US slams LTTE, mentions Tamil Homeland, Self-rule within Lanka
The United States has, for the first time, clearly spelled out its stand on Sri Lanka’s ethnic question, and used the term ‘homeland’. The top US government official dealing with Sri Lanka, US Asst Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher outlined US policy in two presentations in Colombo last week; one a press conference and the other a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).
Mr Boucher drew a sharp distinction between the Tigers and the Tamils; between not talking to the Tigers and addressing the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Tamil and Muslim people.
He placed the struggle against Tigers in the broad framework of the global war on terror, and in the same category as the campaign being waged against terrorism by the US in Afghanistan. “The Tiger leadership has to understand that the entire world is united in its determination to combat terror, whether it emanates from the mountains of Afghanistan or the fields of the Wanni. As a friend of Sri Lanka - , the United States will do whatever we can to help the sovereign Sri Lankan government in its struggle against this menace.” (Remarks to the AMCHAM, June 1, AP June 2)
The top US official outlined the need for a political solution “within a single nation of Sri Lanka”.
He referred favourably to President Rajapakse’s recent pledge of ‘maximum devolution within an undivided country’ as well as to the earlier agreements in Oslo, on internal self–determination and federalism’, while adding that the US could not dictate any particular formula.
“We also think the government should provide a positive vision to Tamils and Muslims of a future Sri Lanka - where their legitimate grievances are addressed and their security assured. President Rajapaksa has spoken of maximum devolution. Previous negotiations have agreed on internal self-determination within a federal framework. However the idea is expressed, it could offer hope to many in the North and East that they will have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.” (Remarks to AMCHAM)
At the Colombo media conference, Boucher signalled a significant development in US policy on Sri Lanka, using the term ‘homeland’ and indicating that a measure of self-rule/self-government in the areas traditionally inhabited by the Tamils, was a legitimate desire.
“I think we all understand that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has certain rights and certain needs and certain grievances that need to be addressed…Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland; in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited so I don’t want to confuse the issue of talking to Tamils and understanding legitimate grievances and legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community with not talking to the LTTE. Whether to talk to the Tigers or not is based upon their behavior and if they continue terrorism we won’t. If they abandon terrorism and one’s able to say they are no longer a terrorist organization, then we would find opportunities to consider [dealing with them]….”
He went on to urge deep-going reforms in Sri Lanka’s governing structure, and stated what those reforms should achieve.
“… When you look at the situation now and the forms of government and the way things are structured now, and what it would take to involve the Tamil community politically in a new arrangement -- that does require a great deal of change. A radical change in terms of movement. Now that’s a change that can be considered. A vision needs to be put out and needs to be elaborated by the parties themselves and then negotiated by the parties themselves.But whatever you call it, it is quite a different governing structure than what you have now and one that’s designed to give an enhanced political role to all the people of Sri Lanka but particularly to take into account the desire of Tamils and Muslims to have more control over their own destinies and over their own areas.” (State Dept release, June 2, 2006, Lanka Academic network. My emphases- DJ)
At the press conference Mr Boucher disclosed that the US intended to work with other governments to cut off the LTTE’s arms supplies.
The US State department’s website USINFO.STATE.GOV, headlined the story of the Boucher visit in its Washington File, as ‘U.S. Affirms Support for Sri Lankan Fight Against Terrorists’ with a ‘strap’ reading ‘State's Boucher says Sri Lankan Tamil minority has legitimate grievances’.( Phillip Kurata, Washington File Staff Writer).Discuss this story
Published: Sat Jun 3 14:51:16 EDT 2006