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War On The Diaspora

2014 Apr 07

By Easwaran Rutnam

A new war has now began, a war between leading Diaspora groups and the Government. The war of words began after the Government had decided to proscribe 15 Tamil groups operating overseas over their alleged links with the LTTE.

The 15 groups join the LTTE on the list and will now have all their assets channelled to organisations operating in Sri Lanka frozen.

Added to the list apart from the 16 organisations are several individuals who, the Government claims, have links to terrorism.

The move comes even as a group of cross-party young parliamentarians had in February this year urged the Government to have dialogue with the Sri Lankan Diaspora in order to ensure there is sustainable reconciliation in the country.

The MPs, who had been working towards promoting positive and open dialogue with Diaspora communities since 2011, which includes the Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim Diaspora, had also offered to play the role of mediators if the need be.

Gampaha District SLFP MP Vasantha Senanayake had told The Sunday Leader in February that a report on the issues raised by the Diaspora and recommendations in addressing those issues were handed over to the Government by the cross-party young parliamentarians.

The cross-party parliamentarians had undertaken a series of visits to the UK, where a process of dialogue has been established with first and second generation Diaspora communities of all Sri Lankan ethnicities.

The Ministry of Defence, on April 1, confirmed that the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the British Tamil Forum (BTF) and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) were among 15 groups operating overseas banned by the Government.

The Gazette notification was printed on Friday and under the ban the Ministry of Defence said that legal action will be taken against anyone having links with those groups.

Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said that the ban was enforced under a UN Security Council resolution 1373 which was implemented following the September 2001 terrorist attack in the United States.

He said the newly banned 15 groups have been operating overseas to create a separate Eelam state in the North of the country.

Organisations banned are the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, Tamil Coordinating Committee, British Tamil Forum, World Tamil Movement, Canadian Tamil Congress, Australian Tamil Congress, Global Tamil Forum, National Council of Canadian Tamils, Tamil National Council, Tamil Youth Organisation, World Tamil Coordinating Committee, Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Tamil Eelam People’s Assembly, World Tamil Relief Fund and the Headquarters Group.

The ban also lists influential Tamil Diaspora activists, Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan, Reverend Father S.J Emmanuel, Visuvanathan Ruthirakumaran and Sekarampillai Vinayakamoorthy.

The External Affairs Ministry said the order, designating persons and entities in terms of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 which sets out strategies to combat terrorism and to control terrorist financing was signed by Minister of External Affairs Professor G. L. Peiris following a recommendation by the Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, as the Competent Authority regarding the identification of persons, groups and entities, believed on reasonable grounds to be committing, attempting to commit, facilitating or participating, in the commission of acts of terrorism.

The substantial effect of an order under this Regulation is that all funds, assets and economic resources belonging to or owned by the designated persons or entities remain frozen until they are removed from the designated list. Moving, transferring or dealing with frozen assets without the permission of the Competent Authority is prohibited. In terms of the Regulation, any person who fails to comply with an order to freeze assets is liable to heavy penalties.

The move comes after most of these groups had been successful in their heavily funded campaigns to convince Foreign Governments to back a US sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The resolution was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and was welcome by the Tamil Diaspora organisations which pushed for an international probe on Sri Lanka.

The UN Human Rights Council was meanwhile informed during the Geneva session by the Government that the LTTE were regrouping in the North following the end of the 30 year war with the defeat of the rebels in May 2009.

The listing of the Tamil Diaspora organizations seems connected with that statement with the Government saying it will do what it must in the best interest of national security.

The Diaspora organizations proscribed by the Government however are not willing to take things lightly and some are looking at taking legal action.

The Global Tamil Tamil Forum says the Sri Lankan Government’s decision to proscribe 16 Tamil Diaspora organisations and four prominent Tamil Diaspora activists, including the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and its President Rev. Dr S.J. Emmanuel, as ‘foreign terrorist entities’ and fronts for the defeated LTTE is shameful.

GTF Policy Advisor and former Member of Parliament for Enfield Nort, Joan Ryan said that the move is the latest attempt by a Government hell-bent on intimidating and silencing those who demand truth, justice and accountability both for the alleged war crimes committed during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict and for the on-going perpetration of human rights abuses.

“It can be no coincidence that this decision has been made a matter of days after the latest resolution on Sri Lanka was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), on Thursday 27th March. This resolution raised a number of human rights concerns and will initiate an international investigation into allegations of violations of international law by both sides in the final years of the war. The Government asserts that this action has been taken to stop attempts to revive the LTTE in the former conflict areas of the Tamil majority North and East of the island.

