The 26-year war against the Tamil Tigers -- the so-called Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelamis (LTTE) -- is over and Sri Lanka is at last and thankfully at peace.
In spite of the slaughter, using their own people as human shields, creating the largest, bloodiest hostage drama of modern times, the Tigers have at long last been defeated. Their leader killed. The government in Colombo has finally reasserted control of the nation.
I cheer this because the LTTE had refused to lay down their guns, as I witnessed the Acehenese do in Indonesia after the Tsunami. The Tamil Tigers had refused to become partners with the national government. They would not co-exist peacefully.
Instead, despicably, the Tigers focused on training girls to be suicide bombers on the capital's buses. I have friends whose fathers are policemen in the capital. They have agonized for years over their dads dying at the hand of a Tiger suicide bomber. I have spent much time in Colombo, in danger every time I traveled down the street.
On my many trips to Sri Lanka, visiting our Orphans International Worldwide project in the Southern Province, I came to firmly believe the Tamil Tigers are a terrorist organization no different from Al Qaeda or the Taliban. For decades, they have killed thousands of innocent Sri Lankans.
Our project there in the Southern Province grew in the path of the Tsunami's destruction. I am euphoric that the beautiful nation of Sri Lanka has finally laid rest to all of the destructive powers within it: the Tsunami and the Tamil Tigers.
I have heard for many years how the Tigers extort funding from Tamil communities to pay for their army here -- in Canada, and around the world. If local Tamils did not contribute, their families back home would suffer. This was beyond cruel.
I was puzzled why so many criticized Sri Lanka for not allowing press onto the frontlines in the last weeks of the war. Don't all governments block media from their battle zones?
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington has provided the Huffington Post with a listing of journalists who they tell me were inside the conflict zone as recently as this month. These include representatives from Voice of America, BBC, and Agence France Presse, Christian Science Monitor, and Daily Telegraph of London.
According to press reports, the Red Cross and U.N. have also had full access to the displaced civilian Tamils once they escaped the Tiger's clutches.
The Embassy also provided a listing of aid agencies now on the ground that includes UNICEF, CARE, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children, and Oxfam. According to the Embassy, these agencies have access to the refugee camps under government supervision.
The death of so many Tamil hostages was tragic beyond words. How could the Tigers use women and children to cower behind? If any of their leaders have escaped, I can only hope they will be brought to justice.
How will Sri Lanka begin to recover from this 26-year civil war? Reconciliation is necessary to heal such wounds. The Tamils are already are included in the Sri Lankan government. There are presently 13 Tamil ministers who serve in the national government. Thankfully, this is already part of Sri Lanka's political solution, an essential start.
As founder of an NGO, Orphans International Worldwide, that operates in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, I have become very familiar with the country over many trips there. With the death of their cult-like leader, I hope fervently that the Tigers will now cease their violence and our kids can be raised in peace and security.
I have met with Sri Lanka's president, the Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa. I found him to be a gracious man, passionately committed to his own people. He thanked me warmly for my small role in helping Sri Lankan children.
The Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States, the Hon. Jaliya Wickramasuriya, told the Huffington Post, "The key to stability will be getting people back to their homes, and getting them involved in the democratic process. We have an ambitious plan to rebuild the north. We want local leaders to help in this process. People must feel that they control their future."
"In the past, the LTTE killed Tamils who dared to take part in community politics," he told me. "Those days are over. We want the people of the north to play a huge part in the democratic process in Sri Lanka."
I have had the pleasure of meeting the soft-spoken Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Prasad Kariyawasam. I called him today to get his take on events, and he told me he too was enormously pleased with the conclusion of his nation's civil war.
The international community that was so critical of Sri Lanka's attempt to secure its own borders must now put their money where their mouths were. Sri Lanka is ill-prepared to deal with the tens of thousands of Tamil refugees. The U.N. and E.U. must help immediately.
Edited by Ethel Grodzins Romm.
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