might it have provided quietly during other times? Here, we can’t help thinking of the immense suffering of the 300,000 displaced Tamils and our numerous friends and relatives killed and abducted by the Sri Lankan security forces, made possible by sustained US military aid.  

Let us now look at yet another piece of information made available by the former US Ambassador. ‘The US tried to make clear to the Government of Sri Lanka that the US support, including military support, was not an encouragement to seek a military solution’.

We do not know whether to laugh or cry or be provoked by this statement. When the entire world knows that the Sri Lankan government is a racist and murderous government, what is the logic behind offering it military support – especially during the period of peace talks? Will such support help peace or war?

This military support is akin to giving a butcher’s knife to a murderer who has been killing people with a pen knife, and asking him to keep it but not kill anymore!

To do all this and to say now that ‘Sri Lanka violates human rights’ is utterly foolish and perfidious.

Another bizarre contradiction should be pointed out. Ambassador Lunstead says that “The main U.S strategic interest in Sri Lanka is in ensuring that a terrorist organisation does not obtain its goals through the use of terror.” Today, however, in Sri Lanka itself, the LTTE is not legally considered as a terrorist organisation. But if those who live in a faraway land would look through their tainted glasses and tag a liberation organisation as a terrorist outfit, whose fault is that?

Couldn’t America have secured its freedom from the British through peaceful means? Why did the American people fight a bloody war against the British? Why did America's forefathers resort to violence? Wasn’t George Washington a terrorist in the eyes of the then British Governor – just as Nelson Mandela was in the 1960s and Velupillai Pirapaharan is at the present time?

Further, “The author (Ambassador Lunstead) believes that direct communication with the LTTE would have had concrete benefits, including the ability to deliver a clear U.S. message about possible delisting of the LTTE as an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organisation) ………………It is impossible to know whether the LTTE leader Pirapaharan understood the U.S.position”, so laments the former Ambassador in his present day analysis!

There was no such need to meet Tamil National Leader Pirapaharan directly to explain the US policy. The US needn’t try hard to spell out its policy – suppress the Tamil people’s independence struggle by destroying the LTTE. In fact, the US has already demonstrated this by its actions.

As part of Norway’s new peace initiatives, an international donor countries' meeting was held in Washington in April 2003. But the US did not invite the LTTE, thus effectively sidelining the Tamil people. In a statement criticizing this action, the Tamil Eelam national leadership said “Regrettably, the U.S has undermined this joint effort by isolating the LTTE and solely promoting the GoSL……….It also undermines confidence in both the reconstruction initiative and the peace process. The LTTE is therefore dismayed and disappointed by the US action.

When the situation got more complicated in the ensuing period, the Tamil National Leader Pirapaharan made certain matters clear to the ‘Voice of the Nation’ Anton Balasingham – “Inter-linking political pressure with economic assistance, the international actors intervened to promote the interest of the Sri Lankan state, which severely undermined the status and power relations between the protagonists.  As a non-state actor caught up in the intrigue-ridden network of the international state system, the LTTE is compelled to act to free itself from the over-powering forces of containment. Hence, we will not take part in the forthcoming donor countries meeting in Japan, and suspend the peace talks for the time being”.

Accordingly, Mr. Balasingham wrote to the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, stating the Tamil National Leader’s ‘deep displeasure.’ 

Therefore, the message that America wanted to give and its objectives were totally clear to the Tamil National Leader Pirapaharan. Ambassador Lunstead’s after-the-fact sighs are both disingenuous and deplorable.

The Ambassador has also gone to great lengths to explain that ‘the US has no interest in Trincomalee’. This is truly a message for India. But America’s vested interest in Trincomalee and its manoeuvres in the region are manifest in the current situation in the east.

Today hundreds of thousands of Tamil people have displaced from the eastern province. The Sri Lankan government that wants to expel the Tamils from these areas continues to engage in military campaigns in many densely populated areas. Though America might claim to have no interest in Trincomalee, its continuing support for Sri Lankan government’s action is indicative of its desire to wrest control of these areas from the Tamils.  

In any event, America is conscious of the fact that Tamil allegiance to India runs deep. America believes that if a strategically important place like Trincomalee is in the hands of the Sinhalese, it could be used against India if and when required. It is on this premise that America simply keeps watching the annihilation of Tamils and the erection of Buddhist temples, etc., in Trincomalee.

And India, which fully understands the situation, remains silent, like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand.

America’s actions on the Sri Lankan conflict are carefully calculated. And Ambassador Lunstead’s observations are, frankly, untenable.

If the western world really wants, it can easily contain the human rights violations of the Sri Lankan government and its military campaigns that are against the peace efforts. Only when practical forms of pressure are exerted will the Sri Lankan government cringe. By attempting to change the military equilibrium that existed between the two sides, which would have lead to the resolution of the Tamil question, it was America that brought the situation to the current impasse! It is futile to blame the Tigers any longer.

The recent commentaries are the consequence of the Tamileelam Air Force emerging as a new dimension in the conflict – surpassing the conspiracy webs of the international community, including America, the resultant debilitation of the Sri Lankan government, and the constraints caused to the economic interests of the concerned nations.

At the same time, we should also note how cunningly the Sri Lankan government has duped America and other western countries into believing that it was serious about the peace process. If India puts pressure, Sri Lanka will approach Pakistan. If America hints something, it will go to China or the Arab countries. Thus the Sri Lankan government had long gone back on finding a peaceful solution.

In our view, Ambassador Lunstead’s analysis seems to point out indirectly one thing. And that is, it is not only the Sri Lankan government, but the US and the rest of the international community, as mentor and protector, that is responsible for all the horrendous human rights violations, murders, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Tamil people and the breakdown of peace talks.

The primary problem today is the insincere interference of the US and other western countries. Should these countries take honest and candid decisions, the conflict will end soon and smoothly.

Even as we write, more than 500 Tamils had been evicted from Colombo and forcibly sent to the northeast in packed buses in a gruesome manner. And the western powers continue to make statements of condemnation, but stop short of any meaningful punitive actions. For their petty interests, they cling to the racist government that takes the lives of tens of thousands of Tamil people, whilst making justifications for their actions. This certainly won’t bring a solution to the conflict.

The Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam did not engage in peace talks trusting the integrity of the Sri Lankan government. They went to peace talks trusting the acumen and sagacity of the international community.  Today our people are perishing because the international actors have failed to demonstrate justice and integrity.

As the peace talks have failed, and no viable political consensus is forthcoming from the south, Tamil people should be set free based on their right to self-determination. This is the right course of action for which the international community should render its support even now. Failure to do so may take the conflict to greater dimensions than the Tamileelam Air Force. The western world and the rest of the international community should, therefore, play an honest role to end the Sri Lankan conflict now.

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