US Tamils question timing of Ambassador Lunstead's speech

[TamilNet, Monday, 23 January 2006, 00:41 GMT]
Questioning Ambassador Lunstead's "reckless exercise at a time of great risk to the peace process, and just a few days before Mr. Erik Solheim’s visit, which everyone was looking to as the only way of defusing an extremely dangerous situation," US Tamils, in a memorandum to Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice and to Mr Nicholas Burns, the U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, said they hoped that Mr. Burns, who will be in Sri Lanka during Mr. Solheim’s visit, "will clarify to everyone what US policy is at this critical time, and help revive the peace track."

Full text of the letter follows:

USAID-OTI-US Ambassador_TrincoWe have been very concerned about the speech delivered by Ambassador Lunstead to the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombo on January 9, which was not only heavily partisan in favor of the Government, but also contained an overt US threat directed at only the LTTE if war were to resume.

He singled out the LTTE for the warning “we want the cost of a return to war to be high”. He said “We want it to be clear they (the LTTE) will face a more capable and more determined Sri Lankan military”.

Regrettably, these remarks, which are seen by Tamil people as directed equally against them, are typical of Mr. Lunstead, who has long shown utter and even dismissive insensitivity to even existential Tamil concerns. Nothing symbolizes his disdain more than his refusal to express sympathy about, let alone condemn the murder of senior Tamil Parliamentarian Pararajasingham, committed by the Sri Lankan security forces (as admitted by President Rajapakse to the Tamil Parliamentarians on 18 January 2006, reported in Sunday Leader of 22 January 2006) or about Tamil civilian victims of continuing serious human rights violations by the military.

In the Tamil view, Mr.Lunstead has consistently followed a course which has set back the peace process, and thereby has also not served US interests well.

The partisan content of his speech, its deliberately provocative message to the LTTE, as well as its timing, raise many serious questions about US role in the peace process.

One central question is why did Mr. Lunstead engage in such a reckless exercise at a time of great risk to the peace process, and just a few days before Mr. Erik Solheim’s visit, which everyone was looking to as the only way of defusing an extremely dangerous situation. As Mr. Lunstead himself admitted in his speech, an address to the business elite was not a natural venue for such “ blunt language”

It is also a mystery why he made this speech only a few days before the arrival of Under Secretary Burns to make a first hand assessment of the situation.

Whatever his intention or the limits of his authority, Mr. Lunstead has helped harden the respective positions of the LTTE and of the strong Sinhala chauvinist elements in the Government, and especially the military (which is virtually all Sinhala). He has seriously complicated the difficult and delicate task of Mr. Solheim in getting the two sides to resume political contact, and also raised serious questions about the US role in the peace process.

The clarification of his speech, which he issued on January 17, does little by way of repairing the damage. He was disingenuous in explaining his clear threat to the LTTE as just a statement of the obvious – that “ war will be more costly and unsuccessful”.

We are confident that Mr. Lunstead has not correctly represented US policy on the peace process. We sincerely hope that Mr. Burns, who fortunately will be in Sri Lanka during Mr. Solheim’s visit, will clarify to everyone what US policy is at this critical time, and help revive the peace track.

Association of Tamil Americans
Center for Women’s Development and Rehabilitation –
USA Tamil Heritage International – USA
Federation of Tamil Association of North America (FeTNA)– USA
Illankai Tamil Sangam – California, USA
Illankai Tamil Sangam – Florida, USA
Illankai Tamil Sangam – USA
Illankai Tamil Sangam - Vancouver-Portland – Washington
Midwest Tamil Sangam - Illinois
Ohio Tamil Association - Ohio
Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organization - California
World Tamil Organization - Illinois
World Tamil Women Organization – USA

Related Articles:
23.01.06   Ambassador Lunstead's response of 17 January 2006

External Links:
USembassy: Peace and Prosperity: US policy goals in Sri Lanka 2006


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