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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
11 August 1996
The LTTE has officially commented on recent reports about the US special forces training Sri Lankan army units in Wirawila and urged the US government to play a mediatory role in bringing about a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict.
A detailed story on the Green Berets in Sri Lanka was published in The Dallas Morning News on 30 June 96. The article was widely read on internet. The muddle headed Sri Lankan censor suppressed it out of recognition when the local press reproduced it. Internet copies, however, have been circulated generally and read. The Tamil times has reproduced it in its July issue.
US government sources said that there is nothing sinister about the whole thing because this training programme is routine and that it had been negotiated by the concerned authorities in 1993 when the UNP was in power. One phase of the programme had been conducted in 1994. The next phase did not take place in 1995 due to certain circumstances. And due to what the US government perceives as a marked improvement in the government’s human rights record the prejudice on the sale of lethal weapons to Sri Lanka has been lifted.
The Tigers appear to think that Kfir fighters from the Israelis, operating in conjunction with the Antonovs, may have the capability to achieve the precision required to hit specific targets.
(There is no way one can know whether the LTTE’s claims about the Israeli technology are correct. It is apparent that they are partly based on the Dallas Morning News story. But one thing is certain - that the high tech stuff, if it is already available, does not seem to be producing the desired results.)
The reports about US training and arms sales to Sri Lanka came along with the much publicised harsh pronouncements of the US State Department spokesman condemning the Tigers.
Some Tamils were inclined to see a nexus between the progress of the work on the VOA station at Iranawila and what appeared to be an extraordinary stand taken by the US government in an internal conflict situation.
The LTTE representative in the US Viswanathan Rudrakumaran had checked out these developments in Washington and had been told that things were being seen and quoted out of context.
The editorial of the latest issue of the Viduthalai Pulihal (1-15 August 96) the official organ of the LTTE which is now published in the jungles of the Wanni dwells at some length on the recent developments in the US government’s policy on Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.
This, no doubt, is the first time that the LTTE has specifically called upon a foreign country to mediate in the conflict to bring about a settlement. The LTTE has been quite wary in the past about third party mediation, believing, apparently, that foreign involvement would rather help the Government’s case for a united and sovereign country more than its own case for the separate state for Eelam.
The editorial which may be considered next in importance to documents which bear Prabhaharan’s signature says -
“A special unit of the American army called the Green Berets has come to Colombo and is training the Sinhala army. In addition(to this) it is issuing statements and condemnations which are intended to put the stamp of terrorism on the struggle of the Tamils. At the same time American arms are now being sold to the Sinhala government because it has withdrawn its earlier decision to not sell lethal weapons to Sri Lanka. Not only this, but America is working behind the scene in matters of selling lethal weapons on the basis of concessions to Sri Lanka through countries which are allied to it.”
“It deeply saddens us that American state which acts on the basis of the priority of human rights and global peace should take a biased stand on the war between Sri Lanka and the Tigers and attempt to only condemn the struggle of the Tamils. A danger has arisen that the causes underlying the Tamil struggle and the war crimes of the Sinhala government may be hidden from the international community as a result of America acting in this manner. It has saddened the Eelam Tamils that America is providing much military and political assistance to an oppressive government that has been suppressing the Tamils in many ways for forty years.”
“That America has not properly understood the history of the Tamil - Sinhala ethnic contradiction and its dimensions is the main reason for this wrong policy it has adopted. The Tamils are disappointed that America is supporting an oppressive regime instead of understanding the basis of the tamales liberation struggle correctly and making diplomatic efforts to bring about a political agreement between the oppressive Sinhala regime and the oppressed Tamil people. It is not good that America is supporting and providing assistance to the zealous war effort ( Po~r Munaippu) of Sinhala ethnic hegemonism, at this juncture when people from several quarters are pressing the government that a political solution should be found only through negotiations even while the peninsula is being occupied by the Sinhala army”
The editorial goes on to say that the US is also helping the Sri Lankan government behind the scenes secure foreign financial aid for the war effort - this aid being the backbone of the government’s military drive. It claims that Americas actions are encouraging and promoting the Government’s military approach to the resolution of ethnic problem; and that its military assistance will only contribute to the rise of further complications in the Sinhala - Tamil ethnic contradiction and the expansion of the war leading to greater human misery.
Therefore says the LTTE’s official organ it is our people’s wish that America should make whatever effort it can to create peace in the island by approaching the Tamil Sinhala ethnic problem impartially and diplomatically
How serious is the LTTE’s concern with the US government’s attitude ? Firstly, it is quite clear to the Tigers that the high quality of the training provided by foreign governments - the National Defence Colleges of India and Pakistan, Sandhurst in UK- and private bodies like KMS comprising former SAS commandos has not helped the army much in defending itself.
In this context US special forces training is not, in their view, bound to change the military balance in any way.
Secondly, it has been demonstrated in the Eelam wars that the input of more weaponry has done little to prevent them from taking on larger and larger targets. ( From the small Chavakacheri Police station in 1982 to the Mullaithivu base in 1996).
The military situation in the north and east, despite the bold claims of the General, is such that the US can salvage the PA, if it really wants to do so, only by actually committing its troops to the theatre of operations!
The US may not even see a mediatory role in the Sri Lankan conflict given South Asia’s geopolitical context and the fact that the US has no vital strategic interests to safeguard here.
Thirdly, the technology for killing Prabhaharan, even if ultimately obtained, might be ineffective in the absence of human intelligence which, as it has been proved time and again, the Sri Lankan intelligence seems woefully short of. Therefore, in the final analysis, the LTTE’s primary concern is with securing some degree of goodwill from the US for what it (the LTTE) considers the Tamil cause if not for itself.