WASHINGTON – Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya has notified India Globe reporter Raghubir Goyal that statements he recently made during a U.S. Department of State news briefing are drastically incorrect.
In a letter to Mr. Goyal, Ambassador Wickramasuriya corrected accusations made by Goyal, and suggested that they meet to discuss the current situation in Sri Lanka.
The ambassador’s letter to Mr. Goyal follows:
Aug. 19, 2011
Dear Mr. Goyal,
As you may recall, we have met and discussed the situation in Sri Lanka numerous times since my 2008 appointment as ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States. You have always urged me to keep you informed on events regarding Sri Lanka.
It is in that regard that I write to you today. I have noticed that you recently asked a series of misinformed questions regarding Sri Lanka at the noontime briefings at the U.S. Department of State. I would be remiss if I did not point out that there are factual errors in your questions that I would like to correct.
First, in one recent question during a briefing, you said that the “Sri Lankan president and Government has repeatedly said that they will not investigate their president or whatever, if the crimes were committed or not. Now the Tamils are in your hands.”
Mr. Goyal, Sri Lankan Government forces were fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and not the Tamil people. The LTTE, as you may know, was regarded by the FBI as one of the world’s most violent terrorist organizations and banned in the U.S. and many other nations. As you also know, the LTTE assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi, as well as a Sri Lankan president and a Sri Lankan foreign minister who was also Tamil, as well as thousands of civilians — Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and many others.
In fact, the premise of your question is inaccurate. The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, which was established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa following the conflict, has the full authority to investigate any wrong doing that may have occurred during that conflict. In fact, it is doing so right now. All of the testimony and statements taken by the LLRC are public, and can be found on the commission’s website (www.LLRC.lk). I encourage you to examine those statements; they are by no means pro-government. The commission is due to issue its report in November.
In another question at the State Department briefing, you have stated that atrocities were committed against “millions” of Tamil Sri Lankans by the government of President Rajapaksa. I assure you this is a horrendous falsehood.
What President Rajapaksa and Sri Lankan government forces actually did was to rescue over 300,000 Tamil civilians who were being held hostage and human shields by the LTTE. By ending the conflict against the LTTE, President Rajapaksa has actually restored human rights to more than 20 million Sri Lankans of all ethnicities, and brought lasting peace to the country.
I refer you to a recent report on Sri Lankan’s operations at the close of the conflict. It describes in careful detail what happened:
There are other important developments that I feel you should know:
· Sri Lankan forces not only rescued 300,000 Tamil civilians who were held hostage by the LTTE, but also housed them in government welfare centers until their communities and lands in the North and East could be cleared of LTTE landmines. They were returned home within a year’s time. As you probably know, more than 50 percent of Sri Lanka’s Tamils live together with others in communities in other parts of Sri Lanka. Our capital city, Colombo, is majority Tamil.
· Sri Lanka has launched aggressive and broad reconciliation and reconstruction programs. These include investing heavily in the Northern and Eastern Provinces – about $1 billion annually — to repair damage done by the conflict and to upgrade infrastructure that was neglected by the LTTE. These projects include new schools, hospitals, waters systems, roads and bridges. New industries are being encouraged to locate plants and equipment in the North and East to provide livelihoods. The fishing and agriculture sectors are already showing rapid recovery, in spite of continuing efforts to remove LTTE landmines. Recent local elections saw the selection of a number of Tamil candidates.
· Sri Lanka has granted amnesty to 11,600 former LTTE militants who surrendered at the conclusion of the conflict. All of these people have received vocational training and educational tutoring. More than70 percent have been released to civil society and into new livelihoods and studies, while the rest are currently being released as their job training and tutoring concludes.
· Sri Lanka has also rehabilitated over 1,000 child soldiers who were kidnapped and forced to take up arms by the LTTE. These children have been given counseling and re-united with their families.
Mr. Goyal, I would welcome a chance to discuss with you these and other questions concerning Sri Lanka. If in the future if you have such questions, please don’t hesitate to call me to get the Sri Lankan perspective. In the meantime, we will add your name to the list of journalists who receive our embassy’s regular Country Information Updates, which reports on the current situation and economic developments in Sri Lanka.
May I also suggest that we meet to discuss these issues at your earliest convenience? Finally, allow me to encourage you to go to Sri Lanka and see for yourself how people feel about the end of the conflict and efforts to redevelop the North and East and rebuild the lives of those affected by 26-years of strife. You will see that there has been much notable progress on many fronts.
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States and Mexico