February 1, 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 Near East South Asia Centre for Strategic Studies at the US National Defence University, from 1989 to 1993. Dr Boggs was the Foreign Service Political Counsellor while Daya Gamage was the Foreign Service National Political Specialist. Both of them were the Colombo US 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 has 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”, in order 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.


Just forty days before total annihilation of the LTTE  in Sri Lanka, on April 8, 2019, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Richard Boucher, from his Washington Office, and US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, from his Colombo Chancery building, held a digital video conference. Several  United States-based organisations representing members of the Tamil Diaspora joined this dialogue. The issues were on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka when the military battle between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers entered a crucial stage, in which about 20,000 unarmed Tamil civilians were forcibly herded by the Tigers into a small strip of land as a human shield.

Getty Images)

The purpose of the live digital video conference was to give a message to Sri Lanka which, was very clear, but not a new one and a direct hit at the Government of Sri Lanka, at a stage Sri Lankan security forces were winning the war against a lethal, well-armed, and determined Tamil Tiger movement. The belief of Tiger invincibility encouraged the West to force the Government of Sri Lanka to enter into talks with the secessionist movement.

Robert Blacke – Anmbassador for USA in Sri Lanka

The message was an ” urgent need for the Government of Sri Lanka to engage Tamils, including diaspora communities around the world to find a political end of the conflict : (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2009/04/121487.htm)  

Media Note of  the State Department

“Assistant Secretary  Boucher and Ambassador Blake emphasised the urgent need for the Government of Sri Lanka to engage Tamils, including Diaspora communities around the world to find a  political end to the conflict. Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake concluded  by saying that they would like to continue the dialogue with the Diaspora community and urged participants to continue to share the feedback: The message (http://www.tamilnet.com/art/html?catid=13&arid=13&artid=28993) became a direct hit because it was made while surrounded by ” several US-based Organisations representing members of the Tamil Diaspora.” 

Seeing very clearly that the GSL military had an imminent victory over the Tamil Tigers, the State Department wanted it halted to engage in talks, insinuating that the United States did not wish the LTTE totally defeated or annihilated. The United States, in practice, uses various methods of communicating with a host country,  and if the host country fails to heed to the “advice,” the United States then uses the ” hard” method.

Threats or Covert murder

During the Ranasinghe Premadasa presidency ( 1989-1993), dissident media people were targeted, either with threats or covert murder. The renowned human-rights activist and international journalist Richard de Zoysa was forcibly taken away from his residence by police officers in the presence of his mother, Dr Saravanamuttu. Later his tortured body was discovered washed on the Mount Lavinia Beach, near the capital city of Colombo.  

American Embassy in Colombo at times devised a strategy to convey its displeasure to the Government. The left-leaning political weekly RAVAYA (tabloid), most often a critic of the United States, during that period was widely read because of its ” exposures ” of the regime. Its outspoken editor,  Victor Ivan’s life was threatened. A member of the editorial board of RAVAYA, whom Daya Gamage knew for decades, approached Gamage at the American embassy seeking help to protect Victor Ivan. During a series of deliberations, Daya Gamage and his colleagues attached to the political section had decided the Mission needed to act. 

Photographic Coverage

Victor Ivan – The Edtior of Ravaya

The RAVAYA anniversary was approaching soon. The American Embassy manoeuvred to send a message to the Ranasinghe Premadasa  Government by dispatching embassy’s political chief  Robert K. Boggs to the RAVYA anniversary celebration held at their Head Office in Ratmalana in suburbs of Colombo. The tabloid gave wide photographic coverage and the government got the message that the embassy was protecting the interests and rights of  Victor Ivan, thus his life was spared. Although the left-leaning widely read vernacular tabloid was critical of American diplomatic endeavour in Sri Lanka, U.S Embassy’s sole concern was the prevention or suppression of dissident. Daya Gamage, in his capacity, was instrumental in initiating that ” life support ” to Victor Ivan. Washington and its Diplomatic Mission in Colombo devised methods of sending messages, either blunt or soft messages to Sri Lankan Administrators. 

At Boucher’s office in Washington, surrounded by the Tamil Tiger diaspora in the United States, during the April 8 episode in 2019, the blunt and hard missive was to indicate that the United States was protecting the interests and rights of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. This message travelled all the way to Geneva in the form of several United States – sponsored revolutions from 2009 through to 2015.

What was the message that came from the State Department? Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake emphasised the urgent need for the  Government of Sri Lanka to engage Tamils, including diaspora communities around the world, to find a political end of the conflict.  It was not a great discovery that the United States strongly believed that the underlying causes of the ” conflict” were the marginalisation of the ethnic minority Tamils.

Secular Society

The United States, despite its condemnation and rejection of terror tactics by the Tamil Tigers, which led to the outfit being declared a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) under the US Federal laws, was conscious that those underlying causes led to the birth of the LTTE and that those causes needed to be recognised by the  Sri Lankan authorities to build a secular society awarding the ethnic Tamil minority a greater participation in the affairs of the nation. This is why the State Department media note concluded by highlighting the fact that “Assistant Secretary Boucher and Ambassador Blake emphasised the urgent need for the Government of Sri Lanka to engage Tamils, including Diaspora Communities around the world to find a political end  of  the conflict.”

Before this event, on 6th April 2006, in the presence of the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton described the Sri Lanka situation as a ” bloodbath” and showered praise on Norway for its independent and credible efforts in dealing with foreign challenges. Nevertheless, Mahinda Rajapaksa regime accused Norway of pampering the LTTE.

The State Department’s media Note:

 ” We discussed Norway’s untiring efforts to end  the bloodshed in Sri Lanka.”  In giving an audience to the Tamil Diaspora, both Boucher and Blake have undoubtedly shown that they were receptive to the diaspora point of view regarding the plight of the ethnic Tamils, a message the United States bluntly gave Sri Lanka by duo declaring that the LTTE should allow the trapped civilians to move to safe areas, but their primary emphasis was the vitality of a political solution to ethnic Tamil minority issues. In search of a solution, in their opinion, the inclusion of the Tamil diaspora was utmost vital.

US Concern

The US concern was the underlying issues that caused the LTTE terrorism. Both Boucher and Robert Blake very cleverly told Sri Lanka that those issues needed prompt attention.  Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher, in one of his official visits to Sri Lanka, at a press conference in Colombo on the 1st of June, 2006 expressed the US policy thus:

US Policy Statement

” I think we all understand that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has certain rights and concerns and certain needs and grievances that need to be addressed.  I (Boucher)  met this morning with several representatives of the Tamil community and talked to them about how things here are, and what they felt and what they faced.  Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and govern themselves in their “homeland”; in the areas where they have traditionally inhabited. So, I don’t want to confuse the issue of talking to Tamils and understand legitimate grievances and legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community with not talking to the LTTE. Whether to talk to the Tigers or not is based upon their behaviour and if they continue terrorism we won’t. If they abandon terrorism and one is able to say that  they are no longer a terrorist organisation, then we would find opportunities to consider dealing with them.” (State Dept. release http:///scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0606/S00109/richard-boucher-presser-in-colomo-sri-lanka.htm)

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

To be continued:  

Pic credit: Washinton Examiner, Google Pics& Getty Images.

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