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What goes on in SL is its own affair, NSA rebuffs pro-LTTE lobby in US

By Aziz Haniffa
October 07, 2010 10:57 IST
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Notwithstanding the demise of the mercurial leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Velupillai Prabakharan, who was killed by the Sri Lankan security forces over a year ago, , the pro-LTTE lobby in the United States has remained active, particularly in the US Congress.

Prabhakaran's assassination led to the defeat of the rebel outfit and an end to the more than two-and-half decades old civil conflict in the island nation.

Recently, the lobby was able to persuade 58 members of the US House of Representatives to sign a missive to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on the US to convene an international investigation into alleged war crimes during the final stages of the war against the LTTE.

But if the lobby hoped to co-opt India's sympathy during the visit last week to Washington of National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, they were sorely disappointed by Menon making clear that while India was working in concert with the US in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the largely Tamil populated areas in the Northern Province that were devastated by the conflict, what goes on in this island nation is ultimately the internal affair of that country.

During an interaction that followed his remarks on Indo-US Relations on the Eve of President Obama's visit to India, a pro-LTTE lobbyist sprung up and asked Menon if 'India shares of has any concerns about the roll-back of democracy in Sri Lanka.'

Menon, erstwhile Indian ambassador to Sri Lanka, quick off the mark, said, "Frankly for us, we are dealing with a neighbour, who's had a troubled history and has just come out of a civil war and has to repair the damage of that civil war and the effects that's had on their own society."

"So two things become very important," he said. "One is reconciliation between the communities and we've tried very hard to help in that process -- in reconciliation, in trying to bring life back to normal for especially the areas where most of the war was fought in the north and the east."

Menon said that in this regard, "We have a huge program to try and do that and we've discussed it with the US as well, which is also participating in this effort and we've tried very hard to make sure that by doing this -- and this is a common Indo-US interest really -- that we can prevent the emergence of the sort of terrorism that came out of Sri Lanka, which in our case cost us the life of a Prime Minister."

"But equally, there is also the work of political recovery in Sri Lanka," he said. "Of creating an order within which, not just the restoration of democracy, but more than that, an order within which all the communities feel that they can determine their own futures -- that they have a say in the choices that affect their lives."

Menon said that this was 'a much more sensitive task and while we will continue to encourage Sri Lanka to do what she says, what the Sri Lankan authorities have consistently told us they want to do, ultimately that's their internal affair and it's something they'll have to take the tough decisions themselves on.'

"But we are heartened by the fact that there is a process going on," he noted, and pointed out that "Sri Lanka did manage through 27 years of civil war to actually maintain the democratic nature of her polity."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC