Tokyo Donors Call For End of Violence in Sri Lanka

By Melody Merin
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference—the United States, the European Union, Japan and Norway—call on the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) “to cease hostilities immediately and return to the negotiation table,” according to a statement issued August 11 by the Department of State.

The Tokyo Donor Conference was held on June 9 and 10, 2003 in Tokyo, with the participation of representatives from 51 countries and 22 international organizations, in order to provide support for the Sri Lankan peace process. (See related article.)

According to news reports, the recent fighting that broke out more than two weeks ago has left more than 500 people dead. Sri Lankan officials say some 150 rebels were killed August 12 as they attacked military front lines. Also, 27 military personnel were killed and 80 wounded.

The escalating violence between the two parties has forced a large number of people to flee their homes in the Trincomalee district. This is in addition to the numerous numbers of Sri Lankans who have already been displaced.

“Violence is not the way to resolve the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The suffering inflicted on innocent civilians is intolerable,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher spelled out the U.S. policy on the Sri Lanka conflict in a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 1. He said the United States supports the democratically elected Sri Lankan government and condemns the LTTE for its “scores of unprovoked attacks on civilians and military personnel, [and] assassinations and suicide operations. At the same time, Boucher stated that the Tamil minority has "a very legitimate desire ... to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their own homeland, in the areas they've traditionally inhabited." (See related article.)

Violence between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE has been going on despite a cease-fire negotiated in 2002. One example was the assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 12, 2005, followed by an assassination campaign conducted by the Karuna faction, a breakaway faction of the LTTE, which resulted in nearly 200 deaths.

The Co-Chairs called for independent, international investigations of allegations of serious human rights abuses and maintained their commitment to “supporting the peace process.”

Meanwhile another meeting of the Co-Chairs is being planned to fully discuss the ongoing situation and the necessary actions that will be needed.

For more information, see 2005 South Asia Terrorism Overview (PDF – 9 pages).