Daya Gamage interviewing

SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE TAMILS- continuing interview with American Ambassador by Daya Gamage

January 11, 2020

Daya Gamage worked at the American Embassy in Colombo, as the Sole Foreign Service National and as a Political Specialist with Dr Robert Boggs, who in recent times served as Professor of South Asian Studies at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at US National Defense University, from 1989 to 1993. Dr Boggs was the Foreign Service Political Counselor while Daya Gamage was the Foreign Service National Political Specialist. Both of them were the Colombo diplomatic mission’s key persons who closely monitored the Southern (JVP-88-89) insurrection and the North’s LTTE separatist-terrorist movement for the U.S. State Department. Daya Gamage retired in 1994 and have been living in Las Vegas since retirement. Sharing his knowledge, understanding and his intimate professional association with the US Department of State he has come out in the form of a book ‘Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America. He assures that facts found in his book cannot be found anywhere else! Daya Gamage authorised the writer to ” to quote anything from his book”, so that that the readers will get a clear picture of  America’s foreign policy,  Sri Lanka’s national issues and the LTTE struggle in depth. His book is available at Amazon

Continuation  from the last episode

Ambassador Teresita Schaffer:

‘Let me answer your other question about the LTTE’s stand that is the “Sole Representative of all Tamil people”.

” I don’t think the U.S Government wishes to be in a position as to say who the sole representative of the Tamil people is. The USG all the time talks of every kind of all Tamil politicians.  The USG officials receive Mr Anandasangarie, who is not in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), when in   Washington. Accepting the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils is not the United States Government to make. The problem with the G.S.L (Govt. of Sri Lanka) is the same. If the LTTE is essential to a settlement where you can’t have a settlement without them, then what is necessary is to deal with them and bring them into a settlement. But if we were to look in the historical perspective, these were organisations that engaged in terrorism and have eventually stopped and become part of the political process. One is the African National Congress (ANC) of Mandela, and the other is Likud in Israel, and the PLO  is now in the process of changing.

Guerilla to Democrat, a Vital Part of the Solution.

Asian Tribune (DG): As much as the U.S wants to push the GSL (Govt. of Sri Lanka) towards a negotiated settlement with the LTTE while putting pressure on the LTTE to return to the negotiating table, you get the feeling that the USG (a) understands that there is an ethnic problem in Sri Lanka (b) the only way to bring a solution to the problem is to bring only the LTTE to the negotiating table, and with these two questions I  (Daya Gamage) go back to my original question: ‘When you bring only the LTTE to the table, leaving behind other Tamil groups who have joined the democratic mainstream, doesn’t that imply even the U.S is supporting the LTTE’s long-held view that it is the sole representative of the Tamil people’?

Ambassador Teresita Schaffer: I think the USG understands that the only way to get a negotiated settlement is to get the LTTE to the table. The U.S is not naïve, they understand how the Tamil Alliance (TNA) came into being; they understand. how this was done, I would say, through a mixture of feelings and despair on the part of the constitutional Tamil parties. But if you ask the officials of the USG what a settlement should look like, they will say the best solution is a democratic solution, a democratic solution to all the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

Everyone understands that the LTTE, for 30 years, was a guerilla organisation that is not democratically run and that they have taken almost an autocratic view about other Tamils who are not part of the LTTE and in many cases a murderous one. This would be a huge transition for the LTTE to transform itself into a democratic movement. I do not think you can find from the USG any easy answer how the transition from a guerilla organisation to democratic mainstream can be accomplished. But there is a lot of sympathies that this is a necessary part of building towards accomplishing a settlement.

Raw Deal for the Tamils.

Asian Tribune (DG): With my very long association with the U.S system, I get the impression that the United States always felt, and do feel even now that the Tamils in Sri Lanka got a very raw deal for a long time.

Ambassador Teresita Schaffer:  Yes, they did. They not only got, but they will get a raw deal in lots of ways like the process more inclusive to have a democratic process operating in both the predominantly  Tamil areas and predominantly Sinhalese areas.

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Khomeini

With that final question and answer given by Ambassador Schaffer to Daya Gamage on behalf of the Asian Tribune on October 8, 2005, Daya Gamage’s memory goes back to her ( Ambassador’s) audience with the supreme Buddhist leader of Sri Lanka, the most Venerable Palipane Sri Chandananda, the Head of the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Nikaya (sect) in 1993. This discourse was at Venerable Chandananda’s temple in Kandy.

Ambassador  Schaffer had whispered in Daya Gamage’s ear two words in vernacular Sinhala: “Prachanda kriya“. Moments before, when interpreting her English language to Venerable Chandananda, for a couple of seconds, Daya Gamage got stalled to come up with the correct Sinhala word for violence.


It was surprising to Daya Gamage when Mrs Schaffer came with the correct translation, as she had learned many languages, including Sinhala before she arrived in Colombo in 1992. She continued to polish her Sinhala language by taking a refresher course every week from the ‘embassy contract teacher’ Trilicia Gunawardene.

