US Deputy Secretary of State visits Chavakachcheri
[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 August 2002, 11:36 GMT]
The United States Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Richard Armitage, visited Chavakachcheri Urban Council grounds Thursday morning accompanied by Sri Lanka’s Economic Reforms Minister Mr. Milinda Morogoda, Defence Ministry Secretary Mr. Austin Fernando, US Ambassador in Colombo Mr. Ashely Wills and the three heads of the armed forces. While touring the Chavakachcheri area, the visiting US diplomat said, "It reminds me of Vietnam where I served for six years. This shows the urgent need of finding a political solution to Sri Lanka's crisis."
Three Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters took them from Palaly main SLS base to Chavakachcheri around 10.30 a.m. Mr. Armitage was then taken to Sarasalai south where he inspected the de-mining operations carried out by US experts. Later he visited the forward defence lines of the Sri Lanka Army at Muhamalai.
Thereafter the US Deputy State Secretary was taken to Jaffna where he participated in a discussion, which was arranged to air the views of the Jaffna people. The discussion took place for about thirty minutes at Jaffna Central College. Journalists were not allowed to cover the discussion. Minister Morogoda, the US Ambassador and the Defence Ministry Secretary attended the discussion.
"The political solution that is to be found through peace talks should recognise the self-determination right of Tamils in this country. The ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam should be lifted. The LTTE should be recognised as the sole representative of the Tamils at any peace talks," a group of leading citizens from Jaffna told the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State at a discussion held Jaffna Central College this afternoon. The group comprised Ms Saroja Sivachchandran of Women Development Centre, Dean of the Higher Studies in Jaffna University Dr. K. Sittampalam, Medical Specialist Dr. Thayalan Ambalavanar and a final year student of the Jaffna University Mr. I. Gopalakrishnan.
Mr. Armitage later told newsmen that his government would extend its fullest support to achieve a lasting peaceful political solution.
The Sri Lanka Army prevented civilian movement on several roads in the Chavakachcheri and other surrounding areas as a measure of security for the visiting US diplomat. For about two hours residents of the areas were not allowed to leave their residences or to return from the other areas. People were seen waiting at several army checkpoints at Kanaganpuliyadichchanthi, Nunavil and Puttur till the US diplomat left the area, sources said.
The US Deputy Secretary of State left immediately for Jaffna on his arrival at Katunayake International Airport in Colombo. Minister Morogoda received the US official at the airport before accompanying him to Jaffna.
He is expected to meet the Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev. Thomas Soundaranayagam during his stay in the peninsula. He will also meet Sri Lanka Army (SLA) officials stationed in Jaffna, sources said.
On his return from Jaffna US Deputy State Minister is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and main opposition leader, Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse.
A delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) headed by its parliamentary group leader Mr. R. Sampanthan will meet the US Deputy State Secretary of State in Colombo on Thursday evening, TNA sources said.
Mr. Armitage will also visit Indian, Pakistan, China and Japan after his one-day stop in Sri Lanka, as part of his five-nation south Asian tour.