Sunday, February 22, 2009

GUIDELINES Senators suggest when writing to them

Dear Friends,

The guidelines they suggest when writing to them (as per their
websites) are as follows:

1. Keep it short and do not write more than a page (if you were to print it).

2. Write your real name and address and sign the letter (anonymous
letters are routinely discarded).

3. Start by indicating what you are writing about.

4. State each of your concerns in paragraphs.

5. End the letter by urging some action (what you would like them to
do about the issue).
Here are some points that I elaborated in my letter (ok, I must
confess that I ended up with two pages though :)

1. Introduce yourself as a Sri Lankan American who visit Sri Lanka
frequently due to family ties. (business/leisure/ ... whatever that
applies to you) and as someone very concerned about the situation of
your country of origin.

2. Express your appreciation for the concern they show towards Sri
Lanka by holding the hearing.

3. Let them know that Sri Lanka's war on terror is finally seeing the
light at the end of the tunnel after thirty years. The separatist
terrorist group LTTE are now cornered and holding thousands of
civilians as a human shield against their will. Mention that if Sri
Lanka succeeds in routing out terrorism, it will be a very rare
achievement for any secular democracy.

4. Mention that the LTTE is one of world's deadliest terrorist groups
as classified by the FBI and many other western law enforcement
agencies. They are fighting to carve out a mono-ethnic separate
country in the island by attempting to suicide bomb the country in to
submission. They have a support network of dedicated individuals who
mostly live in the west who also subscribe to the separatist project
of the LTTE.

5. The separatist financiers are now seeing their millions of dollars
worth of investment in the terrorist campaign go up in smoke. Their
arms procurement and money laundering networks have been disrupted by
the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

6. Consequently, much of their money and efforts have now been
diverted to lobbying western governments and non-governmental
organizations to pressure Sri Lanka to abandoning its war on terror.
Let the senator know that this will provide the terrorists a lifeline
they badly need at this time. The terrorist support network's
motivation for discrediting Sri Lanka is simple revenge to avenge
recent battleground losses.

8. Mention that the tactics used in their lobbying include
misinformation campaigns about Sri Lanka targeted at international
press, false accusations of Human rights violations and genocide by
Sri Lanka, mass protests in western capitals, and mass letter writing
campaigns. It's easy to mobilize a large number of people for these
actions as quite a few of them have pending asylum applications in
western countries that will be rejected if there is peace in Sri

9. Let the senator know that you have not seen any organized human
rights violations by the government during any of your visits or in
talking to your folks back home. Also, mention the fact that most
Tamils live among the Sinhalese majority in the south of the country.
This is further evidenced by the fact that civilians caught up in the
conflict routinely cross over to the government side risking their
lives. Could this happen if there was genocide being practiced by the

10. Urge the senators to stand by Sri Lanka on her hour of need as Sri
Lanka has stood by the U.S. for over half a century as a consistent
ally. Ask them to help Sri Lanka liberate the remaining civilians used
as a human shield by the LTTE.

Please forward as appropriate as time is of essence.


Sample Letter 2

US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – Hearing on 'Recent Developments in Sri Lanka'

Chairman Senator John F. Kerry Ranking Member Senator Richard G. Lugar

Dear Senators:

I am the editor and publisher of a newspaper that has served the Sri Lankan community in the US for more than twenty-five years and I am writing to express my concerns and views regarding the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's upcoming hearing on 'Recent Developments in Sri Lanka.'

The announcement comes at a time when Sri Lanka and the US stand at the very crossroads of change: we have a U.S. president who has promised a fresh approach to foreign relations and a Sri Lanka that is reawakening and is in the first throes of post-war rebuilding and reconciliation, after virtually eliminating the 30-year old stranglehold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. For any discussion on Sri Lanka to be relevant and meaningful to the people of that county and for any future policy decisions by the US to have the force of the moral leadership promised by the President Obama, all of the nuances of recent developments in Sri Lanka must be taken into account.

The upcoming hearing with its lineup of just three witnesses does not suggest the potential for such a desired effect.

In fact, the committee is going to get an incomplete, inaccurate, and, predictably, bleak picture of recent developments in Sri Lanka. For example, can Mr. Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who is expected to speak about the murder of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge be relied upon to present all the nuances of that case? Will he mention that Wickrematunge was allegedly a 'double agent' who provided information about fellow journalists to the US Ambassador Robert Blake in Colombo, that he ran for political office once, changed political affiliation and became a supporter of the opposition United National Party on whose ticket he was expecting to be made the justice minister? None of that justifies his murder but they do redefine his life and values and broadens the circle of suspects. In fact, the world of Sri Lankan journalism is in itself quite convoluted and not without its own dirty secrets and scandals – a fact that CPJ may have chosen to ignore. For instance, Sunanda Deshapriya, the president of the Free Media Movement on whom CPJ has relied heavily for information when researching press freedom in Sri Lanka, has now disappeared from the scene after being fired for alleged embezzlement of NGO funds. So much for the credibility of CPJ's sources.

