NEW YEAR HERALDS: HOPE FOR A NEW SRI LANKA
Apr 15, 2008
Ambassador's New Year Message to Sri Lankan expatriates in the United States
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 and rearm.
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,