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Monday, March 12, 2012 - 6.30 GMT
GoSL reminds US of what its ‘own man’ in Colombo revealed


Sri Lanka striving to defeat a US-led resolution at the current session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) strongly believes a statement attributed to former US Defence Attache, Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith at a seminar in Colombo can’t be ignored by those pursuing the government on the human rights front.

The unprecedented statement made towards the end of Lt. Col. Smith’s tenure in Colombo in response to a query raised by retired Indian Maj. Gen. Ashok Metha disputed the very basis of the assertion that the LTTE wanted to surrender to advancing troops, though the government ignored the move.

The US soldier intervened, though Maj. Gen. Metha, who had served as the IPKF commander in the Ampara-Batticaloa sector in 1987, directed the question to Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, now at the centre of a controversy over indiscriminate military action on the Vanni front.

Authoritative Defence and External Affairs officials told The Island that the US, too, couldn’t close the eyes to its own man’s statement if it was genuinely interested in knowing the truth. Sources said that all major Colombo based diplomatic missions probably had agreed with the US official’s assumption, though the US State Department distanced itself from the statement attributed to Lt. Col. Smith. The US being a Co-Chair for Sri Lanka’s peace process, knew what was going on in the wake of close quarter combat operations on the Vanni east front.

This is what Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith had to say.

"Hello, may I say something to a couple of questions raised. I’ve been the defence attaché here at the US Embassy since June 2008. Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict — from what I was privileged to hear and to see, the offers to surrender that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE — Nadesan, KP — people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE.

"So their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.

"And I think the same is true for the version of events. It’s not so uncommon in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various commanders at various levels that the stories don’t seem to all quite match up.

"But I can say that the version presented here so far in this is what I heard as I was here during that time. And I think I better leave it at that before I get into trouble. "

"In Washington, no sooner he made these remarks (which were published exclusively in The Island) the US State Department disassociated itself with Lt. Col. Smith’s remarks.

"The State Department’s Deputy Spokesman Mark C. Toner said that the defense attaché had attended the seminar as an observer and a note taker. "His comments reflected his personal opinions. There’s no change in the policy of the United States, and his remarks do not reflect any change in our policy."

Courtesy: The Island






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Last modified: March 12, 2012.

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