- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

Funeral in Sri Lanka

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka condemned the assassination of an opposition member of parliament, as mourners at his funeral yesterday blamed the government for his death.

The embassy called on authorities to investigate the New Year’s Day slaying of Thiyagarajah Maheswaran of the United National Party, who was an outspoken member of the ethnic Tamil minority. He was killed while attending prayers in a Hindu temple near the capital, Colombo.

“We express our sympathy to the family of Mr. Maheswaran, his parliamentary colleagues and the people of Sri Lanka,” the embassy said. “We urge the government of Sri Lanka to investigate the circumstances of this killing and to arrest and prosecute those responsible without delay.”

Supporters at his funeral wore black armbands and shouted, “Who killed Maheswaran? The government is responsible.” A Defense Ministry spokesman said Mr. Maheswaran’s bodyguard wounded the assassination suspect, who was arrested and hospitalized.

The embassy also denounced a deadly bomb attack against an army bus carrying wounded soldiers through the Slave Island area of Colombo on Wednesday, the same day the government announced its withdrawal from a five-year cease-fire that was violated repeatedly by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and by government troops who retaliated against the assaults. The government accused the Tigers of attacking the bus.

“The United States also condemns the deadly attack on January 2 in the Slave Island area of Colombo that killed and injured numerous persons, including members of the Sri Lankan armed forces and civilians,” the embassy said. “We offer our condolences to the families of the victims. We call on all parties to seek a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

The United States, Britain and the European Union designate the Tigers as a terrorist group for their use of suicide bombings and intimidation against civilian targets.

A government spokesman Wednesday said the entire Cabinet endorsed the withdrawal from the cease-fire, brokered by Norwegian diplomats in 2002.

Media Minister Anura Yapa said the Cabinet agreed the “cease-fire is no longer valid.”

Norway yesterday expressed its disappointment over the government’s decision.

“This comes on top of the increasingly frequent and brutal acts of violence … by both parties, and I am deeply concerned that the violence … will now escalate even further,” said Erik Solheim, minister for the environment and international development.

Thanking Canada

In a New Year’s message to Canada, U.S. Ambassador David H. Wilkins highlighted the role of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, where they have taken a lead role among NATO nations.

“All freedom-loving countries are truly grateful for Canada’s role in Afghanistan as part of the United Nations-sanctioned NATO mission there,” Mr. Wilkins said in his message posted on the Web site canada.usembassy.gov. “Afghanistan, like Canada and the United States, now enjoys a democratically elected president and National Assembly.”

Mr. Wilkins added that the “the most inspirational part of my job” is visiting Canadian soldiers who have just returned from Afghanistan or are preparing for duty there.

“All of them are enthusiastic about their mission and excited to be helping this young democracy break free of the chains of terror,” he said. “They are so incredibly proud to be representing their country at this historic time.”

More than 18,000 Canadian troops have served in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001, which overthrew the Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden.

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

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