US Official Donald Camp Interviews with Sri Lanka TVs

U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
for South and Central Asian Affairs
Donald Camp
Interviews with MTV and Rupavahini TV
May 16, 2006

[Full Transcript]

Interview With MTV:

MTV: What do you and the Co-Chairs hope to achieve in your meeting on the 30 th of this month?

Camp: Our hope is that we, as the Co-Chairs, can help move Sri Lanka back to the peace process, de-escalate the current crisis, and urge the government and all parties involved to begin to de-escalate the violence and get back to peace talks.

MTV: Sri Lankan police and security forces have been accused of torture and helping paramilitary groups (inaudible); you’ve given a lot of support to the Sri Lankan government. How would you continue (inaudible) to support…(inaudible), and with regards to human rights violations, what kind of pressure will you be putting on the government?

Camp: Let me first make a distinction between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The government of Sri Lanka is an elected, democratic government that we support; whereas the LTTE is a group that we identified as far back as 1997 as a terrorist organization. The LTTE’s atrocities are well known. The LTTE’s provocations in recent months are particularly disturbing. That said, we also hold democratic governments to high standards. And when there are killings in areas controlled by the government, it is certainly the government’s responsibility to uphold law and order. There need to be investigations, and we have encouraged this on the government, and they have assured us that they are carrying out such investigations. There need to be investigations, and there need to be prosecutions. That is crucial to what the government is trying to do, which is to re-assure members of all minority groups in this country that everyone is equal and everyone is treated equally. There needs to be re-assurance (inaudible) and the government needs to address legitimate Tamil grievances.

MTV: During Richard Boucher’s meetings in India, the Sri Lankan situation was discussed. Would you like to see India have a larger involvement in the peace process? What sort of role would you see for India?

Camp: Well I think that’s very much India’s decision. India is certainly the largest country in the region, and has interests in Sri Lanka. They know the situation in Sri Lanka well. We have a similar interest as India — which is a democratic, prosperous, united Sri Lanka, which respects all ethnic groups. We talk to them quite a bit about the situation in Sri Lanka and the region generally. But as far as what they intend to do or what they should be doing, I think that’s a question better addressed to Delhi.

MTV: If war does erupt, how will the U.S. – Sri Lanka relationship change, how will relations evolve?

Camp: Well, that’s a situation we hope does not arise. We want to help the government of Sri Lanka in any way we can. We do not think that this country should be plunged back into conflict. That would be the worst thing that could happen, and all parties should do everything they can to avoid that.

MTV: Thank you.

Interview with Rupavahini:

Rupavahini: What’s the purpose of your visit to Sri Lanka?

Camp: I’m here because of our concern about the developing situation in Sri Lanka. The trend lines are discouraging in terms of the increasing provocations by the LTTE, the fact that killings are increasing, all of these suggest that Sri Lanka is not on the way back to a lasting Ceasefire. We would like to do everything we can, as an outside party, to encourage a return to the peace process. The Co-chairs will be meeting in [a few] weeks, so I’m here to look at what we might do to encourage that progress back to the peace process.

Rupavahini: Mr. Camp, the U.S. is a friend of Sri Lanka, and you are known to be a very good friend of Sri Lanka. What do you see as the solution to the ethnic issue?

Camp: I don’t think that it’s really our role, as an outsider, to prescribe a solution to the conflict, or the dilemma in which Sri Lanka finds itself. I do think people of all persuasions, of all ethnic groups, of all political parties, need to get together and present a united front, and decide that Sri Lanka’s future will be peace and prosperity and democracy and territorial integrity, rather than the alternative.

Rupavahini: What can the U.S. say to help Sri Lanka during this war of aggression launched by the LTTE, especially if Prabakharan escalates into full-scale conflict?

Camp: Sri Lanka has always known that it has the moral support , the diplomatic support of the United States, and that will continue to be true. Certainly, the LTTE is a terrorist group of the first order. That said, there’s no question that the government of Sri Lanka has responsibilities as well. One of those, which the government has certainly acknowledged, is to address the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people. That includes, of course, dealing with the disturbing number of killings in recent months. This is something the government has said it will investigate. We think those investigations should be carried out promptly and thoroughly –we think it’s the responsibility of the government to uphold law and order, and that is a responsibility of any democratic government.

Rupavahini: What is your government’s position on attempts by the EU to list the LTTE as a terrorist group?

Camp: We have encouraged the EU to list the LTTE. We think the LTTE is very deserving of that label. We think it will help cut off financial supplies and weapons procurement and the like.

Rupavahini: The LTTE’s Sea Tiger leader, Soosai, told the BBC once : “Organizations like Al Qaeda are already copying us. They’re using our tactics, in Yemen they used our strategy of suicide attacks to blow up an American ship.” Your comments as America leads the war on terror?

Camp: The LTTE should not be proud of its claim to be the originator of suicide bombings as a tactic. In fact, they were not; our Marine barracks were attacked in 1983, in Lebanon [by suicide bombers]. I think the LTTE should re-assess its methods and should abandon terrorism. That’s the only way it can really have a future in a united Sri Lanka.

Rupavahini: Thank you Mr. Camp.

[Source: Embassy of the United States of America – Colombo]

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