Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Open Letter to President Barrack Obama

Dear President Obama,

It is with grave disappointment in your administration’s current position on the Government of Sri Lanka that I write this open letter to you. On one hand you applaud Sri Lanka for being the only country on earth that has successfully defeated terrorism – and on the other hand your State Department allows itself to be influenced by backers of the very same defeated terrorists, the LTTE.

It was announced that your administration will join Great Britain in backing the UNHRC’s resolution to investigate the deaths of “tens of thousands” of innocent Tamil civilians during the civil war that ended in May of 2009. The resolution says that if Sri Lanka won’t investigate itself, then it will force an outside investigation. Your representative in Geneva will vote on this resolution some time this week, and I wish to inform you that doing so sends decidedly mixed messages to the world – particularly to the nearly 1 million Sri Lankan Americans that have – up until now – primarily supported you and your Democratic Party, and are and have been decidedly against the LTTE terrorists. 

The Government of Sri Lanka conducted an internal inquiry called the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission. I was asked to testify before this Commission and to submit a report. The Commission completed its task in mid December, and now it is the end of February. I have seen no comments by anyone in the US State Department about this report, and I wonder if it was even read. It seems that the UNHRC would have thoroughly digested this report before so quickly condemning Sri Lanka for not implementing it – as if it could implement it in its entirety in so short a time. I know for certain that it is implementing it in every aspect now, but it will take time to complete, and I urge some patience. 

First of all, the idea that there were “tens of thousands” of deaths of innocent Tamil civilians is preposterous. When the North and East of Sri Lanka were liberated, the LTTE had over 300,000 captive Tamil civilians that they used as human shields. In one day our Armed Forces liberated 97,000 Tamil civilians. More than 200,000 were liberated in subsequent days. The amount of casualties was miniscule compared to the sacrifice the terrorists were willing to make, which was the annihilation of 300,000 of their own people. The Government of Sri Lanka should be applauded for its humanitarian treatment of the refugees, and not be accused of murdering “tens of thousands” of them. I know that you depend on your diplomats on the ground for your information, but in this case, Mr. President, your diplomats were not only misinformed, but misdirected as well. In my official capacity as an advisor to the President of Sri Lanka I was made privy to a great deal of information about the crucial last days of the civil war, and I can assure you that your diplomats had an agenda of their own, and the information they gave you was tainted by their bias.
The remnants of the disappointed and defeated Tamil diaspora have financed a massive on-going public relations campaign against the Government of Sri Lanka and its high officials. This has been an on-going program for over four years. Former United States Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein, a lobbyist and journalist, has been paid “tens of thousands” of dollars – if not “hundreds of thousands” of dollars – by Tamil groups to poison your mind and the minds of all residents of North America. I say “North America” because Mr. Fein has been active in Canada as well – particularly in the area of raising funds from Tamils to pay his monthly retainers.

The United States and Sri Lanka have had cordial relations for over 150 years – trade relations and otherwise. One of Sri Lanka’s greatest heroes, Col. Henry S. Olcott, was an American Army officer that served on the inquest into Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Col. Olcott served Sri Lanka in many ways, many of which led to Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948. A statue of Col. Olcott stands in all of the main cities of our country. We have always admired the Americans and the American people, and many of our finest and brightest young people have been sent to be educated in America over the years. I might add that more were sent off to America during the LTTE war than at other times – mostly because it was safer in America than in the home country. Please don’t forget that for thirty years Sri Lankans lived in terror of the suicide bomb that might go off any place, at any time. Also, kindly don’t forget that the LTTE organization invented the suicide bomb; terrorist extremists in the Middle East learned the technique from them.

Sri Lanka’s admiration for America, however, is beginning to wane, Mr. President, due to the constant onslaught of your diplomats and their false accusations about Sri Lanka’s inhumane conduct during the same terrorist war. What you are effectively doing, Mr. President, is forcing the Sri Lankan Government and the Sri Lankan people to leave your camp – and you are pushing them into the arms of your rivals. Is this what you want? Please keep in mind that Sri Lanka is and always will be a strategically placed island in the Indian Ocean – directly on the main sea routes between Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. In actuality, America – and all other countries in these regions – cannot avoid Sri Lanka. How you deal with Sri Lanka is up to you.

I arrived in America on July 4, 1976 – right in the middle of the Bicentennial celebration. I was one of the first Buddhist monks to immigrate to this country, and I became a US citizen in 1989. I have always been a Democrat, as are, I believe, most of the 15 million American Buddhists that are scattered across our great nation. Since Sri Lanka is 80% Buddhist, the American Buddhists, being sensitive to issues that involve harassing other Buddhists, may not find favor with you or the Democratic Party this coming November. 

One of the things the Buddha taught us, Mr. President, is to investigate, investigate, investigate – and then investigate again. This pertains to our teachings, teachers, general information, and especially our own minds, which are oftentimes deceiving. I believe that if the US had investigated its information – and its sources – regarding Sri Lanka and the “tens of thousands” of murders it reportedly committed – then I think you would have found it flawed. As a result, the pending UN resolution would never have arisen, and US/Sri Lanka relations would be in harmony.

I urge you to not sign this UN resolution, Mr. President. It would be a mistake that you and many would regret. To isolate a small country like Sri Lanka for effectively taking care of its own internal security problems would put America in a questionable – if not unfavorable – light by a great many other small countries around the globe. Please reconsider.

Ven. Walpola Piyananda