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Urge Secretary Kerry to Retract Distorted Statement on Sri Lanka

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In remarks made February 12, 2015, welcoming Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera to Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to a war that never took place: Sri Lanka’s “30-years of war with the Tamils.” Regretfully, Minister Samaraweera failed to point out this distortion and we, the undersigned, hasten to request that it be corrected.


Sri Lanka’s 30-year turmoil can best be summed up using President Obama’s ISIS analogy: it was a war on a terrorist group, not on the people it claimed to represent.


The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) waged a brutal and lengthy armed campaign for a separate state, and the Sri Lankan government responded with military force, eventually eliminating it.


Any serious effort by the US or others to help Sri Lanka on its path to further reconciliation must start with this recognition: Sri Lanka was no more at war with its Tamil population than the American people with Muslims. The distinction is fundamental to the narratives of both nations.


In the case of Sri Lanka, especially the Sinhalese ethnic majority, separating a terrorist group from the broader religious/ethnic community it claims to represent, went beyond the realm of rhetoric and gruesome pictures of beheadings in a far off place. For Sri Lankans, it was a daily test of resolve in their very homes, streets, and work places as the LTTE carried out suicide bombings targeted at civilians, assassination of government ministers and political leaders (even a Sri Lankan President), killings of at least 400 Buddhist monks, and destruction of property, including sacred religious sites.


That 60% of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population lived, worked, and engaged in business among the Sinhalese in the south, away from the LTTE-controlled North, is testimony to that resolve. Additionally, upholding a policy unprecedented in a war situation anywhere in the world, successive Sri Lankan governments continued to send food supplies to the LTTE for the benefit of the civilian population in areas under its control. Does that sound like a war on the Tamil people?


We respectfully urge Secretary Kerry to retract the reference from his statement and substitute it with fact, viz., that Sri Lanka waged 30-years of war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a ruthless terrorist group.

 



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