Removing the Ban on Tamil Diaspora Organizations
Sri Lanka’s ebullient Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera is currently in the forefront of a move to review and possibly remove the ban imposed on certain Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora organizations and individuals designated as “terrorist” under provisions of the United Nations Act No 45 of 1968. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and 15 other organizations functioning on foreign soil were proscribed as foreign terrorist organizations by Gazette Extraordinary 1856/41 of March 21st 2014. Apart from these 16 entities , a further 424 individuals with suspected LTTE links who were living in 19 countries including Sri Lanka were also listed.
The Gazette proclamation listing designated persons,groups and entities was done according to sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph (4) of the United Nations Regulations No. 1 of 2012 that was published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 1758/19 of May 15, 2012.The designated Competent authority for establishing and maintaining the list with respect to natural persons, legal, persons, groups and entities was Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was then the Secretary, Defence and Urban Development ministry.
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 Prof. G.L. Peiris who was then the Minister of External Affairs.The UN security Council Resolution 1373 came into being on September 28th 2001 in the wake of the attack on the New York Trade Center on September 11th 2001.
The Sri Lankan ministry of External Affairs issued a press release last year announcing the proscription. It stated as follows –
“An 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 has been signed by Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, and will be published in the Government Gazette shortly”.
“This order is based on the 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”.
It could be seen therefore that the process of proscribing Diaspora organizations technically falls under the purview of the External or Foreign Affairs ministry. This then is the “locus standi” for Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera to initiate action on this matter now. It is also to be noted that there is provision for periodic review of the proscription as part of due process.
Speaking in Parliament in March 2015, Foreign Affairs Minister Samaraweera called for a review of the ban on some Diaspora organizations and individuals. One month later in April, the minister announced in Parliament that the review process on 16 organizations and 424 individuals was now in progress.In early June this year, Mangala Samaraweera held talks with representatives of the proscribed Global Tamil Forum(GTF) in London.Addressing a press conference in Colombo this week , minister Samaraweera stated that he was engaged in efforts to reach out to the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora as part of a reconciliatory process. Mangala emphasised that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Govt was firmly backing his efforts.
Mangala Samaraweera is a man described by friend and foe alike as “a man whose heart is in the right place”. This writer has a lot of personal regard for Mangala as a “Ruhunu Puthra” with an enlightened and progressive outlook on the troubling ethnic question. This energetic Southern politician from Matara has demonstrated on many occasions that he is indeed a true friend of the minority communities of Sri Lanka. He has not hesitated to speak out boldly against ethnic oppression.
However Mangala Samaraweera often falls into trouble in his eagerness and enthusiasm to “do the right thing”. Spurred by his desire to rectify wrongs or take remedial action quickly,Mangala often rushes into areas where other politicians fear to tread.Samaraweera’s commendable current project of reaching out to the Diaspora also seems to be an area where the son of Mahanama Samaraweera would be better off if he treads with more caution.
This writer would like to offer three suggestions to the minister and his government.
Firstly – reach out to the Tamils living in the Island before seeking out those living abroad. Those in Sri Lanka are the ones who have suffered most and need support. Prioritise them before the Diaspora.Showering attention on the Diaspora while ignoring the people who remained in sri Lanka will cause resentment. Before trying to utilise the “talents” of the Diaspora give a fair deal to the talented people in Sri Lanka. It must be realised that there is simmering resentment of the Diaspora and its “moneybags” among ordinary people in Lanka.
Secondly- Reach out to the ordinary Tamil people rather than Tamil political outfits with LTTE links or sympathies.The majority in the Tamil Diaspora is NOT controlled by the LTTE or pro-LTTE organizations as believed erroneously.A tigerish minority projects the impression that it calls the shots but the reality is different. Instead of wooing political organizations reach out to Diaspora organizations like old student associations, village welfare societies,religious institutions and chambers of commerce.
Thirdly – Study the politics of the Tamil Diaspora well before plunging in.The Tamil Diaspora issue is a complicated one with deep ramifications.Do not rely entirely on input provided by Tamil politicians or NGO personnel in Sri Lanka or Diaspora representatives abroad on this issue. These elements have vested interests in this matter. Do not be deceived by pro-Tiger Diaspora outfits uttering “peace and reconciliation”jargon.Assess the actual strength and influence of Diaspora organizations. Also analyse the organizations and see whether outfits with “figurehead” individuals can withstand the inevitable backlash.Proceed with the light of knowledge rather than the heat of passion.
