By Daya Gamage –
If one goes by the June 1 media release of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responding to the May 18 (2021) Resolution on Sri Lanka presented to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Relations Committee by a group of Congressmen of that Committee, the pro-LTTE professional operatives’ global endeavor has received the endorsement of Sri Lanka’s incumbent administration. It has also given the signal to the governing authorities of the United States to amend their approach to Sri Lanka’s national issues.
The Foreign Ministry in its response to the US Congressional Resolution does not challenge the latter’s declarations that “The U.S. Members of the House of Representatives still strongly believe that northeastern region is historically oppressed”; “the conflict that the Government of Sri Lanka had was against various armed Tamil independence organizations”; “Whereas the northeastern region of the country, the traditional Tamil homeland”.
At a Zoom Meeting in the evening of Thursday, June 3 organized by a group of Sri Lankan expatriates in California in the United States, to which Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage participated from Colombo at the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, had no explanation when the issue was raised as to why his Ministry media release never mentioned about those three vital declarations. He was mum to the raised query.
Neither the United States Department of State nor the foreign policy-formulating National Security Council (NSC) in the White House have not gone on record – under both Republican and Democratic administrations – accepting the North-East region of Sri Lanka a ‘Tamil Homeland’, the LTTE and other groups that were fighting the Government of Sri Lanka ‘Tamil independence organizations’ or ‘northern region is historically oppressed’.
The U.S. in 1997 under federal laws designated the LTTE a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’ (FTO) to which the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision confirmed. The LTTE and Turkey’s PKK jointly petitioned the Supreme Court for the recognition of their respective organizations, and requested the High Court to declare that the ‘assistance’ provided to these two separatist organizations – the petitioners described as liberation organizations – by those who are domiciled in the U.S. should not be considered a Federal crime for ‘providing material support to a terrorist organization’. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed their law suit.
The U.S. officially had never declared that the northern Tamil people were ‘historically oppressed’ but reiterated the importance of restoring certain constitutional rights to the minority Tamil people. Washington throughout worked with Sri Lanka governments and in talks with separatist Tamil groups on the premise of protecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a ‘unitary state’. At a U.S. House of Representatives’ testimony on the Sri Lanka issue in 2007, House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman – one of the co-sponsors of the May 18 Resolution – inquired from the State Department official whether the LTTE could be termed as a ‘liberation movement’ to which the official reiterated that it’s a terrorist organization which the State Department had rightfully designated an FTO.
In ignoring the language used by the Resolution which are very much based on the perennial ‘slogans’ and ‘policy planks’ of the LTTE as well as the professional operatives within the Tamil Diaspora, the Government of Sri Lanka seems to have given the signal to Washington establishments such as the State Department and the White House National Security Council to make changes of its approach to Sri Lanka’s national issues.
When the issue was raised at the June 3 Zoom Meeting, Foreign Secretary Colombage never responded.
The burden of making the Lawmakers and policymakers in the United States knowledgeable has been initiated by Sri Lankan expatriates in Washington- Maryland division, the States of California and Nevada. The initiative taken by (retd) Colonel Lucky Rajasinghe of California, political activist-coordinator Sanje Sedera of Nevada and Social activist Angalica Silva of Maryland have gone to some extent of reaching policymakers and lawmakers in the U.S. A group of professional Sri Lankan expatriates led by Dr. Neville Hewage in Canada has had many Zoom Meetings – in which one participant was Lord Naseby of the UK House of Lords – to strategize a message to their lawmakers and policymakers. These strenuous efforts were taken with no inputs from the Sri Lanka administration, but make the Sri Lankan expatriates’ endeavors difficult when infantile media releases are issued by its Foreign Ministry.
Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are still to coordinate with expatriates – some of whom are experts on the workings of the American system – in the United States to strategically approach the lawmakers and policymakers, an undertaking the Government of Sri Lanka should have seriously taken.
Instead, in response to the May 18 House Foreign Affairs Committee Resolution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a serious blunder in helping American governing authorities to amend their approach toward Sri Lanka’s national issues, obviously to the delight of the professional activists within the Tamil Diaspora who were once were counselors of the LTTE and its demised leader Prabhakaran.