Since his inauguration as Head of State in November 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has repeatedly said that there will be no military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka pursued by the government. He has reiterated that the only durable solution is a negotiated settlement.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke made this point as he spoke at a Roundtable Conference at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy in Washington DC on February 26, 2008. The focus of the discussion was the protracted war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in an ancient country steeped in religious and ethnic diversity, and the ongoing relief and reconstruction brought on by the 2004 tsunami.

Ambassador Goonetilleke dwelt on the demand for a separate state called “Tamil Eelam”, which originated in 1976, preceded by the assassination of Alfred Duraiappah, moderate Tamil Mayor of Jaffna, in July 1975, by the LTTE. This is considered a seminal event marking the onset of Sri Lanka’s war. Ambassador also spoke of the six series of negotiations the government of Sri Lanka engaged in with the LTTE, from 1985, and how, on each occasion, the LTTE walked away from the negotiating table in a calculated strategy. He also focused on the Ceasefire Agreement the government signed with the LTTE in February 2002, and abrogated in January 2008, and said that the LTTE began violating the agreement willy-nilly, within weeks of signing it. By end April 2007, Tigers had amassed a catalogue of over 3800 violations as determined by the Nordic monitors, as against some 300 minor violations by the government forces. He added that it was during this so-called “ceasefire,” that the Tigers assassinated foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, made two attempts to kill another Tamil minister, Douglas Devananda, using female suicide bombers, and employed yet another female suicide bomber in an attempt to assassinate the commander of the Sri Lanka Army. The Ambassador said that the violations of the ceasefire declared by Nordic monitors clearly establish that the Tigers never ceased firing. What remained of the CFA, until its recent abrogation, was an agreement on paper, rendered defunct by the Tigers, from day one. Ambassador focused on the concerns expressed by some that Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the CFA would result in increased levels of violence, and pointed out that the increasing blatant violations of the ceasefire by the Tigers forced the government to take that decision. If the Tigers had been genuine about a negotiated settlement, they had a golden opportunity in November 2005, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as President of Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador spoke about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which the government has agreed to implement in full, as a precursor to other power-sharing proposals to be presented by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC), which was appointed by the President in 2006 to achieve a consensus on proposals for devolution.

On a further positive note, the Ambassador spoke of the developments in the Eastern Province recently liberated from the grip of the LTTE, where the government is earnestly trying to reintroduce democracy, first with local government elections in March, and then with provincial elections later. The people in the east will get an opportunity to begin a new life as free people.

The Ambassador also described the reconstruction efforts three years after the 2004 tsunami, with Sri Lanka being the worst-hit country after Indonesia. He expressed his appreciation of the outpouring of sympathy, symbolized by the significant donations by the U.S. administration, corporate sector and the public as a response to that natural disaster.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

04 March 2008

Home | Sri Lanka-US Relations | Trade | Investment | Travel | Consular | Press Releases |
Statements | Features | Reports & Publications | Archive | Contact I Ideas Line