By Michael Roberts –
Gotabaya Rajapaksa Clarifies – Part III
During the telephone conversation with former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Monday 7th March a tangential path developed towards the end of the session: namely, USA’s striking shift of emphasis and increasing hostility to the government of Sri Lanka at some point in 2008. Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed with my allusion to this change. The information below does not follow the sequence of my notes, but adheres to a temporal order.
Gotabaya affirmed that USA and its Ambassador Robert Blake were extremely friendly towards the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government at the outset. Quite early in the day Blake asked GSL to sign a “Cross Services Agreement” relating to the hosting of visiting warships in the respective ports of Sri Lankan and USA (obviously a one-sided weightage in frequency). Blake said: “this is nothing really; but it will show that we are behind you.” Ranil Wickremesinghe had refused earlier to sign this pact, but Mahinda Rajapaksa asked Nimal Siripala to get cabinet approval and the agreement was consummated (note Gamage 2007).
Thus “at the early stages of the war” USA was “very supportive” towards Sri Lanka’s policies. Once Blake even told Gotabaya: You know, I am the spokesman for your government. At that seminar in Singapore [no details were provided] I spoke in glowing terms about the high-tech companies that have invested in Sri Lanka and argued for others to follow suit.”
Again, on one occasion, Blake “even asked me if we wanted help to kill Prabhakaran.” I said “Yes.” That line of operation was not pursued it seems. However, USA had assisted Sri Lanka in securing radar and weaponry at certain points; while helping with satellite coordinates in hunting down the LTTE’s rogue warehouse ships in 2007.
So, inevitably, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and this writer confronted the question “WHAT CHANGED?” Gotabaya’s answer: “with the Obama administration there was a big turn.” In his view this shift was due less to Hilary Clinton than to Samantha Power and Susan Rice. Power’s office, he stressed, was next to Obama’s and she was able to sway both the President and his wife Michelle. Power was a champion of RtoP interventions in vigorous mode. Moreover, he said, the Tamil diaspora in the Americas were active in lobbying well-placed champions human rights as well as US politicians. Though he did not elaborate on these opinions, the implication was that the Obama administration was converted towards an interventionist policy in Sri Lanka that favoured the Sri Lankan Tamil peoples.
That this significant issue was not explored in further depth was/is my fault: I was running out of steam (and time) … and a reference to KP’s tel-conversations with the Tiger command diverted me towards that topic because it is central to an article I am finalizing.
Richard A. Boucher, 2008 “U.S.-Sri Lanka Relations,” 3 August 2008, http://2001-2009.state.gov/ p/sca/rls/2008/107655.htm …. Also at athttps://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/richard-boucher-in-press-q-and-a-at-saarc-meeting-in-lanka-3-august-2008/
Mark Bowden 1999 Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Signet Books.
Daya Gamage 2007 “Military Agreement between United States and Sri Lanka Could be politically tricky,” 22 March 2007, http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/5019
Michael Roberts 2014 “Winning the War: Evaluating the Impact of API WENUWEN API,” 1 Sept. 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/winning-the-war-evaluating-the-impact-of-api-wenuwen-ap/
Michael Roberts 2014 Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
Michael Roberts 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
Michael Roberts 2015 “Targeting Sri Lanka by playing ball with Tamil Extremism,” 24 July 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/wpadmin/post.php?post=17127&action=edit&postpost=v2
Michael Roberts 2015“Ambassador Blake in Never-Never-Land: Misreading LTTE Capacity in Early 2009,” 26 August 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/ambassador-blake-in-never-never-land-misreading-ltte-capacity-in-early-2009/
Michael Roberts 2015 “American Action and Inaction on Sri Lanka, 2008/09: A Critical Evaluation,” 15 September 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/american-action-and-inaction-on-sri-lanka-200809-a-critical-evaluation/#more-17725
Michael Roberts 2015 “The Realities of Eelam War IV,” 27 October 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/the-realities-of-eelam-war-iv/
Michael Roberts 2016 “Speaking to Gotabaya, I: Plans Afoot in 2009 to Rescue the Tiger Leadership,” 8 March 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/speaking-to-gotabaya-i-plans-afoot-in-2009-to-rescue-the-tiger-leadership/#more-20092
Michael Roberts 2016 “Speaking to Gotabaya-II: Listening in on KP’s Chats with Prabhakaran’s ‘Man Friday’,” 8 March 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/speaking-to-gotabaya-ii-listening-in-on-kps-chats-with-prabhakarans-man-friday/#more-20103
Stephen Wertheim, 2010 “A Solution from Hell: The United States and the Rise of Humanitarian Interventionism, 1991–2003,” Journal of Genocide Research 2010, Vol 12, No. 3, pp. 149-72. …http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14623528.2010.522053
 During a convivial chat at a friend’s house with Commodore Karannagoda of the SL Navy in May 2015 Karannagoda informed me that Blake helped the Navy to secure Bushmaster cannons and to upgrade its radar monitoring towers and equipment. He was opposed to any criticism of Robert Blake.
 I did not press Gotabaya Rajapaksa when he mentioned – more or less in passing. — the USA’s help re satellite coordinates. However, my information from a senior naval officer is that the SL Navy worked out where along the equatorial line the LTTE marshalled its trawler fleet for transfer of goods from the warehouse ships. The first naval strike expedition deep into the Indian Ocean was a major leap forward – undertaken with great secrecy and, as it happened, with great success. My source insisted that there was no US aid of consequence during this first strike. Subsequently the US Command was more helpful.
 A well-placed friend in one of the eastern Cities of USA sent me this note: “Tamil diaspora groups like USTPAC have spent money in hiring leading lobby groups like Podesta to influence Congress personnel while also devoting enormous efforts in time to influence the US State Dept, media, think tanks etc and in these ways brought pressure to bear on all arms of the US govt.
 Also see Michael Roberts 2015 “American Action and Inaction on Sri Lanka, 2008/09: A Critical Evaluation,” and some of the other references in the Bibliography.