Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya speaks to a group of scholars and Asian experts at the Homeland Security Policy
Institute of the George Washington University

Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya told a group of scholars and Asian experts Monday how the Sri Lankan military defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as well as how the government will sustain peaceful reconciliation.

Speaking before the Homeland Security Policy Institute of The George Washington University, Ambassador Wickramasuriya described a number of key developments that led to the government’s successful conclusion of the 25-year-long conflict with the LTTE.

Those initiatives, he said, included a clear command to the military from President Mahinda Rajapaksa to destroy the LTTE while liberating civilians without harm.

Other important developments, Ambassador Wickramasuriya said, included the President’s efforts to engage former LTTE leaders in the political process, and the work of Western government to shut-down pro-LTTE fund raising abroad.

“What is interesting about Sri Lanka’s experience is not just how it fought and won a war against terrorists,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said, “but how we must now keep terrorism from returning.”

Cross section of scholars and Asian experts

While ending the conflict was an important milestone, Ambassador Wickramasuriya said, “the government knows that what is happening now is even more important. We are rebuilding our nation. We are repairing 25 years of ethnic hatred promoted by the LTTE. We are reconciling differences and rebuilding lives.”

The foundation of that effort, the Ambassador explained, is a political process aimed at electing local Tamil leaders in Northern Sri Lankan, as well as an ambitious plan to rebuild homes, buildings, highways and rail lines.

Bolstering the economy in the north, he said, will guarantee future security.

During the address, Frank Cilluffo, the Homeland Security Policy Institute’s director and a former White House advisor on terrorism and homeland security issues, asked about the fate of the internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya explained that more than 50,000 people have left the welfare centers since June, and that another 50,000 are expected to return to their homes or the homes of relatives by Sept. 30. That will drop the number of displaced persons in the centers to below 200,000.

The pace of resettlement, he said, has been determined by the need to screen the civilians for the presence of LTTE cadres, as well as the need to rid the north of thousands of LTTE landmines.

James Clad, a senior research fellow at the U.S. government’s National Defense University who has studied the conflict in Sri Lanka, told those gathered for the discussion that, “the Sri Lankan military acted with real professionalism,” as the conflict concluded, a view he said was backed up by similar observations by sources he has within the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Those attending the Ambassador’s address included Asian scholars, executives of U.S. companies, representatives of foreign embassies, administration and government officials and a staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Lasting peace, the Ambassador said, “will come with the political process.”

He noted success of Tamil candidates in the Aug. 8 elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya. Future elections, he said, will strengthen Tamil involvement.

“This political solution will show Tamil citizens that they have a voice in Sri Lanka, an important and powerful one,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said.

The Ambassador praised the United States and other nations that outlawed the LTTE. He warned that some groups continue to promote LTTE causes and fundraising.

“The LTTE lost the war, and now the pro-LTTE diaspora is trying to defeat the peace,” he said. “People in Sri Lanka only want peace. It is time for peace to take hold.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

01 September 2009

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