US: Tigers have ‘legitimate goals, unacceptable methods’
[TamilNet, Sunday, 04 June 2006, 00:48 GMT]
Reiterating the United States’ opposition to the Liberation Tigers’ use of arms, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher, also said the US recognises the Tamils’ “legitimate desire … to govern themselves in their own homeland.” Furthermore, “they (Tigers) need to focus their vision on how to achieve their legitimate goals through a legitimate process of negotiation [rather than arms],” he said.
US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Affairs Richard Boucher
Boucher made his government’s strongest endorsement yet of the legitimacy of the Tamil demand for self-rule in a press conference and in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 1.
Boucher said even though the United States disagrees with the LTTE methods, it recognizes that the Tamils have “a very legitimate desire ... to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their own homeland, in the areas they've traditionally inhabited.”
“If the Tigers give up terrorism, the United States will be able to consider dealing with them. The Tiger leadership has to understand that the entire world is united in its determination to combat terror, whether it emanates from the mountains of Afghanistan or the fields of the Wanni.”
However, Sri Lanka had to meet international expectations too, he said.
“[The government] also has responsibilities it must live up to. We have high expectations of a democratic government: respect for human rights, outreach to all citizens, respect for the rights of minorities, clean government for all, and a true vision of peace,” he said.
In particular, Sri Lankan government could take steps to “demonstrate the sincerity” of its commitment to the minorities to “have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.”
For example, Boucher said: “Tamils can be assured of their right to use their language and provided with equal opportunities in public and private sector employment.”
The assistant secretary said that the Sri Lankan government has not lived up to its commitment made in Geneva in February to stop paramilitary groups operating in areas under its control from committing violent operations.
And the political situation in the island had ‘worsened’ he said: “The atrocities range from Foreign Minister Kadirgamar's assassination to the recent attempt on the life of the army commander and the massacre of civilians in Kayts and Welikanda.”
The US official said the LTTE had to “bear the major responsibility for the upsurge in violence and near-breakdown of the ceasefire agreement.”
Boucher said the United States is supporting the Sri Lankan government “diplomatically, economically and militarily,” against the Tigers, but was opposed to a new war.
“The purpose of our assistance is not to encourage a return to war, because we firmly believe that there is no military solution to Sri Lanka - 's ethnic conflict. Rather, our assistance is meant to help Sri Lankans deter a return to war,” he said.
“You know that if Sri Lanka reverts to a full-scale war, the consequences for the business climate will be devastating. Investors - be they foreign or local - won't support projects that could collapse in the chaos and uncertainty of a war-torn country. Tourists will almost certainly stay away, and insurance rates on shipping could go up significantly. The government's outlays for the cost of war will drain much needed resources from other development enterprises,” he said.
As such, the US and the other Co-Chairs of Sri Lanka’s donors – European Union, Japan and Norway – want the LTTE and the Sri Lankan state to “get back into talks as soon as possible,” he said.