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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > United States & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing - Statement by Congressman F.H. Faleomavaega
United States & the struggle for Tamil Eelam
Whatever may be said, who ever may say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom - Thirukural
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Briefing - CHRC Archive: Briefings
2 March 1999
Thank you for holding this important briefing on human rights developments in Sri Lanka.
I welcome the distinguished representatives from the State Department, United Nations Agencies and NGOs who have appeared today to testify before our Caucus.
Mr. Chairman, the people of Sri Lanka have had a long friendship with the United States dating back almost a century--and-a-half. Since gaining independence from Britain, Sri Lanka has developed into a strong and vibrant democracy, one of the few practicing democratic countries in Asia. With regular elections, freedom of expression, and other fundamental rights protected by their constitution, Sri Lankans have truly embraced democratic government.
It is greatly disturbing, however, that this young democracy has been plagued by a civil war that has lasted over 15 years -- where tens of thousands have been killed and over a million refugees created.
The terrorist campaign waged by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) has been incredibly brutal and destructive, and marked by human rights atrocities. It is not surprising that our Secretary of State in 1997 designated the Tamil Tigers as a foreign terrorist organization.
In combatting the Tigers, the Sri Lankan Government defence forces have also been accused of committing human rights abuses. To address these concerns, the Sri Lankan Government has appointed 3 Regional Commissions to investigate the "disappearances" of persons stemming back to the 1980s, as well as an independent Human Rights Commission to look into more recent incidents, such as the Chemmani grave in Jaffna.
Mr. Chairman, while no allegation of human rights violation in Sri Lanka should be overlooked, we should never forget the fact that the democratically-elected Government of Sri Lanka is fighting against terrorism to protect the people of the country and to preserve the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the nation. Thank you and I look forward to the testimony of our speakers.