Blake disputes Rajapaksa formula for war and peace
The United States is encouraging all parties in Sri Lanka to accept a political solution to the conflict without waiting for a military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam, a report published in the Chennai-based Hindu said today.
In an interactive session at the University of Madras on Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake rejected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s view that political talks could come only after the LTTE was wiped out or disarmed. “A military solution is going to be very, very difficult,” he said, citing Sri Lankan Army Chief Sarath Fonseka’s statement that even if the Army occupied all of northern Sri Lanka, a residual guerrilla force of at least a thousand LTTE fighters would go underground.
Mr. Blake made it clear that the ruling and opposition parties needed to agree on the All Parties Representative Committee’s blueprint for constitutional reform. “The greatest failure of the last 25 years has been the failure of the main Sinhalese parties to reach agreement,” he said adding 90 per cent of the APRC document had found consensus.
“The U.S. view is that the [Sri Lankan] government could further isolate and weaken the LTTE if it articulates now its vision for a political solution,” said Mr. Blake. Moving forward on a political solution would have three-fold benefits — to reassure 2,00,000 refugees in the Vanni region that they can move south and aspire to a better future; to disprove the LTTE’s claim of being the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamils; and to persuade Tamils overseas to stop funding the LTTE.
A political solution could also improve the human rights situation “that has disproportionately affected Tamils” and would hasten reconciliation, he added.
Mr. Blake felt that India and the U.S. could use their strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka, where the two countries “share exactly the same perspectives, the same values.” While refusing to comment on the demands in Tamil Nadu for Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador noted that “with Indian help and leadership, we have a good chance of making progress on this.”
So far as the U.S. was concerned, he ruled out any military intervention on the island. In fact, the U.S. recently effected a complete freeze on all military assistance to Sri Lanka after concerns were voiced about the human rights situation and the use of child soldiers. However, the U.S. earlier “helped the Sri Lankan military defend itself against terrorism,” by supplying a maritime radar system and 10 inflatable boats to the navy.
The American ban on the LTTE, which was followed by several other countries, also cut the flow of money and weapons to the Tigers, the result of which could be seen in their recent military defeats, he said.
Today, most American aid to Sri Lanka was either humanitarian in nature or was focussed on building the economic and political infrastructure of the eastern part of the island. This year, the U.S. had contributed $32.7 million worth of food and other commodities through the Food for Peace programme, said Mr. Blake.