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Letter to the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Gary Ackerman

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka, introduced a resolution in the House this week expressing the serious concern of Congress regarding the worsening situation in Sri Lanka. The New Jersey congressman was joined by his co-chair on the Caucus, U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL), in introducing this bill.

The bill, H. Res. 516, strongly urges the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to revoke violence as a means to achieve political goals; strongly supports all pertinent parties resuming peace talks immediately; calls upon all parties to negotiate a political settlement that will be fair to all of the ethnic communities living in the country, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims; and recommends the President further U.S. involvement to help secure a lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

"Thousands of innocent civilians have already been killed and many more continue to suffer as a result of the fighting between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka," Pallone said. "I hope that this Resolution will bring Congress' attention to the plight of the Sri Lankan people and encourage an expedited peace process among parties and ethnic communities in the country. Our nation has a responsibility to work to promote peace in this region."

Pallone and Weller also sent a letter today to U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, to request that he hold a hearing on the rapidly deteriorating human rights, humanitarian, and political crisis there. The two lawmakers suggested that their legislation serve as a basis for examining the conflict during a hearing. (THE TEXT OF THE LETTER FOLLOWS.)

"The United States has a strategic interest in promoting peace in Sri Lanka and throughout South East Asia," the two lawmakers wrote in their letter. "It is time the United States took some oversight on the crises occurring in Sri Lanka and helped to secure a lasting peace."

The military of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have resumed a two-decade civil war in which nearly 70,000 people have been killed since 1983. Both sides have chosen a military approach, to the detriment of civilian distress. Over the past year, over 1,000 people are believed to have "disappeared" and another 1,000 people were unlawfully killed.
_________________________________

The Honorable Gary Ackerman, Chairman

Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

2243 Rayburn House Office Building

House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Ackerman:

We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the worsening situation in Sri Lanka and to respectfully request that you consider holding a hearing on the rapidly deteriorating human rights, humanitarian, and political crisis there.

As you know, the military of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have resumed a two-decade civil war in which nearly 70,000 people have been killed since 1983. Both sides have chosen a military approach, to the detriment of civilian distress. It is clear that neither side is committed to peace.

Over the past year, over 1,000 people are believed to have "disappeared" and another 1,000 people were unlawfully killed. Last week's murder of two volunteer aid workers by unidentified gunmen came ten months after the execution-style murder of 17 local staff members of the aid agency Action Contre la Faim. This was the worst attack against humanitarian workers in memory. Civilians have been killed by indiscriminate artillery bombardments, LTTE suicide bombings and reprisal killings. In addition, the Karuna faction continues to recruit children as combatants.

Meanwhile, the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Sri Lankan government has failed to reduce impunity human rights abuses. In fact, its credibility and effectiveness has been challenged by the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons.

We have introduced a resolution that expresses these same concerns. It is our hope that this can be a basis for examining the conflict during a hearing. The United States has a strategic interest in promoting peace in Sri Lanka and throughout South East Asia. It is time the United States took some oversight on the crises occurring in Sri Lanka and helped secure a lasting peace.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

JERRY WELLER
Member of Congress

cc: The Honorable Tom Lantos, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee


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