Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Sri Lanka: The Road Ahead

Panel discussion at American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, February 10, 2011

Karunyan Arulanantham, native Tamil and humanitarian activist, stressed that Tamil militancy and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam emerged only after a long history of hurt and conflict. Reconciliation would require the Sri Lankan government to become accountable to the Tamil people, to allow them due share of power, and to allow them to seek official recognition of war crimes.

Panelists:
LISA CURTIS, Heritage Foundation
JENNIFER LEONARD, International Crisis Group
KARUNYAN ARULANANTHAM, M.D., Tamil American Peace Initiative
DON CAMP, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia

Moderator:SADANAND DHUME, AEI

Event summary

WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 11, 2011--The United States should work with the Sri Lankan government to encourage transparency, accountability, and equal representation of Tamils--a historically marginalized, persecuted, and underrepresented ethnic group--panelists agreed at an American Enterprise Institute event Friday. The conference focused on Sri Lanka's troubled past and its prospects for future reconciliation and growth. Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation expressed hope for tolerance and open debate between Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government and the Tamils. Curtis asserted that the United States should support the country's significant economic growth and development, especially given Sri Lanka's strategic maritime and geopolitical role in South Asia. Dan Camp of the US Foreign Service disagreed, stating that US engagement has been purely humanitarian, while Sri Lanka seeks to maintain good relations with the United States to secure a market for its exports. He added that while Tamils outside of Sri Lanka hope to attain greater retribution, local populations are, by necessity, more concerned with basic needs and material well-being. Karunyan Arulanantham, native Tamil and humanitarian activist, stressed that Tamil militancy and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam emerged only after a long history of hurt and conflict. Reconciliation would require the Sri Lankan government to become accountable to the Tamil people, to allow them due share of power, and to allow them to seek official recognition of war crimes. Jennifer Leonard of the International Crisis Group regrets that the eighteenth amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution has lifted all checks on the president, allowing Rajapaksa to stall devolution of power to the northern and eastern Tamil regions. While the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission hearings attempt to bring justice for ethnic Tamils, they are not an adequate forum to provide real accountability. Since the sympathies of most who have testified lie with the government, human rights infractions have not been adequately portrayed.

Full video and supplemental materials from the event are available online at http://www.aei.org/event/100367.

For further details about this event, please contact Julia Friedlander at julia.friedlander@aei.org.

Speaker biographies 

Lisa Curtis is senior research fellow on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation. Ms. Curtis has testified on more than a dozen occasions before US congressional committees, published op-eds, and appeared on major news networks including CNN, BBC, and Fox News. Her previous work experience includes serving as professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2003–2006), senior adviser in the State Department’s South Asia Bureau (2001–2003), CIA analyst on South Asia (1998–2001), and diplomat in the US embassies in Pakistan and India (1994–98). 

Jennifer Leonard joined Crisis Group’s Washington office in June 2002. As Washington advocacy director, she works across the spectrum of Washington’s foreign policy actors—including the administration, Congress, media, think tanks, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—to design and implement strategies that impact the policy process. Ms. Leonard also has primary responsibility for advocacy and research in Crisis Group’s Central Asia, South East Asia, North East Asia and Caucasus projects. She came to Crisis Group after three years with the US Department of Energy, where she worked for the assistant secretary for nuclear nonproliferation and later as special assistant to the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. At the Department of Energy, she oversaw aspects of a new nonproliferation initiative, helped establish the Russia Task Force, worked at the US embassy in Moscow, and liaised with other US government entities, international organizations, and foreign governments on national security matters. Before joining the government, Ms. Leonard worked with a variety of NGOs, including Conflict Management Group. She has been an associate at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, a graduate fellow at the US embassy in Yerevan, Armenia, and a regular contributor to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s election-related activities in the Balkans and Caucasus. 

Karunyan Arulanantham is a pediatrician practicing in California and an advocate for Sri Lanka’s Tamil communities. A Tamil and native of Sri Lanka, he spent many years working to help address the needs of Tamils displaced from their homes and mitigate the impact of the conflict on the health of Tamil civilians. Dr. Arulanantham has also advocated on behalf of the humanitarian and basic political and human rights for Sri Lanka’s Tamil communities. He has also published papers on the impact of the Sri Lankan conflict on the health of children and the civilian population. Dr. Arulanantham is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American College of Endocrinologists, the American Diabetes Association, and the Lawrence Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. In addition to more than thirty years experience in the medical field, Dr. Arulanantham held various teaching positions in the United States and Sri Lanka, including at the University of California–Los Angeles, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, and the University of Jaffna.   

Donald Camp retired from the US Foreign Service in 2009. His first post was political/economic officer in Sri Lanka from 1975 to 1977, and his last post was senior director for South Asia on the National Security Council staff. His service was divided primarily between East and South Asia and included two tours in China. Mr. Camp was Sri Lanka desk officer at the State Department in the mid-1980s and more recently served as principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia.