- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Sri Lankan warning

The new foreign minister of Sri Lanka is raising an alarm in Washington over the threat to his country’s democracy from a vicious armed group that he called the “godfather of modern terrorism.”

Mangala Samaraweera yesterday told Embassy Row that he will urge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when he meets her today, to support tougher actions against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has fought a 25-year war against the Sri Lankan government.

Although the Tigers are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, Mr. Samaraweera said, Tamil front groups are still operating in the United States under the guise of charities. He wants them shut down and is asking the Bush administration to urge other countries to take similar measures against Tamil exile groups accused of financing the Tigers.

Mr. Samaraweera, appointed foreign minister last month, said his country needs action, not just statements of condemnation over repeated Tiger atrocities.

“Tea and sympathy are no longer enough,” he said.

Although the government and the rebels agreed to a cease-fire in 2001, the Tigers repeatedly have violated the conditions of the pact. Norwegian officials who oversee the cease-fire said the Tigers committed more than 3,600 violations and the government about 200, Mr. Samaraweera said.

“The United States must realize they are not dealing with a liberation movement but a ruthless killing machine more dangerous than al Qaeda,” he said.

Mr. Samaraweera said al Qaeda has even adopted some Tiger techniques, explaining that the Islamist terrorists use the same type of suicide-bomber vest perfected by the Tigers and even copied Tiger tactics such as speedboat assaults on naval vessels. Al Qaeda killed 17 American sailors when it bombed the USS Cole in 2000 while it was docked in Yemen.

The Tigers “are the godfather of modern terrorism,” he added.

He described Sri Lanka as a “democracy under siege.” The State Department recognizes Sri Lanka as a multiparty democracy with generally free and fair elections that mostly respects the human rights of its citizens.

The Tigers demand a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, but Mr. Samaraweera said they operate like a fascist organization by kidnapping teenagers into their armed resistance.

The State Department said the Tigers were “responsible for politically motivated killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, harassment, abduction, disappearances, extortion and detention.”

The former foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, was assassinated Aug. 12 by suspected Tiger snipers.

“And he was a Tamil,” Mr. Samaraweera said, adding that most Tamils do not support the Tigers. The Tamils make up about 18 percent of the population, which is mostly ethnic Sinhalese.

On his Washington visit, Mr. Samaraweera also will express his thanks to the American people and the Bush administration for its response to the tsunami that killed more than 32,000 Sri Lankans on Dec. 26, 2004.

“The United States was magnificent in its response,” he said.

U.N. campaign

A former Sri Lankan ambassador who is accompanying Mr. Samaraweera on his visit is quietly pressing his candidacy for secretary-general of the United Nations.

Jayantha Dhanapala, ambassador to Washington from 1995 to 1997, yesterday said he shares the U.S. goal for major reforms at the United Nations, where he served as an undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs from 1998 to 2003. He is now an adviser to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

He called himself an “insider-outsider,” explaining that he was at the United Nations long enough to recognize many of its organizational problems but not long enough to become a U.N. apologist.

He also said he has a good relationship with John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is fighting for U.N. reforms.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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