US treaty seen encouraging subjugation of Tamils

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 29 May 2002, 18:34 GMT]
Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, senior Tamil National Alliance MP for Batticaloa told a US official Wednesday that a proposed defence treaty between Washington and Colombo would support the majority Sinhalese "continue the discrimination and subjugation of the Tamil people." The US and the Sri Lankan government are scheduled to sign the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement in July. Sinhala nationalists have welcomed the treaty.

"The Tamil people are very much concerned and suspicious about the proposed 'Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement' between the United States of America and Sri Lankan Government. From past experience they feel that it can be used as a tool to support the Sri Lankan military's war against the LTTE. Signing the agreement would mean that you support the majority community (Sinhalese) to continue the discrimination and subjugation of the Tamil people," Mr. Pararajasingham told Mr. Joseph L. Novak, the head of the political section of the US Embassy in Colombo.

The MP told the official: "The embassy spokesman Mr. Stephen Holgate downplayed the level of co-operation the pact would entail. But the Tamil people look at this agreement with concern and apprehension because it would eventually commit the US to provide logistic support, training and military supplies to the Sri Lankan security forces. The Tamil people feel that the agreement is meant as a warning to the LTTE, to make it fall in line with the peace process."

The TNA MP said that the US official had assured him that America would never do anything detrimental to the interests of the Tamil people.

Sinhala nationalists argue that the Sri Lankan government should develop close military ties with the US to contain or fight the Liberation Tigers. Tamil politicians say that the agreement would inevitably promote Sinhala intransigence against an honourable settlement to settle the island's conflict.

Commenting on the Agreement Tuesday, Mr. Nanda Godage, a widely read Sinhala nationalist columnist for The Island, the English daily published from Colombo, said, "It is a useful tool to support our military in their engagements. It has also a multi-national dimension. It is an agreement under which the US is committed to provide logistic support, supplies and services to military forces of the country with whom she has an agreement." In a patent reference to India, he noted, "If countries in the region are unable to help us with military support, as we discovered to our horror when the Tiger was at our door, we must be free to enter into Agreements with any country that would help us."

The agreement would enable the US to utilise Sri Lanka's ports, airports and airspace. In return for the facilities offered Sri Lanka is to receive military assistance from the US including increased training facilities and equipment. There would be joint exercises with US armed forces. US training for the Sri Lankan security forces will focus on Counter Terrorism and related activities under the treaty.

"For more than two decades the Sinhala leaders evaded an acceptable political settlement by portraying our struggle as a terrorist problem. They were hence able to wield oppressive means to subdue and contain the Tamil people from achieving their legitimate political aspirations. In this context, US treaty would entrench in them the traditional belief that they can continue to deny the Tamil their rights by remaining dominant militarily - a presumption now reinforced by the prospect of having the support of the world's sole super power to back future war on the Tamils. The arguments of the Sinhala chauvinists in favour of the treaty prove this beyond any reasonable doubt," Mr. Pararajasingham told TamilNet.


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