USA opens American Corner in Jaffna, welcomes writers festival in Galle

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 25 January 2011, 01:22 GMT]
The US ambassador in Colombo Patricia A Butenis on Monday opened American Corner, a US outfit in Jaffna city, to function at the premises of a local NGO, Jaffna Social Action Centre. The Deputy High Commissioner of the Indian High Commission in Jaffna, SL colonial commander in Jaffna, Maj. Gen. Hathurusinghe, the Sri Lanka Government Agent in Jaffna and the mayor participated the diplomatic event that follows the opening of the Deputy High Commission of India in last November. Meanwhile, on the same day the US embassy in Colombo has also welcomed the controversial ‘Literary Festival’ in Galle and has donated money to bring students and teachers to the meet.

American Corner in Jaffna
SL colonial commander Maj. Gen. Hathurusinghe hemmed between US Ambassador Butenis and Indian Consul-General in Jaffna, Mahalingam, at the inauguration of American Corner in Jaffna


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka mooted by progressive Sinhalese, the Reporters without Borders (RSF) and Leading global intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and many others have condemned the context of the Galle Literary Festival.

“This is not the right time for prominent international writers like you to give legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of free speech by attending a conference that does not in any way push for greater freedom of expression inside that country,” they said in an appeal.

Heeding to the appeal, some star participants including a Nobel laureate withdrew from the festival.

But in a press release Monday, the US embassy in Colombo said that it supports the Galle Literary Festival and "events like this one can help bring about fuller freedom of expression in Sri Lanka."

The US embassy donated money to bring students and teachers from the University of Ruhuna, Southeastern University, Sabaragamuwa University, and the University of Jaffna to the festival at Galle.

“They will attend a full schedule of events at the festival, meet both national and international writers, and participate in special team-building sessions while in Galle,” the US embassy press release said.

Speaking in Jaffna, the US ambassador recollected the 200 years old relations between the US and Jaffna through the American missionaries. The first printing press, the first Tamil language newspaper anywhere and the first medical school of the island were the contributions of the Americans in Jaffna, she pointed out.

American Corner in Jaffna
American Corner in Jaffna
She said that during her previous visit in June she had visited the cemetery of the founder of the Uduvil Girls College, the first girls’ boarding school in all of Asia. This lady, Ms. Harriet Winslow, is the great grand mother of one of the renowned diplomats of the US and its former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who too had visited the cemetery at Uduvil, the ambassador said.

“The opening of the American Corner today is a symbol of our sustained commitment to the people of Jaffna. And, with its opening, we add another American "first" to the list – the American Corner is the first facility in Jaffna to have an operating ADSL internet connection,” Ms. Butenis said.

According to the ambassador, the Corner is a small library similar to the ones the US is having at Colombo, Kandy and at Oluvil, to connect Jaffna with the rest of the island and with the outside.

“The American Corner is only one of the ways we are engaging with the people of Jaffna. The U.S. Agency for International Development created 20,000 full-time jobs in the North and East through an innovative series of partnerships with private companies," the ambassador said.

The Jaffna Social Action Centre is an ideal partner organization, with a deep commitment to community-level support and youth-based initiatives, she further said.

Both the USA and India are keen in laundering the agenda of the genocidal state of Sri Lanka and defuse the national aspirations of the Eezham Tamils. By their actions, both the powers seem to be confirming the colonial subjugation of Eezham Tamils under Sri Lanka. But, whatever that comes in the name of development without freedom of the concerned people cannot be their development, commented an academic of the University of Jaffna.

Ms. Butenis should also look at the other side of the native responses of the people of Jaffna to American missionaries even when their mission was non-colonial, but operating under the colonial administration of the British, the academic further said.


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