SRI LANKA’S ENVOY TO THE U.S. BRIEFS
CURRENT SITUATION TO U.S. LEGISLATORS
Ambassador Wickramasuriya in conversation with Sen. James Risch
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador
to the United States, continued a series of meetings with members
of Congress last week to update them on the facts of the conflict
against the LTTE and most importantly to discuss U.S. support
for post-conflict development.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya had discussions with
more than 20 members from the House of Representatives and from
the U.S. Senate, some of whom had been previously critical of
The discussions focused on the plight of the
innocent civilians trapped by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
the government’s efforts to conduct hostage rescue missions
and the calls from some Western governments for a ceasefire.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya related the stories
of those civilians who have escaped the LTTE, noting how they
were shot at as they fled and the difficult conditions they had
lived under when held by the LTTE. Ambassador also compared LTTE
tactics to those of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that are
well known in the U.S.
The members of Congress pledged their support
for the fight against terrorism, while several noted their concern
for the trapped civilians. Ambassador Wickramasuriya explained
in detail the actions taken by the government to protect the trapped
civilians, and noted that the LTTE was wrongly blaming the government
for the civilians’ plight.
Several members offered their support of the
Sri Lankan government. Some of those who met with Ambassador Wickramasuriya
have recently been to Sri Lanka. They praised the country and
stressed the need to end terrorism in Sri Lanka. One member even
said an LTTE suicide bombing occurred during his visit.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya used maps, photographs,
and aerial pictures of civilians fleeing the conflict zone to
demonstrate what the civilians had experienced.
One member of Congress, Rep. Mike McMahon, asked
why a ceasefire would not help the civilians? Ambassador Wickramasuriya
answered that previous ceasefires with the LTTE have failed. Ambassador
noted in the meetings, a ceasefire would allow the LTTE to rearm
and regroup. The recent two-day unilateral pause in the conflict,
he noted, allowed the LTTE to fortify defenses to keep the civilians
He showed Congressman McMahon pictures of LTTE
militants aiming guns at groups of civilians, as well as the earth
bunds that kept civilians under LTTE control.
During the meeting with Sen. James Risch, a Republican
from Idaho, Ambassador noted that the Sri Lankan government’s
view is not always represented during Senate hearings on the conflict.
“It’s nice to hear the other side,”
Sen. Risch said, noting that he now understands the situation
in the conflict zone.
Support in Congress is important for the Sri
Lankan government, which has asked for aid from the U.S. and West
for post-conflict activities. The pro-LTTE lobby in Washington
has become more active as the LTTE’s prospects in the conflict
Embassy of Sri Lanka
04 May 2009