However, no one wants to return to armed conflict and the Government cannot provide a single shred of credible evidence to support this accusation. As the Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province states, this claim is a “witch-hunt” used for political purposes and as a cover to continue the militarisation and repression of the area,” she said.

GTF says by labelling major Tamil Diaspora groups as ‘terrorists’, the proscription will forbid Sri Lankan citizens, NGOs and political parties from having any contact with these organisations. Families and friends of representatives who work for these groups will be in even more danger and members of the Tamil Diaspora heading to the island will be under closer scrutiny by the state security forces.

“The Government is not interested in engaging constructively with the Diaspora and is not prepared to address the root cause of the armed conflict – the systematic marginalisation of the Tamil people.

This is a blatant measure to attack freedom of expression. It will further undermine the human rights situation on the island and will do yet more damage to the accountability and reconciliation processes. This cannot be tolerated by the international community, especially since the UNHRC raised these matters as serious issues of concern in its resolution last week. It underlines why the culture of impunity in Sri Lanka must be challenged and why there needs to be an independent, international investigation,” Joan Ryan said.

The international community is also not too happy with the move by the Government and feel that engagement with the Diaspora is critical at this time.

The Government is to brief the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka on the listing after the Gazette was printed last week following which the respective countries, from where some of the groups operate, will let their stand known to the Government.

 

Suren Surendiran – Global Tamil Forum

This action now proves that the government is bankrupt of political will to even attempt to resolve the root causes of the Tamil National Question. As the UN Human Rights Commissioner acknowledged after her visit to Colombo in August 2013 and in her recent report, the government’s authoritarian tendency is now giving rise for them to think that they can suppress freedom of speech even overseas.

By creating fear and by targeting local media organisations and personnel they have successfully suppressed freedom of speech internally in the island. Now by proscribing organisations in Sri Lanka, the government is trying to intimidate members of international organisations like the Global Tamil Forum to give into its tactics. It’s a proven fact through the percentage votes the ruling party gained in the recently held elections that its popularity internally too is weakening. UNHRC has given the authority to the Office of the UN HR Commissioner to initiate an international investigation into alleged breaches of international law in Sri Lanka. Fear has set in due to these combined reasons, is the only conclusion that can be drawn for this idea of proscription of organisations that function overseas. This is a typical reaction.

We as an organisation will deploy all legal and political instruments that are at our disposal to send a clear message to the regime that none of these ‘terror’ tactics will work with us as we live in a free society where we cherish freedom of speech and democracy and democracy not as defined as in Sri Lanka but practicing democracy. This is yet another reason why the current allegations of human rights violations, crimes against humanity and abuses must be monitored and investigated by an international body like the UNHRC. International community must react decisively to let the government know in no uncertain terms that there will be serious consequences for these actions or the lack of it.

GTF as an organisation has clearly articulated to the world and the people of Sri Lanka that we actively promote non-violence and we seek a negotiated political settlement for the Tamil National Question.”

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Visvanathan Rudrakumaran – Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)

The Sri Lankan government’s April Fool’s order shows its desperation, racial exclusiveness, and Authoritarianism. The TGTE is a democratically elected body based on the principles of nationhood, homeland and self determination. The TGTE is committed to pursuing its goal through peaceful and lawful means.

All Tamil Diaspora entities are based on democratic principles, rule of law and transparency. Especially with respect to TGTE its members are elected through open and transparent democratic process.

The Government of Sri Lanka’s (GOSL) order designating foreign Tamil entities as terrorist organizations demonstrates its unwillingness and paranoia to engage with democratic ideals and ideas. Inside the island of Sri Lanka the GOSL through the 6th Amendment to the Constitution and military strangulation has deprived the Tamils of the freedom to articulate their political aspirations fully and freely.

This order is a pathetic attempt of the GOSL to stifle the Tamil political aspirations outside the island.

This order is an attempt to weaken the Tamil nation by prohibiting the Tamils inside the island from communicating, sharing and working together with Eelam Tamils outside the island. The Order also demonstrates the GOSL’s attempt to perpetuate the prison conditions of the Tamils inside the island.

The Order demonstrates the illusion of the GOSL that its writ runs outside its borders. It is also an insult and affront to the legal system of democratic countries in which most of the organizations are legally registered and functioning. The GOSL is trying to repeat the same war against terrorism drama it staged successfully to commit the Tamil genocide in 2009. However this time the audiences are not as gullible.

We are expecting the International community to denounce this anti-democratic measure.

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