Why I say this is because some of Samaraweera’s pronouncements make me wonder whether he is fully appraised of the facts concerning proscription of Diaspora organizations. For instance in March 2015 when speaking on the topic of reviewing the ban on Tamil Diaspora organizations in Parliament, Mangala Samaraweera reportedly stated “this (listing) was done to build up the hysteria about the LTTE regrouping in the run up to the Presidential election”. Mangala was totally wrong in this assertion. As a journalist who has closely followed and written about the proscription of Tamil Diaspora entities and individuals in March 2014,I would not subscribe to Samaraweera’s view that the proscription was “done to build up the hysteria about the LTTE regrouping in the run up to the Presidential election”. As far as I am aware the final gazetting in March 2014 was the culmination of a very long process that had been delayed to a great extent by bureaucratic procrastination.
UN SC Resolutions
This basis for the listing of foreign terrorist organizations are the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1267. The proscription process relating to Diaspora organizations and individuals allegedly providing material support to the LTTE and by extension “terrorism” commenced in 2008. It was started by the Financial Intelligence Unit(FIU) of the Central bank of Sri Lanka with assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund(IMF). Thereafter the process continued with the Ministry of External Affairs, the Attorney – General’s Dept and the Legal Draftsman’s dept joining the FIU effort at different stages. The ministry of defence entered the process in 2011.
There also began a series of protracted gazette notifications connected to the proscription process. Gazette notification of UN SC resolution 1373 was done by Extra Ordinary Gazette of 15th May 2012 .Likewise Gazette notification of UN SC resolution 1267 was done by Extra Ordinary Gazette of 31st May 2012. Then followed a series of related gazette notifications on 11 June 2013, 16 Aug 2013, 02 Jan 2014, 23 Jan 2014 and 13 Feb 2014. The “grand finale” was gazetted on March 21st 2014.
It could be seen therefore that the proscription process was a long drawn out exercise and not something engineered at short notice to build up hysteria in the run up to the 2015 Presidential elections as alleged by Mangala . The inordinate delay in the process which began in 2008 and ended only in 2014 is attributed to customary bureaucratic lethargy.It appears that Minister Samaraweera has either misinformed himself or been deliberately misinformed on this aspect.
It would be relevant at this juncture to briefly delve into the background of a few of the 16 organizations and 424 individuals designated by gazette proclamation.
The 424 listed individuals comprising men and women are too numerous to be mentioned specifically. These persons of whom around 30 are women are purportedly living in countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy,India,Malaysia,Netherlands,New Zealand, Norway,Sri Lanka, Sweden,Switzerland,Thailand,UK and the USA.
Among those listed as designated individuals are the self-styled Prime minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam(TGTE)Visuvanathan Ruthirakumaran, Global Tamil Forum (GTF)President Rev. Fr. Seemanpillai Joseph Emmanuel, LTTE International secretariat leader Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias “Nediyavan” and LTTE Headquarters leader Segarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias”Vinayagam”.
Apart from these four persons, several present and former “parliament members”of the Transnational Govt were also listed.Among these is the former Tamil National Alliance MP from Batticaloa Senathirajah Jeyanandamoorthy now resident in Britain.Also designated were many key activists of the LTTE including current and former “country chiefs” in many European countries.Two prominent LTTE personalities so designated are KP Reggie former head of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization(TRO) in Sri Lanka and “Root Ravi”who was in charge of the LTTE economic division TEEDOR in Jaffna and the Wanni. Root Ravi in London is regarded as the controlling force behind the British Tamil forum(BTF)KP Reggie shuttles between UK and Norway supervising various income generating “assets” procured through TRO finances.
Several persons against whom INTERPOL red notices were earlier issued at the behest of Sri Lakan authorities were also listed by the gazette declaration. This includes Ponniah Aanandarajan alias Aiyah who is suspected of allegedly retaining vast amounts of LTTE money intended for purchase of arms.”Aiyah” a US citizen is said to be residing in a mid-western state in the USA.
The Sixteen banned entities listed are as follows-
01.LIBERATION TIGERS OF TAMIL EELAM a.k.a LTTE a.k.a TAMIL TIGERS.