Ms. Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch (HRW), will also paint a dim picture of disappearances and abductions. Could the committee depend solely on the testimony of an organization whose stock in trade is the existence of human rights abuses? In at least one instance, (the arrest of journalist Tissanayagam) the Sri Lankan authorities took Ms. Niestat to task for misrepresenting facts and brought out what appeared to be credible evidence in support of their case. It must also be mentioned that questioned about allegations of abductions and disappearances, Sri Lankan authorities have answered that the numbers are exaggerated and that names of the disappeared are not being provided by rights groups such as HRW.

Additionally, if the witness base is not balanced out, the committee will continue to work with existing biases and propaganda. The following is an example of such an outcome.

· On Feb 2, 2009 Committee Chairman Senator Kerry co-authored a statement on Sri Lanka with you, Senator Lugar, which mentions the shelling of a hospital in the conflict zone. This allegation was based on a totally erroneous Associated Press (AP) report dated January 27, 2009 that said: " At least 300 civilians were wounded and scores feared killed by government artillery shells fired into a designated "safe zone" for ethnic Tamils trapped by fighting between the government and Tamil rebels." The report quoted a Sri Lankan health official as saying that relatives had brought some 300 people wounded by the government artillery fire to Puthukudiyiruppu hospital, some 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Mullaittivu, and 'the dead have been buried immediately or abandoned by roadsides as the families flee attacks.'

A day later, after the 'health official' denied ever making such a claim, AP issued an advisement to editors to 'kill' the story and to make certain it is not published. However, the 'kill' advisement and the subsequent information that the hospital had not been hit and that it was part of obvious LTTE propaganda, was never publicized by the media.

Making things worse, a few days later, the United Nation's Colombo based spokesman Gordon Weiss fell for the same propaganda and told the media that the Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital had been hit by cluster munitions, intimating that the Sri Lankan military was using cluster bombs. Later that same day, after being challenged on the accuracy of the report, the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Neil Buhne extended a verbal apology. The Sri Lanka airforce subsequently issued a video showing the hospital as being intact.

These are just a few of the examples of how easily LTTE propaganda is picked up and disseminated by even the most highly-respected news organizations and world humanitarian groups.

Will the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continue to make conclusions based on such propaganda or will it make an honest attempt, to the best of its ability, to get a complete and accurate a picture of 'Recent Developments' in Sri Lanka?

With all due respect, I also believe that this is the time for the US to make a reassessment of its approach to Sri Lanka's attempts to resolve the separatist issue. Such a reassessment would include:

· Recognition of the current situation where the Sri Lankan military is within reach of totally eliminating the LTTE and expediting that process by pressuring the LTTE to release the civilians they are holding as 'human shields'

· Immediate assistance for reconstruction and rebuilding the areas recaptured from the LTTE

· Moving away from the highly-critical moral tone inherent in most hearings, resolutions, or discussions on Sri Lanka. As much as Abu Ghraib and other human rights scandals have tarnished the US' own human rights record and lowered her moral altitude, surely, they must also have brought home to you the reality of fighting a terrorist war. Imagine, a year-round 9-11, stretching over 30 years – which is what Sri Lanka has endured. Captious resolutions introduced from time to time by US politicians (some of whom received campaign funds from LTTE front organizations) and various shortsighted decisions have led to Sri Lanka gravitating towards China, Japan, Russia, and even Iran. Granted, for the US, Sri Lanka may rank low on the scale of desirable allies; nevertheless, it has remained an ally, and one of the few democracies in Asia. With the US' diminishing orbit of influence in world affairs, the value of such an ally must not be discounted.

· And, not least: Recognition of the monumental achievement of virtually eliminating the world's most brutal terrorist group. To quote the Wall Street Journal: " For all those who argue that there's no military solution for terrorism, we have two words: Sri Lanka." (WSJ 1/16/09).

Yes, Senators, go ahead, time for some applause!

Thanking you for your interest in Sri Lanka,


Sample Letter 1

February 15, 2009

Hon. Jim Demint
340 Russell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Recent Developments in Sri Lanka

Dear Senator DeMint:

I am writing this note to share my views with you regarding the hearing to be held on February 24, 2009 on above subject. I have been a xxxxx at yyyy for nearly zz years. As a constituent of your state, with interests in Sri Lanka, I would like to bring your attention to few facts regarding the current situation in Sri Lanka with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a banned terrorist outfit by the United States, European Union, Canada, India, and several other countries around the world.

