SRI LANKA CALLS ON US CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS
TO EXERT PRESSURE ON THE LTTE
TO RETURN TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE IN GOOD FAITH
Meeting with California Senator Dianne Feinstein
Health and Nutrition Minister and Sri Lanka Government
Chief Negotiator Nimal Siripala de Silva today called on U.S.
Congressional leaders to exert pressure on the LTTE to return
to the negotiating table in good faith, saying the Sri Lanka government
was committed to evolving a political settlement to the conflict
in Sri Lanka.
Minister de Silva made this call when he together
with the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating
the Peace Process (SCOOP) Dr. Palitha Kohona visited Washington
D.C. on Tuesday (19 September 2006) and met with California Senator
Dianne Feinstein and her Legislative Director and General Counsel
Peter M. Cleveland, and New York Congressman Peter T. King’s
Senior Legislative Assistant for Military and Foreign Policy Adam
R. Paulson, on Capitol Hill. Senator Feinstein, a Democrat, is
a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is a co-Sponsor
of the “Tariff Relief Assistance for Developing Economies
Act of 2005” (TRADE Act of 2005) which proposes to extend
preferential access to products originating from 14 least developed
countries’ and tsunami affected Sri Lanka. Congressman King,
a Republican, is the Chairman for the Committee on Homeland Security.
The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Sri Lanka Ambassador
Ravinatha Aryasinha and Mr. Jeff M. Goonewardena, were associated
at these discussions.
In their meetings, Minister de Silva and Dr.
Kohona noted that the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa
was committed to arrive at a negotiated political settlement to
the conflict in Sri Lanka, and to grant maximum possible devolution.
The President had even expressed willingness to directly talk
to LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran. However the LTTE’s intransigence
and escalating acts of violence was standing in the way of achieving
this objective. Detailing the steps taken by the Government to
resume peace talks with the LTTE in Geneva in February 2006, after
a gap of almost 3 years, they regretted that since then, the LTTE
appears to have abandoned that process. The LTTE had subsequently
gone for a meeting in Olso, but refused to sit for discussions.
They had also unleashed a series of terrorist attacks on innocent
civilians and on security forces personnel and military establishments.
While the Government had acted with considerable restraint amidst
these growing provocations, since August 2006, following the LTTE
cutting off water to a large area in the Eastern Province and
targeting security forces installations in Trincomalee and Jaffna,
the Government had been constrained to use military force to defend
itself and to restore normalcy.
Responding to questions raised on the LTTE’s
current intensions, the Sri Lanka team pointed out that the LTTE’s
actions, belie its pronouncements of peace which were aimed at
misleading the international community and blaming the Sri Lanka
Government. It was noted that only last week the Sri Lankan Security
forces had been able to detect and destroy a LTTE vessel transporting
a large haul of weapons from the South East Asian region. It was
also noted that attempts by LTTE agents to purchase Surface to
Air missiles in the USA had also been thwarted recently following
arrests by the FBI.
The delegation thanked the U.S. Government for
its swift action last month to arrest and charge LTTE agents seeking
to purchase these weapons, to bribe officials to have the LTTE
proscription lifted and to gain access to confidential official
reports on the activities of LTTE front organizations. It was
noted that this operation which saw the U.S. authorities collaborate
with the Canadian and U.K. law enforcement to thwart LTTE terrorists
further escalating the crisis in Sri Lanka, was much appreciated
by Sri Lanka. Besides the psychological blow it caused to the
LTTE, such action also had the effect of opening up greater space
for democratic activism by Tamils who live in the diaspora, who
have for long opposed the LTTE’s terrorist agenda and acts
of extortion and intimidation, but feared to raise their voice,
as their hosts governments did not appear responsive. They impressed
on the need for continued international action to curb the activities
of the LTTE and its front organizations, as well as to thwart
their fund raising and arms procurement.
In their meeting with Senator Feinstein, Minister
Nimal Siripala de Silva particularly thanked her for including
Sri Lanka in the “TRADE Act 2005” and said the passage
of this legislation would be very important to Sri Lanka’s
economic recovery, as the tsunami disaster coincided with the
abolition of textile quotas.
Senator Feinstein said she has long taken an
interest in developments in Sri Lanka and welcomed the initiatives
taken by the Government to seek a political settlement. She assured
the Minister and his delegation that she will continue to support
the U.S. to remain engaged in Sri Lanka and to also persevere
with the effort to provide relief to Sri Lanka through the TRADE
Embassy of Sri Lanka
19 September 2006