- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

‘Make believe’

The ambassador from Sri Lanka is getting frustrated with the United States and other foreign governments that are trying to pressure his country into returning to talks with Tamil rebels, who “amassed a catalog” of violations of a cease-fire declared in 2002.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke, in a recent foreign policy briefing, explained that his government pulled out of the cease-fire in January because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam repeatedly refused to abide by their promises to seek a political settlement to its 24-year fight for a separate Tamil homeland.

“The demand to return to the CFA [cease-fire agreement] is like requesting a return to the make-believe world in which Sri Lankans lived since 2002,” he told analysts at the Capitol Hill Club.

Mr. Goonetilleke cited figures by Norwegian peace monitors, who brokered the cease-fire. They found more than 3,800 violations by the Tigers and 300 “minor violations” by the government.

“Throughout the CFA, they engaged in serious truce violations such as assassinating moderate Tamil politicians, officials and members of the armed forces; murdering political opponents; engaging in suicide bombings; abducting civilians for ransom; and conscripting child soldiers,” he said.

“It was during the so-called cease-fire that the Tigers assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, made two attempts to kill another Tamil minister,Douglas Devananda, using female suicide bombers, and employed yet another female suicide bomber in an attempt to assassinate the commander of the Sri Lankan army.

“I wonder which country among those who ask Sri Lanka today to return to the CFA would agree to continue with a charade of that nature in the face of such grave provocations.”

Mr. Goonetilleke said the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa agrees with the United States and other foreign officials engaged in Sri Lanka that the conflict must have a political, instead of a military, solution.

However, after withdrawing from the cease-fire, the army opened a renewed campaign against the rebels, driving them out of the eastern part of the South Asian island nation that was once a rebel stronghold. The air force destroyed a key rebel base, while the navy laid mines in the sea separating Sri Lanka from India to block the rebel navy from operating in the area.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies this week noted that neither the government nor the rebels “is currently in a mood to get serious about peace, so prospects for new talks are poor.”

The CSIS study also recognized that the government “claims to have lost faith in Western mediators” and is urging India to intervene diplomatically.

The International Crisis Group estimates that 1,500 civilians have been killed and 250,000 displaced since 2006.

Kenyans targeted

Kenyan leaders responsible for the widespread political violence gripping the East African nation learned yesterday that they will lose their privilege to travel to the United States when a newspaper in Nairobi printed an interview with U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

“We have identified a number of people that could potentially be subject to these visa restrictions,” he told the Standard. “Any perpetrator supporting or inciting violence and their families would not be issued visas.”

Political chaos erupted after the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election when Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner ofa second term. His chief opponent, Raila Odinga, claimed Mr. Kibaki stole the election.

Violence mainly between Mr. Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribal supporters and Mr. Odinga’s Luo tribe has claimed about 1,000 lives and displaced an estimated 300,000 people.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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