02. TAMIL REHABILITATION ORGANIZATION a.k.a TRO.
03. TAMIL COORDINATING COMMITTEE a.k.a TCC
04. BRITISH TAMIL FORUM a.k.a BTF
05. WORLD TAMIL MOVEMENT a.k.a WTM
06. CANADIAN TAMIL CONGRESS a.k.a CTC
07. AUSTRALIAN TAMIL CONGRESS a.k.a ATC
08. GLOBAL TAMIL FORUM a.k.a GTF
09. NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CANADIAN TAMILS a.k.a NCCT a.k.a Makkal Avai
10. TAMIL NATIONAL COUNCIL a.k.a TNC
11. TAMIL YOUTH ORGANIZATION a.k.a TYO
12. WORLD TAMIL COORDINATING COMMITTEE a.k.a WTCC.
13. TRANSNATIONAL GOVERNMENT OF TAMIL EELAM a.k.a TGTE
14. TAMIL EELAM PEOPLES ASSEMBLY a.k.a TEPA
15. WORLD TAMIL RELIEF FUND a.k.a WTRF
16. HEADQUARTERS GROUP a.k.a Head Quarters Group
While some of these outlawed organizations were reportedly functioning in a single country alone, there were others with branches in different countries .These countries include the USA, Canada, Britain, Norway, Italy, Switzerland,France and Australia.
Among notable organizations proscribed were the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam(TGTE) headed by Visuvanathan Ruthirakumaran,Global Tamil Forum headed by Catholic Priest Fr.SJ Emmanuel,the LTTE group and affiliated outfits led by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan and the tiger group (Headquarters group) led by Sekarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias Vinayagam.
Sri Lankan security circles believed at the time of proscription that the listed entities could be classified into four broad groupings that are either controlled or influenced greatly by four persons namely Ruthirakumaran, Fr.Emmanuel, Nediyavan and Vinayakam.Although the Sri Lankan Govt opted to lump all four groups together as “terrorist entities”there were crucial differences between the organizations led by Ruthirakumaran and Fr.Emmanuel on the one hand and the outfits led by Nediayavan and Vinayakam on the other. There are major differences among the four key personalities and also between the organizations they lead.
Both the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam(TGTE)led by Ruthirakumaran and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF)led by Rev. Fr. SJ Emmanuel – despite the alleged relationship to the LTTE – function openly in various parts of the world. The TGTE and GTF activities are generally visible and transparent and even subscribe to a modicum of accountability in certain respects.The LTTE factions under Nediyavan and Vinayagam are basically shady outfits often working clandestinely beneath the facade of fronts.
Visuvanathan Ruthirakumaran the self-styled Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam is a lawyer based in New York. He is the son of former Tamil United Liberation Front(TULF) Mayor of Jaffna Rasah Visuvanathan. The TGTE Premier was born in Jaffna on July 6th 1957. An old boy of Jaffna Central College, Ruthirakumaran entered the Sri Lanka law college and passed out as an attorney at law.He later obtained a masters degree in law from a Texas university.Ruthirakumaran was also at Harvard University for doctoral studies.
Ruthirakumaran generally referred to as Rudra served earlier as the International legal adviser to the LTTE. He participated in the Oslo facilitated talks between the Sri Lankan Govt and LTTE as a resource person for the tiger delegation.As a result of this LTTE “connection” Ruthirakumaran is viewed through a terrorist prism and is persona non grata in European Union countries and Canada.It is indeed amusingly ironic to perceive a “Transnational” premier being unable to cross transnational borders.
After the LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009 sections of the Global Tamil Diaspora got together and formed what was described as a transnational government.The TGTE held public conventions in cities in North America and Europe.It has an administrative structure consisting of an elected 135 member assembly, Speaker, deputy speaker, Prime minister, three deputy premiers, seven cabinet ministers and ten deputy ministers. A second chamber of representatives was also formed.Besides issuing statements and press releases the TGTE has done virtually nothing substantial for the cause.
However the TGTE has been under heavy pressure from the Nediyavan controlled faction . Subsequently there was a major split in the TGTE and a faction loyal to Nediyavan revolted and formed a separate body.The first election of the TGTE aroused considerable interest within the Diaspora with several candidates contesting and even spending large sums of money for electioneering.When the second TGTE election was held there was little excitement. Most representatives were elected without any contest. Rudra became TGTE Prime minister again.