It is well established now that LTTE is the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. In an article entitled (01/10/2008) “Taming the Tamil Tigers” FBI reported that “Tamil Tigers are among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”. To name a few, LTTE crimes include murder of thousands of innocent civilians (belonging to all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka), assassination of two world leaders (Prime Minister of India, Mr. Rajeev Ghandi and President of Sri Lanka, Mr. R. Premadasa), attempted assassination of former Sri Lankan President, Mrs. C. B. Kumaranatunga, assassination of moderate Tamil intellectuals (including Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka), illegal arms smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering. For their excellence in terror, FBI credited LTTE with few distinctions; the only terrorist organization to assassinate two world leaders; perfected the use of suicide bombers; invented the suicide belt; pioneered the use of women (including pregnant women) in suicide attacks; killed more than 4000 in two years. Mr. V. Anandasagari, a senior moderate Tamil politician in Sri Lanka, told BBC news (02/12/08) that “The LTTE had killed far more Tamils than the Sri Lankan government security forces”. These facts clearly portray the true face of LTTE.

After 9/11, LTTE agreed to a ceasefire agreement (CFA) brokered by the Norwegian government in 2002, primarily because they were in a difficult position due to the U.S. led war against terrorism. During this time, the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) made several attempts to bring LTTE to the negotiating table but LTTE took every possible avenue to avoid negotiation by putting forward unwarranted demands that any democratically government cannot meet. During the same period, LTTE continued their terror activities and strengthen their arms cache; grossly violating the CFA but the GOSL patiently tolerated for the sake of a peaceful settlement.

After tolerating endless murder of innocent civilians, attempts to disrupt civilian life, and attacks on military installations (including a suicide attempt on the army commander) during CFA, GOSL had no choice but to defend LTTE terrorism and liberate the civilians in areas under LTTE control. As a result, LTTE is on the brink of defeat and confined to a very small area. LTTE agents are now pressuring international community to halt GOSL military actions so that they can regroup, reorganize and rearm.

LTTE agents are world renowned for false and deceptive propaganda machinery. Currently, undercover LTTE agents are busy misleading the international community to stop the defensive operation of GOSL. Their latest ploy is glorifying the word genocide to describe what is happening in Sri Lanka.

Genocide is defined as deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. Roughly about 20% of the population in Sri Lanka is Tamil and estimated 250,000 Tamils are trapped in the war zone. Sri Lanka has a total population of nearly 21 million. Therefore, the total Tamil population in Sri Lanka would be roughly 4.2 million. About 94% of the Tamil population safely lives in the South with majority Sinhalese or in recently liberated areas. I do not advocate killing of any being, but for convenience of calculation, lets assume all the trapped civilians face death. This amounts to 6% of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. I am not sure of what ‘in part’ in the definition means but I wonder if loss of such a low percentage qualifies as genocide.

What LTTE lobbyists fail to mention is the fact that these innocent civilians are held by LTTE as human shield. As the LTTE retreated, they forced civilians to go along with them. People who defied the order were shot to death. GOSL announced a safe zone for civilians and LTTE purposely moved their guns to safe civilian zone. President and other international aid organizations (Red Cross and UN) begged LTTE to release the civilians held by them. President of SL declared a 48 hr ceasefire for civilians to escape. LTTE grossly ignored every such request. Recently a LTTE suicide bomber exploded herself at a facility where escaped civilians were being registered killing many civilians. Just a day or two back, LTTE fired at a bus carrying escaped civilians. Since LTTE is holding these civilians as human shield, I wonder if LTTE should be held responsible for so called “genocide” of their own people.

Terrorism is a global cancer. United States alone cannot defeat world terrorism. Whether it is Al-Queda, Abu Sayyaf, LTTE or an unknown group, terrorists bring misery to civilians and we all remember the misery caused by 9/11 attacks in the U.S. soil. Imagine the misery for peace loving Sri Lankans during past 25+ years. Individual countries with terrorist problems should be determined to remove their cancers with the help from the leaders of war on terrorism. Regardless of the recent change in political landscape, as the leader, United States has an obligation to support those governments fight terrorism in their lands and achieve lasting peace. Contrary to popular belief Sri Lanka has made extreme progress in removing her cancer from roots. Therefore, as a peace-loving citizen, at this critical juncture, I urge you to carefully consider any move to restrict support to GOSL and give a lifeline to LTTE terrorists.

Only way to achieve lasting peace in Sri Lanka is to eliminate LTTE and come to a negotiated settlement with majority peace loving Tamil leaders. I certainly hope that international community would pressure LTTE to give up violence and be a part of this process. GOSL is making progress in developing a plan to share power with moderate Tamil leaders.

I thank you for your valuable time.

Yours sincerely,