Friday, April 10, 2009

Is US State’s Boucher violating Patriot Act initiating dialogue with Sri Lanka’s LTTE?

Washington, D.C. 14 April ( A media note issued by Washington’s Sri Lanka Embassy following a meeting at the State Department between Sri Lanka foreign secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona and US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher states that the latter’s intention to meet with the LTTE leaders.

The embassy media note stated: "The assistant secretary of state also raised the possibility of having an individual meet with LTTE leaders to discuss a surrender under which the LTTE would lay down their weapons."

The State Department has so far not denied this vital paragraph of the media note.

Former American Ambassador to Sri Lanka (2003-06) Jeffrey Lunstead in his often quoted research paper of May 2007 to Asia Foundation titled The United States Role In Sri Lanka’s Peace Process 2002 – 2006 while encouraging the United States to maintain a rapport with the Tamil Tigers says that it is not a legal impediment but a policy decision not to have any contact with the outfit which was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under federal laws.

However contradicting his own previous observation Jeffrey Lunstead’s following observations very clearly indicate that the United States regretted the legal impediments that prevented direct contacts with the Tamil Tigers.

Lunstead clearly laments the legal impediments the U.S. had in dealing with the LTTE:

"The legal restrictions were clear: the U.S. government could not provide material assistance to the LTTE, and had to block LTTE funds. LTTE officials could not obtain visas to visit the U.S. unless a waiver was granted by the Attorney General based on a recommendation by the Secretary of State. It should be noted that there is no legal proscription against meeting with LTTE officials. A decision not to meet with LTTE officials is a policy decision, not a legal one."

He further states:

"U.S. policy was nuanced in other ways. On the most basic level, the U.S. supported the process as constructed, which involved the acceptance of the LTTE as a negotiating partner of the government. The U.S. also made no objection to, and indeed generally supported, the direct engagement of other parties with the LTTE. When the GSL indicated that it was uncomfortable with a high-level visitor (such as European Commissioner for Foreign Relations Chris Patten) visiting the LTTE headquarters in Kilinocchi meet LTTE leader Prabhakaran, the U.S. strongly supported the proposed visit."

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