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BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE

Dr A.Mahes Ladduwahetty.Maryland,USA

The expatriate Sri Lankan community both in the USA and elsewhere is livid at the comments made by the Foreign Minister Tyrone Fernando in an interview with Wilson Gnanadass of the Sunday Leader in which he has criticized former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar for his lobbying that had led to the proscription of the LTTE in the West. Minister Fernando has added that this proscription has "boomeranged" on Sri Lanka. These comments are evidently being made in an attempt to curry favor with the LTTE, while disparaging the previous government.

Mr. Kadiragamar is remembered by many expatriate Sri Lankans as perhaps the most effective FM of the post-LTTE period, who succeeded in resurrecting the image of Sri Lanka abroad; an image which had been sullied very effectively by LTTE propaganda in the aftermath of the 1983 race riots, and through the ensuing years of successive UNP regimes until 1994 when Minister Kadirgamar took over. His record will be hard to surpass.

In his very first address at the United Nations he declared to the world leaders present that the Sinhalese were "not racists", and his words, coming from a Tamil, and stated so clearly from that forum, formed the turning point for the Sri Lankan state which was at that time at an all time low in international esteem. Since then, through his painstaking efforts and those of expatriates, the West has begun to understand the machinations of the LTTE. As the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ashley Wills has stated, this country's independent assessment of the LTTE resulted in the State Department declaring it a terrorist organization.

After the events of September 11, 2001, a US-led initiative has resulted in the UK, Canada, and Australia including the LTTE in their lists of terror groups. The curbs on fund-raising in these countries have no doubt become a major hindrance to LTTE activities, and they are now frantically re-casting themselves as doves of peace, with the UNP swallowing the bait, hook, line and sinker.

Perhaps a lesson could be learned from more astute leaders in neighboring South India, whose reactions to the LTTE's request to host the peace talks in Chennai show that they seem to seem to have a better understanding of the LTTE and its game plan.

It is a disappointment, to put it mildly, that the new government which the nation voted into power with high hopes for building consensus, should resort to baseless criticism of the one Minister who in our estimation had put "nation first". Furthermore, whatever may have been the personal difficulties between Mr. Kadirgamar and Mr. Jayantha Dhanapala which Minister Fernando has alluded to in his interview, we are sure that Mr. Dhanapala, a man of honor, would not appreciate being brought into this fray as a political bone of contention.

The Foreign Minister's words may have its own "boomerang" effect. It will also leave in its wake much bitterness and mistrust on the part of the many expatriate groups who work so painstakingly to counter LTTE propaganda that smears Sri Lanka with accusations, the latest being "rogue state", a term used with very definite intent. To date we have not seen a rebuttal from the Foreign Ministry of this particular accusation which has come from LTTE spokespersons (e.g., Tamilchelvam) in the past few weeks. Does it mean the government's acceptance of the epithet?

Some reasonable explanation may emerge for the peculiar behavior in which the UNP-led government seems bent on scoring goals for the LTTE. In the meantime there is the growing conviction that honest, dedicated, and intelligent leadership that puts nation before party politics has been lost forever from Sri Lanka.


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