American Enterprise Institute event Video: Sri Lanka: The Road Ahead
WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 11, 2011
The United States should work with the Sri Lankan government to encourage transparency, accountability, and equal representation of Tamils--a historically marginalized, persecuted, and underrepresented ethnic group--panelists agreed at an American Enterprise Institute event Friday.
The conference focused on Sri Lanka's troubled past and its prospects for future reconciliation and growth.
Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation expressed hope for tolerance and open debate between Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government and the Tamils. Curtis asserted that the United States should support the country's significant economic growth and development, especially given Sri Lanka's strategic maritime and geopolitical role in South Asia. Dan Camp of the US Foreign Service disagreed, stating that US engagement has been purely humanitarian, while Sri Lanka seeks to maintain good relations with the United States to secure a market for its exports.
He added that while Tamils outside of Sri Lanka hope to attain greater retribution, local populations are, by necessity, more concerned with basic needs and material well-being. Karunyan Arulanantham, native Tamil and humanitarian activist, stressed that Tamil militancy and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam emerged only after a long history of hurt and conflict. Reconciliation would require the Sri Lankan government to become accountable to the Tamil people, to allow them due share of power, and to allow them to seek official recognition of war crimes.
Jennifer Leonard of the International Crisis Group regrets that the eighteenth amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution has lifted all checks on the president, allowing Rajapaksa to stall devolution of power to the northern and eastern Tamil regions. While the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission hearings attempt to bring justice for ethnic Tamils, they are not an adequate forum to provide real accountability. Since the sympathies of most who have testified lie with the government, human rights infractions have not been adequately portrayed.
American Enterprise Institute media release