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TNA defends talks with US

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) yesterday strongly defended its decision to hold political discussions with US State Department officials in Washington and said the TNA delegation had not discussed anything that had not already been stated by the party publicly in Sri Lanka.

In an interview with Daily Mirror TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said, “We have not gone there and said anything that we haven’t already said in Sri Lanka. So I have no idea why it may be even thought of as being disloyal. The Sri Lankan government discusses issues concerning the country with foreign governments and at international forums. Is that also considered disloyal?” The four-member TNA delegation comprised Leader R. Sampanthan, Suresh Premachandran, Maavai Senathirajah, and M.A. Sumanthiran. The delegation met Wendy Sherman, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. She is the Department’s third highest ranking official; Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs and Stephen J. Rapp the Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues.

Mr. Sumanthiran said the US officials were keen to know about the current political situation in the country, and the TNA delegation had discussed the humanitarian concerns in the North and East as well as the political reconciliation process.

“If the Sri Lankan government is running to all these international forums and saying that we are implementing some reconciliation programmes that reconciliation has to be with somebody, and that somebody is our constituency. So they wanted to know from us, from the other side as it were, whether there is any reconciliation programme that is actually taking place or not,” Mr. Sumanthiran said. When asked whether a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been sought, Mr. Sumanthiran said such an appointment had never been on the agenda.

“We went there at the invitation of the US State Department, and the programme was arranged by them,” he said.

In London, the group had met Alistair Burt, the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for South Asia, other FCO officials, and parliamentarians from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The delegation also visited Toronto and Ottawa.

Mr. Sumanthiran said the TNA had sought a meeting with the UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon as they were in the US, and disclosed that a meeting had been scheduled for November 1 at 3.30 p.m. but the meeting had to be cancelled subsequently as Mr. Ban had to leave the country on an urgent trip overseas. At the UN in New York, they had met Lynn Pascoe, the UN Under-secretary-general for Political Affairs and other UN officials.

In the interview with Daily Mirror, Mr. Sumanthiran commended the government’s rehabilitation programme as “excellent” despite the illegality of the detention. He further said the TNA was willing to meet the government, “10, 15, or even 20 times if necessary” so as to reach an agreement with the government on a political solution before mid-december.

Source: Daily Mirror – Sri Lanka


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