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Let us Protect our Friend

by Thrishantha Nanayakkara

(March 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Good friends are different from covert enemies in that friends help each other to stay away from danger by giving prior advises.
Maybe a lot of Sri Lankans do not know that the US Department of State is a silent but genuine friend of Sri Lanka. Let me quote one example that I know for sure. US Department of State has been continuously empowering Sri Lanka to develop effective approaches to detect and remove anti-personal landmines. When a lot of other NGOs adopted destructive mechanisms like removing the top soil layer in the sensitive farmlands in Jaffna where the fertile soil layer is very thin, the US State Department assisted agencies used trained dogs to sniff for landmines that causes minimum damage to the environment. Not only that, their approach extended beyond just "giving fish to those who need fish" like many other NGOs do, to "giving fishing rods to those who need fish" by sharing know-how and empowering local institutes. All these things were done in silence like a true friend of Sri Lanka.

However, when I saw the latest State Department country report on Sri Lanka, I was shocked and scared to believe my suspicion that this great institute may have been misled by terrorists to achieve several heinous objectives.

We all know that LTTE made an attempt to bribe State department officials with an initial down payment of $1 million to remove the LTTE from the list of proscribed foreign terrorist groups. Given the character of the LTTE, it is hard to believe that they would stop their effort to use their notorious techniques to mislead the State Department. Given the high level of security mechanisms maintained by the US State Department, LTTE might choose to bribe the second layer that is the information sources to the State Department. For instance, the ground level operation of many NGOs whose reports have been cited by the State Department do not have internal security checks as powerful as those at the State Department.

Very recently, the Sri Lanka army arrested a lorry belonging to a reputed international NGO carrying illegal items to rebel held areas. When questioned, the country director of the concerned NGO was not aware of such a delivery. My suspicion further deepened by the statement made on the recruitment of child soldiers. The concerned international NGO has given the picture that the LTTE's child recruitment record is improving while the Government is seemingly cooperating with a break away LTTE group to recruit child soldiers. What irritates here is to see the level of recklessness of assessing such a flawed claim in the context where the manpower of the Sri Lanka army is almost ten times that of the LTTE and that the army does not suffer from any difficulty in recruiting legitimate soldiers. Moreover, most of the news papers that the State Department has cited could have been tapped by paid lobbyists. We clearly saw how such an attorney paid by an LTTE front organization called Tamils for Justice wrote utter rubbish to Washington Times. The least I would expect from the US State Department is to quote such mockery as "credible" or "reliable" sources in their official statements even if it was Washington Times. The simple test is to look behind the screen and see the strings attached to the writer.

However, I do not want to see Sri Lankans falling into the trap of 1983 again by generalizing things. This apparent mistake done by the US State Department is an isolated event. It could have been a carefully orchestrated trap of the LTTE like the one in 1983. This time to damage the close ties between Sri Lanka and the United States. In 1983, few ignorant people who generalized hatred across all Tamils made a lot of suicide cadres for LTTE and made a case for asylum seekers to pump money back to LTTE. Those perpetrators must feel sorry for what they did in 1983 by helping the LTTE in the best way imaginable. United States is a great country who has been one of our best friends. I can write this letter while working in the Harvard University because this country is a land of freedom. I know for sure that nobody is going to harass me for writing against the US State Department. We Sri Lankans should share such great democratic values. Harvard University supports my research program not because they have landmines or a natural disaster inside the University, but because they want to support an attempt to help a large number of civilians affected across the Globe.

Democracy evolves when people talk. However, I wish to urge the US State Department to be more careful in assessing a country's democratic values and mechanisms. It should be an assessment relative to the backdrop of economic, social, and technological reality of the concerned Nation. For instance, the technology available to Sri Lankan Government to isolate true terrorists from a group of civilians is no way comparable to that of the US. Therefore, the rate of mistakes done by the Sri Lankan Government can not be compared to that of the US Government forces in Iraq, especially when LTTE abuses all our social loop holes such as less checking done on pregnant mothers and ladies. When a suicide bomber blew up inside the Fort Railway station killing a school baseball team, the Government had to take immediate measures to track down the remaining barbarians of the attack hiding in the lodges of Colombo. Otherwise, who would give a guarantee that Sri Lanka will not fall into the same 1983 trap of LTTE through a social outburst? However, when the Sri Lankan Government rounds up the lodges, the practical implementation may differ from the approach that would have taken by the US forces with better technology and money to invest in intelligence gathering. Therefore, the correct thing to do is to empower the Sri Lankan Government with technological know-how and modern strategies to minimize human rights violations in such mopping operations. I am sure this will be a reality soon, given my knowledge about the very positive and constructive approach taken by the State Department to address the humanitarian demining problem.

Our two nations has a long journey to go together to cure this world from the cancer of terrorism and to create a world where people will have the maturity to unite to tolerate diversity rather than killing to make mono ethnic states. In that journey, there is a lot we can learn together. We can march together towards achieving our common dream only if we care to understand each other better. That involves assessing things in the true social, economic, and technological reality, and making collective efforts to improve the underpinning drawbacks. And, it is very important to be cautious about the pitfalls devised by our common enemies.

- Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Anonymous said...

ongradulations! Good article. I would also like to read the writers openion on something that I has been bothering me about the expected visit by the Iranian president. I sometimes feel that the U.S. (CIA) might pay off the LTTE to assasinate the man on neutral soil. What would come out of it? if it does happen!? and what favours would the LTTE get from the U.S.

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