Prabhakaran will get fair trial in India: US envoy


Colombo : Tamil Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran would get a fair trial in India if he were captured and sent to the country to be tried for alleged involvement in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, says US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Robert Blake.

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“I am sure that he would get a fair trial in India. We would have no concerns about that,” Blake said in an interview posted in the website of the American embassy here.

The interviewer had asked if the US would support President Mahinda Rajapaksa if he carried out his plan to send Prabhakaran to India to face trial in the Rajiv Gandhi case.

“Well, he (Prabhakaran) is widely believed to have been responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. So, certainly, I think that would be fine,” Blake said.

“The question is: are you going to be able to capture him or not? And I am not sure if that is possible or not,” the ambassador added.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated at an election rally in Sriperambudur near Chennai in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991, by a female suicide bomber sent by Prabhakaran’s militant outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Though Prabhakaran was a prime accused in the case, he could not be tried and sentenced, because he could not be arrested and produced before the court.

On India’s role in Sri Lanka, Blake said it been “crucial” and “salutary”.

“They (India) were the ones who really engineered the 13th amendment and some of the things that are still being talked about today. In many ways, they have played a crucial role here. And I think, a very salutary role as well.”

It was following the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 that the Sri Lankan parliament had brought in the 13th amendment to the constitution to give the Tamil minority and the provinces a modicum of autonomy. But successive Sri Lankan governments had failed to implement the provisions of the amendment fully.

“And whatever role they (India) continue to play, will be positive, from my perspective. And we (the US) will continue to work very closely with our friends in India,” the ambassador said.

He categorically ruled out American support for any “sharp, strategic war” against the LTTE.

“I don’t think that such an outcome is possible. We don’t believe that a military solution really is possible. Prabhakaran has survived now since the late seventies. He has shown himself to be very adept and resilient, and I think continues to be so.”

“We certainly don’t have any great affection for Prabhakaran. But we think that the ultimate answer lies, as I said, in a political solution, and that is why we are encouraging the government to pursue that path,” the ambassador said.

He expressed disapproval of calls to ban the LTTE in Sri Lanka, though it is banned in the US.

“I am not sure that the government gains much by banning the LTTE at this stage. I think they (the government) have already made their point. I think that banning the LTTE might be interpreted in the international community as taking a further step away from any kind of political solution,” he cautioned.

Blake recalled that Colombo had been against any foreign involvement in the conflict, and was even opposing the setting up of a country office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in the island.

He said that the US supported the establishment of a country office of the UNHCHR in Sri Lanka because of the existence of a “climate of impunity” in the country.

Sri Lanka’s own institutions had been “incapable” of dealing with human rights issues “effectively,” he added.

But the question of setting up an UNHCHR office here had to be settled by the Sri Lankan government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbor, the US ambassador pointed out.

“We are not playing any active role in that regard,” he said.

Asked bluntly if he thought Sri Lanka was a “failed state”, Blake said: “I don’t see Sri Lanka as a failed state; quite the contrary. I think that Sri Lanka has got so much going for it.

“And one of the great frustrations of so many of us, who have such affection for your country, is that the elements of a solution are fairly widely known to almost everybody. It is just a matter of getting the political consensus and the political will to implement those elements.”