NEW YEAR HERALDS
HOPE FOR A NEW SRI LANKA
April 14, 2009
I am very pleased to extend my best wishes to
all Sri Lankan expatriates in the United States who will be joining
together to organize traditional festivities on this important
occasion which is shared by the major communities. We warmly welcome
the Sinhala and Tamil New Year which brings unity and prosperity.
I also cordially extend an invitation to all
Sri Lankans in the United States to join with the Government in
the historic and noble mission of reconciliation and reconstruction
of the motherland.
To Sri Lankans in the U.S., I write to you today
to tell you that I am aware of your concerns over the conflict
playing out in our motherland, and of worries about LTTE efforts
to gain publicity within the U.S.
As you may know, the LTTE has increased its propaganda
as its forces in Sri Lanka face certain defeat. Using civilians
as human shields, the LTTE hopes to parlay calls by some for a
ceasefire into a period that will allow it to retreat, regroup
We’ve seen that happen before, and it must
not happen again. We must put an end to the LTTE.
It should now be clear to all that terrorism
is the common enemy of the people and by far poses the most serious
challenge to democracy, human rights and other fundamental values
of Sri Lanka. The LTTE has time and again demonstrated its callous
disregard for the sanctity of human life through its numerous
cold-blooded attacks on civilians. In the latest attack on April
12, 2009, LTTE terrorists killed eight civilians, including two
children, at Mahagodayaya village. It occurred just a few hours
after President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared a humanitarian pause
in the fighting in the northeast.
Let me relate to you what your ambassador and
embassy staff are doing about this situation. I personally continue
to carry out a series of high-level meetings with Congressional
leaders, Obama administration officials and non-governmental groups
to explain the fast-changing situation on the ground in northern
Sri Lanka and to counter mistaken impressions. I have pointed
out our progress in the Eastern Province, and the remarkable fact
that 153,000 people -- 80 percent of those displaced by the fighting
there just two years ago -- have returned to their homes. That’s
success we can repeat in the north.
In each of these meetings I relate the true conditions
of the transit sites and welfare centers for those displaced by
the war. I also frequently rebut the LTTE’s favorite false
allegation, that government forces are shelling civilians. There
is no substantiated evidence to support this charge.
Indeed, the government declared a safety zone
in northeastern Sri Lanka to safeguard civilians and monitor those
fleeing from the LTTE. That is where the LTTE hides today, along
with the thousands of civilian hostages it holds as a human shield.
Our efforts here in Washington can
be greatly enhanced by your voices. Here is what you can do:
Please meet with your representatives in the
House and Senate, the Obama administration, non-government organizations
working in Sri Lanka and other interested groups to seek their
support in our fight against LTTE terrorism. Please educate them
on the current situation in Sri Lanka accordingly.
Here in Washington, face-to-face encounters are
essential to having a real impact with policy makers. It is no
different in members’ states and districts.
The lives of thousands of people in Sri Lanka
hang in the balance of this conflict, not just now, but for years
to come. Our goal is a stable, peaceful country, not one torn
with more bigotry, bloodshed, violence.
Those in Congress and in the administration need
to know that the best chance for lasting peace in Sri Lanka is
by stopping the LTTE for good. Allowing the LTTE to slip away
while a ceasefire is negotiated will only prolong our suffering.
The Obama administration has pledged its support
to Sri Lanka as this long-running conflict concludes, and we hope
to build on already strong security, trade and tourism ties. Here
at the embassy we are working hard on those priorities.
We are also actively fighting the bogus claim,
generated by a few activists here in the U.S., that the Sri Lankan
government is engaged in a campaign of genocide against Tamil
citizens. This claim seems designed to appeal to non-government
organizations that may not consider the LTTE’s history and
tactics. The simple fact, of course, is that most Tamils in Sri
Lanka live peacefully in regions not controlled by the LTTE.
Our primary concern right now is for those currently
trapped in the conflict zone, and of course for all Sri Lankans
who have been trapped by this conflict for so many years.
This year’s celebration of the Sinhala
and Tamil New Year is taking place in our country in a new atmosphere
of hope and anticipation that at last, the armed conflict is coming
to an end. Traditional festivities are taking place throughout
the country with our people united once again. This is a time
for sharing with family and friends and for renewal of expectations
for future success and prosperity.
I am, sincerely yours,
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States
Embassy of Sri Lanka
14 April 2009