30th September 2001
US embassy staff in Colombo hold hands and ask Sri Lanka to negotiate with terrorists
We publish below the letter dated September 28 without any deletions:
'I noted with regret the unfortunate and misleading article that appeared in last Sunday Times regarding the position of the United States Government in relation to terrorism. The reporter, rather than upholding the excellent journalistic traditions of The Sunday Times, chose to misquote and distort the content of our conversation on a matter of great importance to both our countries and at a critical moment in our mutual policies towards terrorism. This is a disservice to The Sunday Times and to its readership.
US embassy staff in Colombo with Sri Lankan top brass say they will help Sri Lanka fight terrorists
'Specifically, she quotes me as saying that the United States Government makes a distinction between the LTTE and terrorists in the Middle East. I did not say that and would not do so. It seems clear that your reporter wanted me to make such a statement and, when I did not do so, decided to claim that I had anyway. In further distorting my statements, your reporter took out of their proper context other remarks I made, substantially changing their meaning.
'Most importantly, she also chose to entirely delete my statements regarding the strong and continuing support of the Government of the United States for Sri Lanka's struggle against terrorism. I emphasized that the United States Government was the first Western country to declare the LTTE a terrorist organization, that the United States continues its substantial programs to train Sri Lankan troops and that the United States has furnished the Sri Lankan armed forces with considerable material support. Finally, I made clear that the United States has repeatedly stated that it opposes the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam.
'I request a prompt retraction by The Sunday Times of the misquotation and, for the sake of informing your readers of the true position of the United States, the inclusion of the points regarding our long-standing and continuing support for the Sri Lankan Government's struggle against terrorism. 'The Embassy has always held The Sunday Times in the highest regard and I know that it finds the distortion of my statements as regrettable as I do.'
Note by the News Editor: Nowhere in his letter does Mr. Holgate dispute the most important point in The Sunday Times story. That is The United States move to form a grand coalition to crack down on terrorism worldwide will not change Washington's stance towards Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis and the protracted separatist war. This only remains true and has been further elaborated upon by acting US Ambassador, Lewis Amselem, evidently in the wake of Mr. Holgate's own remarks published in The Sunday Times last week.
Mr. Amselem's statement appears in full elsewhere on this page. He makes clear 'The United States has supported and will continue to support the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka, which while resisting terrorism says that a political solution must be found to the civil conflict in this country.'
All that The Sunday Times wanted to inform its readers was the same fact. In other words, contrary to the expectation of most Sri Lankans, despite the dastardly September 11 attacks in the United States, there would not be a more targetted crack down on the LTTE by the US and its coalition partners though the Tigers remain banned in the United States. That is to say, that post-September, despite US President George W. Bush's statement to the joint session of Congress declaring war on 'global terrorism" and that they will not negotiate with terrorists —there will be no change in US policy asking Sri Lanka to negotiate with the LTTE.
Mr. Holgate's denial makes no mention as to whether he denies that he said "We are fighting against terrorists; who are not asking anything; they are not demanding anything, and coming for negotiations; they want only to kill Americans, in relation to why the US is asking Sri Lanka to negotiate with the LTTE.
It is a matter of great regret that an official of the United States Government has chosen it fit to cast serious aspersions on the integrity of The Sunday Times reporter by asserting that "it seems clear that your reporter wanted me to make such a statement (drawing a distinction between Osama bin Laden and the LTTE) and, when I did not do so, decided to claim that I had anyway."
Such a statement coming from an official of a Government, to say the least, is most reprehensible and over bearing. As News Editor, it is I who assigned Shelani de Silva, to pursue the story in question and I must state that she had no ulterior or personal motive in wanting Mr Holgate to say what she wanted. I do appreciate Mr. Holgate's acute embarrassment over his own remarks which evidently led to Mr. Amselem having to further clarify matters last Sunday.
The reporter stands by her story.
Reporter Shelani de Silva adds: I stand by every word that has been published in my report quoting Mr. Holgate.
I state quite categorically that I reported exactly what Mr. Holgate
said. I assure I did not want Mr. Holgate to say what I wanted to. Mr.
Holgate's claim that he explained to me the US Government's continuing
support for combating terrorism in Sri Lanka is either a figment of his
imagination or an after thought or both. The US Embassy may be assured
that it is not my report that is distorted, but Mr. Holgate's denial.
According to Police statistics the number of vehicle thefts has been rising in the last few years. Up to August this year the number of thefts is a record 828, as against a total of 1025 during 2000 and 900 during 1999.
Even though police differentiate between thefts and robberies, saying
that thefts are stealing of parked cars and robberies are vehicles hijacked
at gun point etc., the bottom line is that vehicles go missing. The number
of thefts and robberies up to August this year is 259 and 569 respectively.
Police also said that with many anti-theft security systems in the market
the thieves have now become more daring and resort to hijacking vehicles
at gun point, which make the systems ineffective.
"Our long-standing opposition to terrorism around the world is well known and has been underlined by president Bush's recent statements. In regard to the conflict in Sri Lanka I don't need to remind Sri Lankans that the United States was the first Western country to declare the LTTE a terrorist organization.
"In support of this policy, the United States has conducted numerous training exercises with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and will continue to do so. We have also supplied the Sri Lankan Armed Forces with considerable material support, including, among many other items, the delivery last year of 300 military trucks, which were given to Sri Lanka for the cost of shipping.
"The recent terrorist attacks in the United States have provoked world-wide
revulsion against the groups which commit these heinous acts and strengthened
the resolve of countries around the world to eliminate this global plague.
Our commitment to assist Sri Lanka in its own fight against terrorism is
undiminished and will continue."
By M. IsmethMoves are afoot by several civic organisations, professionals, leading citizens, PA dissidents and some parties in the Opposition to form a united alliance with the blessings of the Maha Sangha, to jointly contest the next general election.
The main campaign of the alliance will be focused on finding a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict, bringing down the cost of living, creating more job opportunities and preventing workers from being thrown out of jobs and doing away with power cuts.
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