Sri Lanka’s military says it killed eighteen Tamil Tiger insurgents, including a senior rebel commander, in a sea battle north of Trincomalee. About sixty insurgents have reportedly been killed in fighting in the north of the island.
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said that “the government of Sri Lanka has achieved some important victories in the last several months.” These include the expulsion of the Tamil Tigers from eastern Sri Lanka and the sinking of several Tamil Tiger vessels carrying arms and supplies. “But these tactical successes should not tempt the government [of Sri Lanka] to reconsider whether Sri Lanka’s conflict can be won by military means,” said Mr. Blake. “It cannot,” he said.
Mr. Blake said, “the way forward lies in continuing to lay the basis for a negotiated settlement that will meet the aspirations of all of Sri Lanka’s communities: Tamils, Muslims, and Sinhalese.”
Since the insurgency in Sri Lanka began in 1983, more than sixty thousand people have died and about one-million others have been displaced. In a report to the European Parliament, Human Rights Watch called attention to “consistently documented abuses by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in particular its abominable use of child soldiers. . . .as well as targeted killings and other serious violations of Sri Lankan and international law.” The report also said “the Sri Lankan government has not taken adequate care to minimize harm to the civilian population during the fighting, nor has it acted to uphold the basic human rights of all Sri Lankans.”
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said that now that the conflict has subsided in the east, the Sri Lankan government has an opportunity to stabilize and develop the east in a manner that would demonstrate to all Sri Lankans, but particularly Tamils and Muslims, that the government is serious about protecting their rights and providing opportunities. “A solution to Sri Lanka’s conflict is in reach,” said Mr. Blake, “but it requires Sri Lanka’s government and parties to work together and put the national interest first.”