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US envoy to Lanka is a disappointed man

Lunstead says he had come to Lanka with great hope that peace would be restored, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2006 16:51 IST

The outgoing US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jeffrey Lunstead, has said that he is leaving the island a "disappointed" man, with Sri Lanka continuing to be in turmoil, and its people unable to agree on what is "Sri Lankan" even after 58 years of independence.

In his July 4 Independence Day address, the envoy said that he came to Sri Lanka three years ago with "tremendous" hope that peace would be restored.

"But that hope has been largely belied."

"Peace talks have not resumed, the ceasefire is under constant pressure. Violence has increased.

Barricades, which had been dismantled, are being once again thrown up. And not just physical barricades, but also the barricades which divide one citizen from another, as fear and mistrust grow," he said.

Sri Lanka, the Ambassador said, was going through "trying times, struggling to define itself and its system of government, struggling to decide how its citizens will relate to each other - indeed struggling to define what it means to be Sri Lankan."

Lunstead admitted that America, after 58 years of independence, was no better.

The women did not have the right to vote, there was slavery and national unity was under threat till the 1860s. It took a long time to make it a truly democratic country.

But he pointed out that it was possible to achieve quick progress now with the revolution in communication. Sri Lanka need not go through the same long-winded process as America did, he said.

Giving America's prescription for an ailing Sri Lanka, the Ambassador said:

1. There is no military solution to the ethnic problem.

2. The LTTE must renounce terrorism and violence and enter the political path.

3. The government of Sri Lanka must work to address the legitimate Tamil grievances and ensure that the conduct of its security forces is impeccable even in the face of severe provocation.

4. A solution will require radical changes in the way the entire nation is governed -- changes which will empower all the people of Sri Lanka: Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others, and to give them a greater say in how they are governed in the areas in which they live.