Rev. Dr. S.J. Emmanuel
The Global Tamil Forum(GTF)is an umbrella network of which the president is Rev.Dr. Seemanpillai Joseph Emmanuel (Fr.SJ Emmanuel). Born in 1934 Fr.Emmanuel hails from Temple road in Jaffna. Fr. Emmanuel did not enter priesthood in the early years of his life.He first obtained a Bsc Degree in Physical science in 1958 and worked as a teacher and journalist. He became a Catholic clergyman in the sixties of the previous century.Fr.Emmanuel obtained post-graduate degrees in Philosophy and Theology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.
Fr. Emmanuel was regarded as being of Bishop material for the Catholic Dioceses of Jaffna or Mannar but was not chosen on both occasions.Thomas Soundaranayagam and Joseph Rayappu were ordained as Bishops of Jaffna and Mannar respectively on two different occasions.Fr. Emmanuel served as Vicar General of the Diocese of Jaffna and Rector of St Francis Xavier Major Seminary in Jaffna. He has also been the adviser to the Asian Bishops Conference for 8 years and was the founder Director of the Centre for Better Society in Jaffna.
SJ Emmanuel left Sri Lanka after the Army re-captured Jaffna in 1995 -96.After spending some time in London, Fr. Emmanuel relocated to Germany in 1996 .He travelled about widely in the west interacting with several Tamil organizations.He set up the Global Tamil Forum in 2009 after the fall of the LTTE.The GTF comprised fourteen different organizations at the time it was formed. Today it has shrunk to five.Originally the livewire of the GTF was the British Tamil Forum (BTF). Thanks to the finances of the BTF, the GTF was able to set up a secretariat in London.Later a split occurred between the GTF and BTF after which the BTF functions separately. This has led to a drying up of funds for the GTF .
Global Tamil Forum
Due mainly to the leadership and direction provided by Fr, Emmanuel the GTF achieved a great deal of recognition and influence among many western nations.The Global Tamil Forum has engaged in dialogue with government ministers, legislators, high level administrators and media personnel of several western nations. The GTF claimed that it is trying to help exert international pressure on the Colombo government to evolve an acceptable political solution while cooperating with international efforts to hold the Rajapaksa regime accountable for alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Fr. Emmanuel and the accredited GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran met with Robert O’Blake in Washington when he was US Asst Secy of state for South Asia and had photos published in the media.The GTF maintains a very cordial relationship with the Tamil National Alliance(TNA) in Sri Lanka and has been associated together in discussions with South African leaders and representatives. Both the TNA and GTF have been engaged in lobbying at the UN in Geneva.The GTA met British Prime minister David Cameron six times prior to his trip to Sri Lanka last year for the CHOGM summit.The GTA was largely instrumental in making Cameron adopt a hostile stance towards Colombo.
At one point of time the GTF credibility was so high that even India softened its stance towards the organization.Fr.Emmanuel was granted a multiple entry visa to India. Emmanuel went to India and held a series of meetings there. Some of these meetings in Tamil Nadu with pro-LTTE elements aroused the suspicion and wrath of Indian authorities.When Emmanuel went to India the second time he was not permitted to enter Tamil Nadu via the Meenambakkam airport in Chennai.He was compelled to turn back and has not been to India since then. Apparently New Delhi perceives the GTF as a tiger cloaked in a cowhide.
The third and arguably the most important of the four key personalities regarded as formidable foes by the Sri Lankan defence establishment is Nediyavan or Nediyon .His network is somewhat different to the TGTE and GTF in the sense that it primarily consists of one-time LTTE branches and front organizations. With the LTTE being proscribed as a foreign terrorist organization in most western nations many of the identified tiger branches became dormant or transformed themselves into new entities. New fronts were also established.
In a bid to counter the country –based chapters of Rudrakumaran’s TGTE the Nediyavan group also established a network of “elected” organizations in different countries among the Tamil Diaspora. These organizations were called either “Makkal’ Peravai” or “Thesiyap Peravai” (peoples or National Assemblies/councils) in each country.While these functionaries try to project themselves as democratic political activists at one level many of them at other levels are involved in shady activity. This is because these outfits are fundamentally LTTE branches pretending to be legitimate political formations.
Thus the Nediyavan network despite its pretensions to the contrary is not transparent or accountable when compared to the TGTE or GTF. It’s democratic credentials leave much to be desired.Many of Nediyavan’s followers are not committed to non – violence.Moreover the Nediyavan network is shrouded in ambiguity with many activists having shady, controversial pasts. A few of the key office-bearers in different countries are members or ex-members of the LTTE and have had arms training as well as battlefield experience.
