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 Act.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

19 September 2006


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