The ambassador from Sri Lanka says 58 members of Congress were “duped” by terrorist supporters into signing a letter calling for a war-crimes investigation into a 26-year civil war against rebels who pioneered suicide bombings and forced children to fight against the government.
The letter “contains the same vague allegations of other human rights reports and accusations by sympathizers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE], the terrorist army that Sri Lanka defeated last year,” Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya said in a e-mail to Embassy Row.
“But it is troubling to me that the LTTE, a terrorist group banned by the U.S., is able to persist in its disinformation campaign to such a degree that members of Congress are duped into signing such a letter.”
He said the letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week, as well as another congressional letter produced last year, are the result of “efforts generated by the North American lobby of the LTTE.”
Mr. Wickramasuriya noted that the abuses cited in the latest congressional letter were actually committed by the rebels, not the government. He said the Tigers, in their last-ditch effort to survive the final government assault, herded 300,000 civilians into a “small spit of land as human shields” in the northeast of the South Asian island nation.
He said the rebels, who once controlled large areas of Sri Lanka, killed hundreds of civilian Tamil leaders who wanted to work peaceably with the majority Sinhalese population to resolve ethnic conflicts between the two communities. The Tigers also forced teenage boys and girls into the rebel army and laid about 1 million land mines throughout the Tamil region in the north.
Mr. Wickramasuriya said the rebels prevented their hostages from receiving most of the food and medical aid sent by the government and the International Red Cross during the final days of the war.
Sri Lanka faced criticism for relocating the 300,000 Tamil civilians into refugee camps after the defeat of the rebels, but the ambassador said the relocation was necessary because of the land mines and the rebels’ destruction of homes in the north. Today, most of the refugees have returned to the north. The government still detains about 10,000 suspected Tamil rebels.
DEATH OF A MOTHER
The Pakistani ambassador returned home this week to mourn the death of his mother, whom he described as the “wisest guide in my life.”
“All that I am today is because of my mother,” Ambassador Husain Haqqani told Embassy Row by e-mail from the family home in Rawalpindi.
“She was the perfect teacher, teaching by example and reason. I cannot recall one occasion when she raised her voice or lost her temper with me or any of my five siblings. I have lost not only a loving mother but the wisest guide in my life.”