39 year old Perinpanayagam Sivaparan is from Sangarathai, Vaddukkoddai in Valigamam west,Jaffna. He bears the nom de guerre “Nediyavan” meaning Tall man. Nediyavan had joined the LTTE in 1994 when he was 18. He was sent to Russia for higher education by the LTTE and studied political science but apparently Sivaparan did not complete his degree in Moscow.
Nediyavan functioned in the LTTE’s political wing and accompanied former LTTE political commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan for some rounds of peace talks during 2002 -2003. He was later transferred to the overseas LTTE administration section under Veeragathy Manivannan alias Castro. Nediyavan was in charge of Castro’s public relations unit and inter-acted with several overseas functionaries visiting the Wanni during the peace process.
It was then that Sivaparan alias Nediyavan met his future wife Sivagowri Shanthamohan. She was a Norwegian citizen.Her father’s brother was Gnanendramohan alias Ranjan Lala. Gnanendramohan was one of the pioneering members of the LTTE and a trusted confidante of Prabhakaran. Ranjan Lala was shot in Jaffna by the Army when riding a motor cycle.Sivaparan and Sivagowri fell in Love. Prabhakaran who had been very fond of Ranjan Lala supported the union.
Both married and Sivaparan went to Norway in 2006.The LTTE had been sending a number of operatives abroad over the years. These cadres belonged to different departments of the LTTE and began functioning as tiger operatives in these new countries.Most of these cadres were from the political and intelligence wings.
Nediyavan took up residence in Norway.The matrimonial alliance with Sivagowri had strengthened Nediyavan’s clout within the LTTE. Castro used him to communicate with overseas operatives.Contact between the Wanni and tigers abroad was under strain as the war escalated. So Castro appointed an international representative on his behalf. This person was to be in overall charge of the LTTE overseas branches. This was none other than Nediyavan.
Even after the military debacle suffered by the LTTE in May 2009 , Nediyavan continued to be in charge of LTTE overseas branch administration.Nediyavan re-asserted his sole authority over the overseas LTTE structures after Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias “KP” was captured in Malaysia and taken to Sri Lanka. But soon there was a new contender. This was Segarampillai Vinayagamoorthy alias Vinayagam a senior member of the LTTE’s intelligence division. Sri Lankan officials regard him as the fourth formidable foe in the Global Tamil Diaspora.
50 year old Segarapillai Vinayagamoorthy alias Vinayagam was born on November 10th 1964.His family hails from Idaikkurichchi in the Varani area of Thenmaratchy region. The family however lived for some years in Chavakachcheri. Vinayagamoorthy joined the LTTE formally in 1985 at the age of 20. He had earlier been a LTTE “helper”, as a schoolboy. Vinayagamoorthy was absorbed into the LTTE intelligence wing known as Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS) headed by Pottu Amman. It was later renamed as “Thesiya Pulanaaivu Pirivu” (National Intelligence division).
After the Oslo-facilitated ceasefire in 2002 the LTTE intelligence division created a special unit to oversee matters concerning operatives working outside the Wanni in various parts of Sri Lanka as well as those functioning abroad, outside Sri Lanka. The special intelligence unit was called “External-Internal Intelligence Affairs”.
Vinayagamoorthy was made the head of this special unit in 2002. He moved to India some months before the LTTE defeat of May 2009. From there he went to Europe in October/November 2009.He sought political asylum in Paris.
Once in Europe , Vinayagam wove the various Tiger intelligence operatives abroad into a closely knit unit and remained in sole charge of that. For a brief period of time there was a working relationship between Nediyavan and Vinayagam with both entering into a strategic partnership. This however did not last long and soon both were at loggerheads with each other. Nediyavan was unwilling to relinquish his power while Vinayagam wanted to acquire power. At the heart of this power struggle was money.
Both factions claim to be the “real” LTTE and issued conflicting statements in Tamil on important occasions. The Nediyavan group statements are released by the LTTE office calling itself the “Anaithulaga Seyalagam” (International Secretariat/office). The Vinayagam faction issues statements through its office known as “Thalaimai Seyalagam” (chief secretariat/headquarters. There has been violence between both factions.Physical assaults and even an assassination have occurred.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan authorities requested Norway to hand over Nediyavan to them. Oslo did not oblige but Norwegian officials interviewed Nediyavan and warned him that he should not engage in or promote violence while living on Norwegian soil. Thereafter Nediyavan relocated to a place about 150 miles away from Oslo. He maintains a low profile and is generally inaccessible. However it is believed that he continues to communicate verbally with key deputies through trusted couriers.
