Extracts from “Tamil Tigers’ debt to America”
Posted on November 29th, 2019

By Dr Tilak S. Fernando Courtesy Ceylon Today

Daya Gamage worked at the American Embassy in Colombo, as the Sole Foreign Service National and a Political Specialist. He retired in 1994 and has been living in Las Vegas since retirement. After two years of concentration, he has been able to share his knowledge, understanding and his intimate professional association with the US Department of State in the form of a book – Tamil Tigers Debt to America’. Being aware of how America’s foreign policy worked- sometimes in a strange manner, he has come out with an unbiased text full of data in his book nowhere else is contained. Daya Gamage has authorised the writer to ‘to quote anything from his book’ so that the readers will get a clear picture of  America’s Foreign Policy,  Sri Lanka’s National Issues and the LTTE struggle in depth. Gamage handles the United States Bureau of the Online daily newspaper Asian Tribune constantly making the readers knowledgeable of the U.S. foreign policy towards Third World Nations works. His book is available at Amazon.


On 6 May 2009, exactly twelve days before the complete annihilation of the LTTE with its top leadership, in a special media gathering at the State Department in Washington, the USG (United States Government) quite accidentally disclosed its long-held notion, which was developed and nurtured within the portals of the US Embassy in Colombo in the 1980s and 1990s. This was very familiar to Daya Gamage.


Mike Owens, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State for South and Central Asian Affairs, who had previously served as the Political/Labour Officer at the US Embassy in Colombo, at this  6 May, 2009, special media briefing disclosed what Washington contemplates ‘what to do’ with the Tiger Leadership. Daya Gamage gives, in detail his quote and the interpretation to Washington’s outlook in a subsequent chapter (in his book ‘ Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America).

Development

The idea  that the birth of the LTTE was the result of the grievances of the Tamil community governed the USG policy throughout  and led the United States to do the following:


‘Make the LTTE a legitimate voice of the Tamil grievances by officially encouraging the GoSL to accept it as an ‘equal’ partner at the negotiating table.


‘While encouraging measures to drastically control the LTTE’s military capability and its fundraising ability and to block its arms procurement avenues, maintain it as a pressure group  of the  Tamil voice, so as to force the GoSL hand to grant Tamil demands that had been highlighted earlier by the Ilankai Thamil Arusu Katchi (Lanka Tamil State Party or Federal Party), which was the first Tamil political party to adopt a resolution at its inaugural  session in 1951, highlighting a demand for self-determination of the Tamil People), the Tamil  United Liberation Front (TULF), which adopted the separatist resolution in 1976 and even  introduced it in the Massachusetts State Assembly in 1979 and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA – a creation of the LTTE). The marginalisation of established democratic Tamil political parties as a result of the militarily powerful LTTE reducing them as its appendices made the United States encourage the GoSL to make the LTTE an equal partner at the negotiating table.’


‘Move the top hierarchy of the already crippled LTTE out of Sri Lanka to invigorate the debate on Tamil rights/grievances. The Officials of the State Department were already in a dialogue with several Tamil expatriate organisations based in the United States for many months or years.’


‘Using the post-LTTE developments, force the GoSL to adopt a policy of accountability and transparency regarding the incidents that occurred from April through 18 18 May 2009, which are described as violations of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide to forcibly push the political agenda professed by the FP, TULF, and LTTE on Tamil grievances, especially bringing pressure on the GSL to implement more than what was in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution that talks of Devolution of Administrative and Political power to  the periphery, main objective of allowing the Tamils in the  North and East of Sri Lanka to  run their own lives with minimal interference from Colombo, with land and Police powers, while maintaining the unitary character of the Constitution’.


Drawing attention to Notion 3 above, Mike  Owens was very clear at the special media briefing on 6 May  2009. He was the first US official to reveal that the US Government wished to organise the surrender of the entire LTTE corps of fighters, inclusive of its leaders, as one facet of a rescue operation that would ensure the safety of the civilians in the battle zone.  Daya Gamage agrees with the salient pronouncements made by Mike Owens on behalf of the American administration for everyone to come to their conclusions.

Media Statement

“We are trying quietly behind the scene to find a way to bring an end to the fighting. It’s very difficult to see exactly how that is going to happen, but we think there are a couple of elements that need to be involved, and we need to find a way for the LTTE to surrender their arms possibly to a third party in the context of a pause in the fighting, to surrender their arms in exchange for some sort of limited amnesty to at least some members of the LTTE and the beginning of political process.


“Now that is a pretty vague outline, it’s going to have a lot of negotiations with parties involved to bring that to fruition in a coherent way, but that is something underway behind the scenes to try and find a way to reach that point.


“I just want to emphasize this is what we would like to see happen, but we do not have any illusions that this is easy to engineer. It’s something that we have been working very hard and quietly behind the scenes because we see that the only potential to bring this to an end is to have a package in which we have a pause, and the civilians were allowed to leave. And now it is very clear that many civilians do want to leave in spite of the fact the LTTE has said earlier they do not want to leave”.


“So, what we would like to see is a package, in which there is a pause, and then during that pause, not only the civilians leave but we also make some arrangements between the Government and the LTTE that would involve trading off surrender of arms for a limited amnesty. The Government of Sri Lanka has previously offered a limited amnesty. This would be for the lower level LTTE cadre, not the leadership.   

         
“I think one of the big questions is what to do about the leadership, and that’s certainly not easy to answer. This is a very complex and very difficult sort of thing to orchestrate. There are many problems, and we are running out of time. We really, literally, have a matter of a couple of days maybe in which we can try to get this finalised. So, we are working on it, but I don’t want to raise expectations that we are close to a comprehensive agreement.”

US Embassy Cables

A segment of the US Embassy in Sri Lanka’s classified cable to Washington sent by Ambassador Robert Blake (disclosed by WikiLeaks)  gives a glimpse of the endeavour by the United States to arrange surrender of the LTTE cadre.

The following is the text of the classified cable:    

” Ambassador contacted senior GSL officials throughout  the day, including Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Bogollagama, to urge acceptance of a mediated surrender of the remaining Tigers and maximum restraint on the part of the military to avoid further civilian casualties, particularly after the reports from the Bishop of Mannar of continued high number of civilians in the safe zone. Rajapaksa refused to accept mediated surrender because the fighting was all but over, but said troops had been instructed to accept anyone who wishes to surrender.”

tilakfernando@gmail.com

Courtesy: Daya Gamage – ‘Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America’.
To be continued – Intense Pressure of a different kind.

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