Government’s Aim: Liberation of Tamils from the LTTE

By Udara Soysa

(April 10, Washington, Sri Lanka Guardian)
In an exclusive interview with Sri Lanka Guardian’s Udara Soysa, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in the US, Mr. Jaliya Wickramasuriya said that the aim of the Sri Lankan government is the liberation of the Tamil people from the Tamil Tigers. He pointedly stated that the government values the lives of Tamils trapped in the war zone with utmost importance. He observed: “While we respect the great humanitarian work done by UN agencies in the Northeast, it cannot be overlooked that pro-LTTE elements might have infiltrated the local UN offices. This can result in a biased scenarios painted against Sri Lanka.

Exclusive Interview by Udara Soysa with Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya from Washington, DC

How do you see the current war developments in Sri Lanka?

We see a very positive trend in Northern Province. Sri Lankan Army is on a humanitarian mission to liberate Tamil civilians from Tamil Tigers. Last week, the army decimated the top LTTE cadres after trapping them into an area outside No Fire Zone. The well-trained and motivated Sri Lankan forces under a courageous leadership will eliminate terrorism from the motherland.

However, human rights agencies have continuously blamed the Sri Lankan government for its lack of concern towards Tamils trapped in the war zone. What is your response for these allegations?

We clearly deny these allegations. Sri Lankan government had declared a NFZ and not a single bullet is fired towards the NFZ by SLA. The aim of Sri Lankan government is to liberate Tamil people and we value the lives of Tamils trapped in war zone with utmost importance. While we respect the great humanitarian work done by the UN agencies and human rights agencies in Northern Province it cannot be overlooked that the LTTE has launched a very sophisticated and far-reaching propaganda campaign against the Government of Sri Lanka. Since defeat on the battlefield is imminent, pro-LTTE elements have focused their attention on their propaganda war – this can result in a biased picture being painted against Sri Lanka .

LTTE organizations had hired an American named Bruce Fein to prosecute officials of Sri Lankan governments who are citizens and residents of United States . How do you see these developments?

We are in constant touch with legal authorities in United States and it is quite clear that Bruce Fein’s efforts are only aimed at making money. We hear that he has recently doubled his charges and pro LTTE Tamil Diaspora is paying large amounts of money to maintain this lawsuit. Most legal authorities in the U.S. recognize that his lawsuits have no legal merit and are either just publicity stunts or effort to make his financiers think he is keeping busy. We are very happy in fact that money that were previously sent to LTTE to procure arms and ammunitions to destroy the lives of innocent Sri Lankans is now used to fill the pockets of Bruce Fein. I appeal to Bruce Fein to take as much as money from pro LTTE Tamil Diaspora and I thank him for the support he is doing to Sri Lankans by hoodwinking the pro LTTE Tamil Diaspora.

United States claim that they have paused the military training given to Sri Lankan Armed forces at the present. Do you think that US–SL cooperation is satisfactory?

Sri Lanka and the U.S. have a strong and lasting legacy of friendship and alliance. The relationship between our two nations is over 200 years old. Sri Lanka served as an important base for allied forces in World War II and was the only country in Asia to offer refueling bases for U.S. planes in the Persian Gulf War. Indeed I am very satisfied with US cooperation in Sri Lanka and look forward to the growth of the relationship. United States is a friend of Sri Lanka and they are assisting us in rebuilding war torn areas of Sri Lanka. We do not measure the cooperation between United States and Sri Lanka strictly on militaristic lines but in an overall sense. As Sri Lankan Ambassador for United States, I sincerely thank United States for its efforts to rebuild Sri Lanka.

How is the response that you get from Sri Lankans living in United States?

The response is very positive and encouraging. Many groups of Sri Lankans who operated individually are now working together to serve Sri Lanka under the guidance of Sri Lankan embassy. We have undertaken various projects to serve the motherland. The responses that I have received from all ethnic communities had been very encouraging. I think the brilliant local leadership of President Rajapakse inside Sri Lanka had made our job much easier outside Sri Lanka. I travel frequently meeting with different Sri Lankan groups in United States and that had been a very rewarding experience. I will continue to reach out to Unite Sri Lanka Diaspora in United States to serve the motherland. I would also like to urge the Sri Lankan-American community to remain vigilant in light of the LTTE's propaganda. To reach out to their friends, colleagues and Congressman and let them know the true story of what is going on in Sri Lanka. I believe strongly that the truth will eventually prevail but it is all our responsibilities to do everything we can to make sure that our friends in the U.S. and in the international community are aware of the true situation in the motherland.

What do you think is the key behind your success of uniting Sri Lankans in United States?

I think accessibility is the key. We as Diplomats need to be accessible to our people outside Sri Lanka. We are here to assist and serve the country. I am against the bureaucracy. When somebody comes to the embassy to get help, we must do our utmost best to assist them. I have been living outside Sri Lanka and I do know the hardships Sri Lankans have faced previously. Thus, I have put effective measures to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and serve our people.

There is news of LTTE infiltration within Eastern province. Do you see this as a threat for overall security in Northeast?

No. These incidents are merely isolated incidents and our forces will deal with them in a timely manner. If you look at the situation in Eastern province several years ago, you might remember that visiting Batticaloa was like a death warrant to anybody. We changed this situation completely within the last year. The security situation is better and the overall social and economy situation too is satisfactory. I am confident of the ability of our security forces and I can guarantee that law and order situation in Eastern province is a priority of Sri Lankan government and I am satisfied with the security situation in East.

Do you think that political solution is possible in Sri Lanka?

I certainly believe that political solution is possible in Sri Lanka. The main obstacle for political solution had been the LTTE. They will not agree for anything other than separation. Furthermore, we cannot implement a political solution as long as LTTE exists as it will destroy the political machinery. Once LTTE is defeated, the political solution will become a reality. I am confident of the measures taken by President Rajapakse in regard of a political solution. Look at the Eastern province as a model. Shortly after the Government liberated the East from terrorist control a majority of the IDPs were resettled into their original homes and democratic elections were held within 6 months.

What then do you see the ideal solution for Sri Lanka?

The devolution of power to the provinces will work in Sri Lanka once democracy is restored and terrorism is eradicated. Let us not forget that Sri Lanka is the oldest democracy in our region. Within our Constitution the power is given to provinces. This will allow for the Tamil population in the North and East to democratically elect their representatives who will then be their voice in the provincial and national government. This model is similar to the model of devolving power to the states in the U.S. and the Indian model. The President has on numerous occasions indicated he believes in full devolution of power to the provinces.

What is your appeal to the International Community?

I urge the International Community to get involved with the post conflict reconstruction in Sri Lanka. Our government aims to rebuild the Northern Province and we hope to work closely with International Community to create a sustainable development in Sri Lanka. This is a historical moment for our country as the plague that destroyed the country for last thirty years is about to be over and Sri Lankans inside and outside the country are about to see a new dawn.
-Sri Lanka Guardian