Friday, August 20, 2010

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the USA's letter of response to Amnesty International

SOURCE Embassy of Sri Lanka - On Aug. 9, 2010 the Washington Post published a letter from James McDonald of Amnesty International suggesting that a shipload of Sri Lankans arriving illegally in Canada should be given asylum because they faced persecution if they returned to Sri Lanka.

I am compelled to respond to this letter because Mr. McDonald misstates so many facts and makes so many blind allegations that he must be corrected.

First, Mr. McDonald states that during Sri Lanka's "civil war, both the government and Tigers committed human rights abuses including war crimes."

Sri Lanka's long fight against a terrorist army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, was not a civil war. That's a convenient Western characterization. The LTTE ruthlessly took over parts of Sri Lanka and killed any person – many of them Tamil – who stood in their way.

Secondly, it is outrageous to suggest that the government of Sri Lanka committed human rights abuses and war crimes as it defeated the LTTE in May 2009. In fact, the government rescued nearly 300,000 people who were held hostage as human shields by the LTTE. Furthermore, Sri Lankan forces are trained in human rights. Mr. McDonald of course cites no evidence for his allegations; in fact there is none. Sri Lanka has established a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission to examine the most intense years of the conflict.

Finally, Mr. McDonald accuses Sri Lanka of holding hardcore LTTE militants without due process. These militants escaped by posing as civilians. They are terrorists. Yet the government of Sri Lanka has initiated a program that will offer them amnesty and rehabilitation.

Sri Lanka is working hard to provide Tamils and all others affected by the conflict with a new beginning, and so it is also outrageous to suggest, as Mr. McDonald does, that Tamils who return to Sri Lanka will be persecuted. In fact many Tamils have already returned to renew lives that were disrupted by the LTTE's violence -- another fact ignored by Mr. McDonald.

Accusations come easy without facts, but facts make it difficult to sustain tired arguments. I should think that Mr. McDonald and Amnesty International would be heartened by the fact that terrorist violence against innocent civilians has been halted in Sri Lanka for more than a year.

Jaliya Wickramasuriya
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States