EXTRACTS FROM ‘ TAMIL TIGERS’ DEBT TO AMERICA’ : Intense Pressure of a Different Kind
Posted on December 6th, 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 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 US foreign policy towards Third World Nations works. His book is available at Amazon.


In the event of a failure to salvage the top Tamil Tiger leadership, Owens, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, spelt out the United States Government/State Department policy objective in a post-LTTE scenario, which Daya Gamage has noted as point 4 of the previous episode – i.e.: ‘Using countability and openness  regarding  the incidents that occurred from April throughout  18 May, 2009, which have been variously described as violation of International Humanitarian Laws (IHL)- crimes against humanity,  war crimes, and genocide. These lines of emphasis were designed to forcibly push the political agenda professed by the FP,TULF, and the LTTE relating to Tamil grievances, thereby bringing pressure to bear on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement more than what is in the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which talks of devolution of Administrative and political power to the periphery.

Mike Owens’ Statement

“I think it is important that Sri Lanka move towards a really strong democratic governance in a multi-ethnic society, in which all groups have a voice in the society. So, the devolution of power to the provinces, as enshrined in the 13th Amendment, that’s something that we feel is very important as the first step, but it needs to go beyond that. There are going to be a lot of civil society challenges in the next several years in dealing with the aftermath of this conflict and making sure that the conflict doesn’t reignite as a result of mistakes that are made now. So, we want to work closely with the Sri Lankan Government in that way (emphasis is by Daya Gamage).


“And we are going to press for and hope that the GoSL will agree to implement the 13th Amendment as envisioned as quickly as possible. About consequences, if the Government of Sri Lanka does attack the safe zone and large numbers of civilians are killed: certainly, there would be consequences, and we have made it very clear to the leadership of the Government of Sri Lanka if that occurred. I would not want to tie our hands in terms of specifying exactly what those consequences would be, but we would certainly hold the Government of Sri Lanka responsible for the death of a lot of civilians, and we have made that very clear to the leadership.


‘We hope to see the rise of maybe some new voices in the Tamil community, moderate voices in the North. We think that is very important and we want to work with the Tamil community, and I think here, especially the Diaspora has a very important role to play in helping building moderate Tamil voices in the North.
“And we are going to press for, and hope that the Sri Lankan Government will agree to implement the 13th Amendment as envisioned as quickly as possible.  I would emphasise that we believe the Diaspora, the Sri Lankan Diaspora, and particularly the Tamil Diaspora in North America, in Europe, elsewhere, has a very important role to play in this. They should, I hope, be speaking out in terms of what they envisioned for Sri Lanka in a post-conflict scenario. They have an important voice in that process.


Thus, at a media briefing on 4 May, 2011, at the American Embassy in Colombo, in his capacity as the Assistant Secretary for South Asia, Robert Blake exerted pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to move towards a sustainable political solution by reiterating the importance of accountability. That is the trajectory the United States at present takes to resolve the Sinhala-Tamil conflict. Take note of these aspects of Blake’s announcement.

Robert Blake’s Announcement

“The United States has continually expressed to the Government of Sri Lanka the importance of implementing a credible and independent process to safeguard accountability. Domestic authorities have the responsibility to ensure that those responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law are held accountable. International mechanisms can become appropriate in cases where States are either unable or unwilling to meet their obligations.” Thereafter, he outlined what the United States would like to see:


“United States attaches great importance to the dialogue that is now taking place between the Sri Lankan Government and the  Tamil National Alliance. And, as I said in my statement, we hope that the issue of concerns to the Tamils. That includes not only the very important issues regarding devolution, but also very sensitive issues like all of those who remain in detention, and a full accounting of who are in detention, but also a full accounting of the missing, the issuance of death certificates for those who may have died, so that there really can be a closure for the families. It involves such issues as land tenure and setting up a process to ensure that there can be fair arbitration for many disputes about who owns some of the lands up in the North.


“So, I think there are a great many issues that still need to be addressed, and from what I heard today the government is committed to doing that, and is committed to a sincere dialogue with the TNA. But again, the proof will be in results, not promises. So, we very much hope, again, that this will result in a concrete process towards the issues that I just discussed and the others that are of concern to the Tamils. So, this will remain a very high priority for the United States and I hope for the Government as well.’


Having lost the  “pressure group” that was a pillar in its original plans, namely, the LTTE in May 2009, the United States in 2013/14 exerted pressure on the Government of Sri Lanka to bring a political package that would resolve Tamil grievances. It was strategically forcing the South Asian Nation to have accountability and openness. When Blake pronounced that in the absence of domestic accountability the International community may be forced to initiate an accountability process from outside, he is wielding a bargaining hammer. For the United States, “accountability” and ” reconciliation” are a combined package, but the emphasis was more on reconciliation. Because this idea included a political solution that would meet Tamil grievances and aspirations.

LLRC

The persons who have been commissioned by the Government of Sri Lanka to produce the final document for the ‘Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) were entrusted with the task of guiding the process of reconciliation. They should have been erudite enough to take note of this historic development outlined here, which has culminated in the final strategy of UNHRC resolutions serving as a tool of the West. The contention is that neither the LLRC nor the Rajapaksa Foreign Ministry has comprehended this line of the United States-led Policy. They have, therefore, not worked out how to proceed with the whole issue of reconciliation by incorporating “accountability” into their framework of action. This should be the focus if Sri Lanka wishes to work through this difficult time and desires to get the US-Sri Lanka relations unto a footing that will benefit both nations.


Violating the IHL, committing war crimes and genocide allegations have been combined with the reconciliation call  and it was up to the Government of Sri Lanka’s wise counsels to carefully manoeuvre how to move away from possible pitfalls. The former Rajapaksa administration failed in this attempt, and the new Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime has set forth to appease the United States- and the West- in an attempt to take the burden off its shoulders.


Daya Gamage, the author of the Book Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America, quotes from Kai Ambos, an internationally renowned  expert on International  Law and Human Rights, who is also a professor of Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, International Law and Comparative Law at the University of Gottingen.

Kai Ambos’ version

“War is an armed conflict under International Humanitarian Law, which presents a different legal situation. In such circumstances, people can be killed when they directly participate in hostilities. The prohibition on killing is suspended in international armed conflicts for combatants and non-international armed conflicts for so-called fighters or de facto combatants.


These actors can, under specific conditions, also be the targeted killings. The most important condition is that the principle of proportionality is coupled with the less severe measures (such as arrests)  are to be preferred and the unnecessary civilians must be avoided. If a targeted killing occurs in a foreign country, the territorial State must consent to the operation; otherwise, the action amounts to a violation of State sovereignty, prohibited by Public International Law.


A loose and decentralised terrorist network does not fulfil the criteria for classification as a party to a conflict within the context of International Humanitarian Law. It lacks, above all, a cetntralised and hierarchical military command structure and the control of a defined territory.”

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Courtesy: Daya Gamage, Author of  Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America.
To be continued: ‘ The American Agenda through Foreign Service Officers’ eyes’.

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