Vinayagam resident in Paris too has adopted a low profile in recent times. One reason for Vinayagam’s perceived inactivity is the INTERPOL notice issued on him by Sri Lanka. Another more important reason was the assassination of the LTTE chief in Paris Nadarajah Matheenthiran alias Parithy a.k. a. Regan.The Vinayagam faction was suspected because Parithy belonged to the Nediyavan group. Vinayagam himself was detained,interrogated and subsequently released. After this Vinayagam has become relatively quiet.
Both the Nediyavan and Vinayagam groups have attempted to create violence in the North and East of Sri Lanka after the fall of the LTTE in 2009. Their objective is to bring about an LTTE “renaissance” on home soil. These attempts have been thwarted by the vigilance of the intelligence officials,Police and security forces. The biggest threat in this respect was the LTTE revival attempt by the Theiveegan -Gopi-Appan trio that was crushed last year. Interstingly both the Nediyavan and Vinayagam factions cooperated with each other by jointly financing and aiding the revival attempt by the trio.
Both factions are also trying to bring the Tamil National Alliance TNA)under its control or fragment the alliance if necessary. Links with some TNA leaders and representatives are clandestinely maintained.Both groups prefer the Tamil National Peoples Front(TNPF) to be the elected representatives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The TNPF is led by former Parliamentarians Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam and Selvarajah Gajendran.
Given the intra- Tamil violence unleashed by these elements within Diaspora circles in Western cities there is a distinct possibility that Tamil Diaspora organizations and individuals attempting to build bridges with Sri Lanka may be targeted as traitors or collaborators.
Foreign Terrorist Entities
The Sri Lankan Government in March 2014 listed both the GTF and TGTE as foreign terrorist entities along with the Nediyavan and Vinayagam groups of the LTTE.Lumping all four together came in for criticism at that time.Both the TGTE and GTF may have been pro-LTTE and separatist – though the GTF (reminiscent of LTTE) says it is ready for a federal arrangement – but it was a moot point as to whether those leanings by themselves were sufficient to be construed as terrorist or committing terrorism. It was pointed out that Sri Lankan authorities would have to furnish credible evidence if they wanted host nations such as the USA, Britain, Australia or Canada to take take anti-terrorist action against the TGTE, GTF and some other country based community organizations.
Adopting a stance that any organization acknowledging separatism or does not reject separatism in Sri Lanka , is supporting terrorist ideology did not appear to be a valid argument.There are anti-secessionism and anti-terrorism laws in Sri Lanka. The sixth amendment to the constitution is anti-secessionist while the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is anti-terrorist. A secessionist can be a terrorist only if he or she engages in acts described as terrorist in pursuance of separatism.The LTTE was for both a separate state and an armed struggle.What was an armed struggle to the LTTE was terrorism to the Sri Lankan state. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” goes the well-known saying.Advocating secessionism without engaging in violence regarded as terrorism does not make the advocates concerned terrorist. This key point was lost sight of by the Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa when it banned 16 diverse organizations together under the “terrorist”label.
Currently the Government of Maithripala Sirisena seems to have adopted a different approach to that of its predecessor. It has taken cognizance of distinct differences among the proscribed entities. Foreign Affairs minister Mangala Samaraweera has personally interacted with representatives of the listed Global Tamil Forum and key functionaries like Fr. Emmanuel and Surendran. The GTF is also making appropriate “noises” conducive to a de-listing by Colombo.The stage seems set for the GTF and its functionaries to be taken off the list in the near future. Rudra’s TGTE seems to be shunned due to its overt identification with the LTTE and its open espousal of Tamil Eelam.
This anticipated development has resulted in a backlash from other Tamil Diaspora organizations. The GTF has come in for huge criticism as selling out .It remains to be seen whether the GTF will continue to remain in the kitchen as the heat increases.On the other hand the “De- proscription moves ” spearheaded by Mangala Samaraweera have provided further ammunition to the “Bring back Mahinda”elements crying out over the alleged threat to national security. All these matters require further analysis in a future article.