- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

NO RESPECT

The ambassador from Sri Lanka sounded a bit frustrated in the latest installment of his “Washington Journal.” It seems his country, like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “can’t get no respect.”

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya noted that the government recently announced provincial elections for the northern end of his South Asian island nation, where fierce fighting in May ended in victory over a brutal ethnic-Tamil rebel army that waged a 26-year war for independence from the Sinhalese majority.

“During the final months of the conflict, the U.S. and other Western governments insisted that Sri Lanka come up with a political solution that will heal ethnic strife for good,” he wrote. “But when Sri Lanka announced plans for the Aug. 8 election, it barely drew Western notice.”

Mr. Wickramasuriya added that the plans for the north reflect what the government accomplished two years ago, after dislodging the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from the eastern province. The province, with a majority Tamil population, elected its own government with several former rebels winning seats in the local legislature.

Expatriate Tamil organizations and some human rights groups continue to hammer the government, accusing it of holding nearly 300,000 Tamils in refugee camps and killing thousands of civilians during the final months of fighting.

The Associated Press on Saturday reported on U.N. documents that said disease is spreading, the camps are overcrowded and water is scarce.

The government has disputed the claims of civilian deaths and insisted that it is resettling the refugees as quickly as possible, while providing food, shelter, education and medical services in the camps. The main obstacle to resettlement is the removal of land mines buried by the rebels, the government says.

Mr. Wickramasuriya said, “There has been a lot of criticism of the conditions at the government centers.”

“I have been in them. They are not luxurious, to be sure. Nor are they intended to be permanent, which is what some have alleged is Sri Lanka’s ulterior motive.”

Mr. Wickramasuriya admitted that “free movement” of refugees in the camps “is an issue,” but he added that the government is trying to identify what they believe are “hundreds” of rebels who fled with civilians into the camps.

“The last thing Sri Lanka wants and the last thing it can afford politically or financially is to keep thousands of people in the [refugee] centers longer than necessary,” he said.

ENVOY TO UKRAINE

The Ukrainian ambassador in Washington is speculating on the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador to his country.

Ambassador Oleh Shamshur told the Kiev Post newspaper Monday that he expects President Obama to nominate John Tefft, a former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

“That is the rumor,” he added.

Mr. Shamshur met Mr. Tefft when he served as deputy foreign minister, before taking his Washington position in January 2006.

“He left a positive impression on me,” said Mr. Shamshur.

LEAVING ETHIOPIA

The American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia is sorry to see U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto returning to Washington.

“It is with great pleasure that we recall your support and full commitment to the establishment of our chamber,” said chamber President Getachew Ayele in a farewell ceremony.

Mr. Yamamoto, a career diplomat, was appointed ambassador to Ethiopia in 2006 and is returning for a new position at the State Department.

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

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