An Open letter to Honorable Members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and Members of the United States Senate
Posted on June 7th, 2021

Ms. Chandra Fernando Educational Consultant, USA

I write to you today as a US citizen of Sri Lankan descent, a teacher trainer, child advocate, and an advocate for peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Ever since the devastation of the Asian Tsunami,

I usually spend several weeks in Sri Lanka in January and February of each year.

Since the war ended, I have participated in efforts towards reconciliation through my role as an educational consultant, teacher trainer and peacemaker. Since 2009, when the 26 year -old conflict ended, I focused my attention on reconciliation efforts through several private organizations and friends in Sri Lanka.

First, I visited a rehabilitation center for 200 former child combatants and participated in several educational and recreational activities with them. My first visit was not long after the war ended. I visited these children ages 12 to 16 with a group of teachers who worked with them every week day afternoon. At that time, I observed their sad and untrusting demeanor and witnessed their physical and mental trauma. It was heartbreaking to listen to their stories of abduction, molestation and oppression by the LTTE. This was a heart wrenching experience.

From the first time I visited these children, I was struck by the kindness and the nurturing shown to these children by the staff of the Rehabilitation Center. Most military staff who worked with them

did not wear uniforms so they could make the children feel comfortable. The Commander of the rehabilitation center although in uniform, was so kind to these children that they called him Appa” which in the Tamil language means, Father”. Men and women who cared for them took great care to make the children comfortable both physically and mentally. It was a long road to recovery; but when I went back a year later, I was stunned by the success of this rehabilitation program. In my research on the plight of child soldiers in international conflicts, I had never come across such an amazing and effective undertaking in such a short period of time.

I wanted to focus on this venture to put a very important and positive light on the handling of a very significant burden of any war. Children are the worst affected in any armed conflict. The recruitment of young children as soldiers is a brutal and dastardly act. As an American, and humanitarian, I am conscious of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Although the United States has not ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, it is still a signatory to it. I am sure you will agree this act of barbarism is totally unacceptable in civilized societies.

I am bringing this up at this time because on several occasions, the United States has humiliated Sri Lanka by sponsoring resolutions on human rights violations, and not once did the US Government

  mention the positive measures undertaken on the ground. Not once did these resolutions recognize important child protection initiatives undertaken by the Sri Lankan Government. As an eye- witness to some of these measures on my visits to the North in the past several years, I am disappointed at the way we in the US have acted towards a nation that has finally put a stop to the daily violence by the LTTE. The pro-LTTE diaspora may have billions to lobby congress but they have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

In the past couple of years, I have been involved with other children’s projects designed to promote reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka. We have had joint educational and social projects between the children of the North and South which have resulted in many heartwarming exchanges between the Tamil and Sinhalese children. Many groups in Sri Lanka have activated wonderful opportunities for reconciliation. These efforts by both the government and private organizations need to be recognized and encouraged. The US needs to listen to those people who want a united Sri Lanka. It is time to recognize Tigers in Sheep’s clothing; the Pro-LTTE Diaspora does not have a plan for a united Sri Lanka. They have economic interests in keeping a conflict going between the two communities. The pro-LTTE diaspora are creating a wedge between the local communities for their own benefit. However, there is a large silent majority of the diaspora and the Tamil citizens in Sri Lanka who do not agree with their ideas and tactics. 

If the goal of some Western powers is to divide the country along ethnic lines, this will certainly happen. What the UNHRC rand US esolutions have achieved indirectly up to now is the creation of distrust in the Sri Lankan community. The Pro-LTTE Diaspora has been emboldened by the results of the biased resolutions and they are doing their utmost to destroy a sovereign state and its gentle people. Most of the pro-LTTE diaspora have not stepped foot on Sri Lankan soil during or after the end of the conflict. We, who have regularly visited and worked with the people of the North have a very different view of things on the ground. Using doctored-material, these divisive individuals have spread false information about the people of Sri Lanka to members of Congress and to the international community, who in turn have fallen for it Hook, Line and Sinker.

Sri Lanka has made tremendous strides since the successful end of its war against terrorism in May 2009. Since the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka has:

  • Resettled 300,000 people who were displaced by the conflict;
  • Invested $1 billion annually on new infrastructure to help support livelihoods and the economy, especially in conflict-affected areas;
  • Rehabilitated over 1,000 former LTTE child soldiers and re-united them with their families;
  • Given amnesty and job and educational training to 12,000 former LTTE terrorists who have returned to civil society;
  • Held Presidential, Parliamentary and Regional elections in formally terrorist controlled areas;
  • Lifted conflict-era emergency regulations that were in place for 26 years;
  • Have begun to adopt the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

            I hope you will consider the view of those of us who have no affiliation with the Government       of Sri Lanka, no connection to any political party in Sri Lanka, and no hidden agenda. As a teacher, peace advocate and one who seeks peace for ALL children of Sri Lanka and beyond, I    respectfully ask you to consider these few facts I have noted:

Ms. Chandra Fernando
Educational Consultant, USA
Member, Peace and Social Justice Committee,
The American Montessori Society
(Author, A Little Book of Peace in Sinhala, Tamil and English)

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