The question posed to the venerable high priest, who was dubbed by the international media during her time as ” Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Khomeini” was a reasonable one. The American Ambassador queried, being a follower of the Buddhist Philosophy that professed peace and tranquillity, why did the venerable advocate violence (Prachanda kriya) against the minority of Tamils? Venerable Palipane Chandananda Maha Thera, in a very calm and collected voice, totally rejecting the notion, said he and the organisation to which the venerable belonged advocated peace and justice for all ethnic communities living in Sri Lanka. The venerable monk pointed out to the  Ambassador that a small percentage of those three ethnic communities were bestowed with privileges, and a vast majority of the three ethnic communities got a raw deal.


Ambassador Schaffer’s Prachanda Kriya question embodied the mindset of Western Diplomats during that time and the developed perspective that those who represented the ” Sinhalese voice” were chauvinistic and were all out to destroy the minority Tamils. Branding  Venerable Chandananda by the international media as ” Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Khomeini” had already affected the psyche of Western diplomats in Colombo and their counterparts in their foreign offices.

End Tamil Separatism

There is a background to Mrs Schaffer’s Prachanda Kriya question. The signing of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, envisaged to end the Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka and proposed far-reaching devolution of administrative and development powers to the Tamil-minority in Northern and Eastern provinces, with absolutely no debate or discussion, sparked off massive opposition in Sinhala-dominated parts of the country.  Under the Jayawardena Administration amalgamated the Northern and Eastern Provinces, two provinces the Tamil Tigers and other Tamil political and civic organisations claimed as ” traditional homeland“.


The protests and demonstrations were organised by The Movement for Safeguarding the Motherland Mavbima SurakeemeViyaparaya (MSV),  founded in July 1986, which had grown rapidly as a powerful umbrella organisation of monks, non-Marxist political parties of the opposition (SLFP, MEP and JVP through its front organisations) and leading lay Buddhist Associations.

Spontaneous Uprising

That spontaneous uprising of citizens, who came onto the streets of their towns and villages, two years later became an organised, broad-based national movement. The MSV, in its  very first policy statement, pronounced the following:

” Sri Lanka is the mother country of us all – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims etc. We have lived together for over a thousand of years on that basis. It should be so in the future as well. Today we face a secret national and international conspiracy to divide the motherland. By implementing the proposal to divide power based on race, and cutting the country into two, out of nationalist sectarianism, where the whole country will be destroyed. Let us defeat the murderous Eelamism and national and international conspiracies to divide the country. Our great hope is that all races will live in friendship, peace and amity. After all, wealth is distributed on this basis in our country”.

With well-attended meetings, press statements, articles, pamphlets and links with the mainstream  Sinhala newspapers, they were able to present themselves as the voice of Buddhist opinion and were also successful in getting the endorsement of Sangha Chiefs. Venerable Palipane Chandananda Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter emerged as the strongest clerical supporter of the MSV.  His prominent role in the movement was recognised by the international media. Ambassador  Schaffer was well informed of the background and the development before was assigned to Colombo in 1992.

US Democratic Congressman, Congressman Stephen Solarz, who represented New York was in Colombo in March 1989 on a Familiarising tour as a member of the US House Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific. During his discourses in Colombo sounded like he was propagating several planks of the agenda of the separatist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. This American lawmaker mixed Sri Lanka’s much-debated minority Tamil grievances and the protracted military onslaught of the Tigers, despite senior parliamentarian Anura Bandaranaike’s (AB) repeated comments that they were two separate issues.


Solarz was highly critical of Sri Lanka’s military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the Northern region, then led by the late General Denzil Kobbekaduwa, who was actively supported by Brigadier  Wimalaratne, Colonel  Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and others under the strategic guidance of National Security Minister, the late Lalith Athulathmudali.

In the face of Stephen Solarz’s “distorted garbage” as AB later intimated to Daya Gamage, Bandaranaike defended the Jayawardene government’s military offensive to root out the terrorist LTTE carefully separating the much-needed Tamil grievances. 

Daya Gamage witnessed the above episode in March 1989 when he accompanied the New York Democratic congressman to Anura Bandaranaike’s spacious living room at his private residence at Rosemead Place in Colombo 7.

One year later, Daya Gamage contacted Anura Bandaranaike, at the request of the American Ambassador, to get an appointment to the same Stephen Solarz, yet again on a fact-finding mission to which Anura Bandaranaike flatly refused, stating, ” I do not want to meet  that obnoxious politician.” Or did AB did understand the mind-set of Americans who had something to do with foreign policy? Google Pics and Asian Tribune

Courtesy: Daya Gamage – ” Tamil Tigers’ Debt to America” journal

To be continued: ‘War with Tamils: A Deep-Rooted US Belief.

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