June 04, Colombo: The United States distanced itself from comments made by the U.S. Embassy's Defense Attaché in Colombo on Sri Lanka's war at the just concluded Defence Seminar held in Colombo.
The U.S. Department of State in a press briefing on Friday said the remarks made by the earlier this week by the U.S Defense Attaché to Sri Lanka, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Smith reflected his personal opinions.
During a question-and-answer session LTC Smith has reportedly said that the offers by the leaders of the terrorist group LTTE to surrender in the final hours of the conflict lack credibility and needed to be examined carefully before coming to conclusions.
Responding to media queries on Defense Attaché's comments, the U.S. said that they do not reflect the policy of the United States Government.
"The United States declined invitations to participate in this conference, and our Defense Attaché attended to observe the proceedings as part of his normal duties," the State Department spokesman Mark Toner clarified.
"My understanding is that the defense attaché was there as an observer and a note taker. His comments reflected his personal opinions. There's no change in the policy of the United States, and his remarks do not reflect any change in our policy," Toner asserted.
The State Department, reiterating its stand on the findings of the United Nations Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, said that the U.S. remains deeply concerned.
"We are committed to ensuring that there is a credible accounting of, and accountability for, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. We believe that the Sri Lankan Government must act quickly and credibly to address the violations alleged in the report and to adopt the measures necessary to achieve national reconciliation and build a united, democratic, and peaceful Sri Lanka," the State Department stressed.
The U.S. Defense Attaché's comments that in the frenzied finals days or hours of the war the Sri Lankan government had to make spot decisions and did not have the luxury to corroborate the origin of the offers to surrender cast doubts on the allegation that the Sri Lankan Army on the orders of Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa shot and killed the LTTE leaders surrendering with white flags.
At the at the three-day seminar on "Defeating terrorism -the Sri Lankan experience" the U.S. Army officer who was at the US Embassy since June of 2008 has said that reportedly the offers to surrender came from LTTE leaders who were outside the battlefield.
"Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict – from what I was privileged to hear and to see, the offers to surrender that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren't and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE," Groundviews cited the Defense Attaché.
LTC Smith expressed doubts that "their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day."
"I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real," he has told the audience at the seminar.
"And I think the same is true for the version of events. It's not so uncommon in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various Commanders at various levels that the stories don't seem to all quite match up. But I can say that the version presented here so far in this is what I heard as I was here during that time," he has said.