Daya Gamage, in response to the Thuppahi Invitation to Address Shenali Waduge’s Memorandum
This Pic does not relate to a Sri Lankan issue; but it captures the tone in which Hillary Clinton pilloried Sri Lanka on 22nd April 2009 when the GoSL government did not abide by USA’s direct orders and proceeded to penetrate the LTTE’s last redoubt beyond Nandhikadal Lagoon — see https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2610/stories/20090522261001600.htm
ONE: US Support for Tamil Separatism
In 1984, the CIA and the State Department produced a joint document – a highly classified one – solely on US foreign policy towards Sri Lanka after the LTTE started its terror campaign to bifurcate Sri Lanka followed by the JR Jayewardene administration seeking Washington’s help for military assistance.
The document categorically stated that Washington should not extend military aid/assistance to Sri Lanka. It identified the disturbance in Sri Lanka as a civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority ethnic community Tamils. Both the CIA and the State Department contended that if Washington released military equipment and other defense assistance to Sri Lanka such equipment would be used by the GSL against the minority Tamils. Their rationale was that if Washington extends such military assistance to Sri Lanka the United States could face immense difficulty in dealing with ethnic minorities in other countries as such assistance could be construed or interpreted as a standard foreign policy that disregarded minority ethnic communities’ legitimate grievances.
Washington strictly adhered to this 1984 policy decision throughout the Tamil Tiger separatist struggle until the outfit was militarily defeated in May 2009.
This U.S. policy plank was further strengthened when the U.S. Congress refused, cut and totally blocked military assistance to GoSL during the Eelam War IV – August 2006 through May 2009 – using the Leahy Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act to deny military assistance on the premise that Sri Lanka’s military was engaged in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL).
Notwithstanding the above foreign policy decisions of successive U.S. administrations, Washington never supported or advocated the bifurcation of Sri Lanka leading to a creation of an independent-separate state for the minority Tamils. In fact in 1997, the U.S. Department of State designated the LTTE a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ and strictly used federal laws to prevent ‘material support’ to the outfit. The US Department of Treasury proscribed an LTTE front organization Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) when its investigations found that it was providing ‘material support’ to the LTTE sending funds.
Nevertheless, Washington never wanted the LTTE totally annihilated and it used State Department’s Number Two official, Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, and the ‘good offices’ of Norway to try and work out a political solution to Sri Lanka’s ‘ethnic issues’.
In March-April 2009, Washington deployed its good offices to save the leadership of the LTTE. In that endeavour Washington expected the LTTE to serve as a pressure group that would assist USA’s reformative programme for Sri Lanka, a nation which in the State Department’s view was controlled by Sinhalese nationalism and Sinhalese chauvinism.
Washington never wanted a divided Sri Lanka.
TWO: The Peace Corps in Sri Lanka
At any given moment, there were at least twenty-five Peace Corps volunteers in Sri Lanka. These youths were usually graduate students, but there were also a few postgraduate students. They were highly protected by the U.S. diplomatic mission in Colombo; no official, politician, civil society activists were allowed to meet them or engaged in any discourse. They were posted to very rural areas in Sri Lanka in order to encourage English education and other academic work. They were quite knowledgeable regarding the socio-political-economic atmosphere, trends and developments in the localities they worked in. They never interfered in affairs of the institutions, whether government or other, in the localities they were assigned to. It was amazing the interpretive knowledge they had, Many of these PC personnel displayed had the knack of gathering hard-to-get information. The US diplomatic mission in Colombo never allowed them exposed to ‘interested persons or groups’. Embassy officials maintained contact with them and assure their safety and well-being during their tenure of approximately eighteen to twenty four months.
That’s all I am supposed to tell even at this stage of my life.++
++ Daya was one of my students at Peradeniya University in the late 1960s or so. After working in the US Embassy he migrated to USA and is a dual citizen now — hence his caution, though he has been waxing bold in the Asian Tribune and Thuppahi.
* Padraig Colman: “Sri Lanka’s Grim Prospects with Hilary Clinton as President: Looking at Potentialities in June 2016,” November 2016 http://www.slembassyusa.org/press_releases/spring_2009/sl_amb_discusses_26mar09.html
* Michael Roberts: “Realities of War,” Frontline, vol 26/10, 9-22 May 2009, https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2610/stories/20090522261001600.htm
Richard Gowan: “A Hardline R2P Interventionist? An American Analyst’s Assessment of Samantha Power in April 2014,” 22 Septmber 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/a-hardline-r2p-interventionist-an-american-analysts-assessment-of-samantha-power-in-april-2014/
Thuppahi: “A Critical Bibliography: Challenging the Machinations of the International Powers vis a vis Sri Lanka,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/a-critical-bibliography-challenging-the-machinations-of-the-international-powers-vis-a-vis-sri-lanka/