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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1591

Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) officially identified with Tamil rebel group LTTE in Australia

From S Nagarajah in Sydney

Sydney, 17 January, ( Government has identified Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) as an entity associated with the Sri Lankan rebel group, which is gazetted as a terrorist organisation in Australia. This categorical declaration was made by the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in the Australian Federal Parliament recently.

Answering a question from Mr John Paul Murphy, Labour Party Member of Parliament for the Lowe electorate, Mr Downer said that the Australian Government has not funded TRO’s development program because of its association with the LTTE.

The Australian Foreign Minister’s statement was made on the 7th December 2004 in answer to a written question from Mr Murphy as to why the Australian Government does not fund the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation.

Mr Murphy, who represents a constituency in Sydney with a sizeable concentration of voters of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, had in the past raised Sri Lankan Tamil issue often sympathising with the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the ongoing conflict between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the LTTE.

Despite identifying TRO as an entity associated with a terrorist group banned in Australia, the Australian Government has not taken any action against it even though provisions exist under stringent anti-terrorist laws to impose such a ban.

The Australian Foreign Minister may list a person or entity if he is satisfied that they are associated with terrorism as detailed in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. Australia implements Resolution 1373 through Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and through the Charter of the United Nations (Terrorism and Dealings with Assets) Regulations 2002. Part 4 of the Act and 2002 Regulations replaced the Charter of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations 2001, which were in operation since 15 October 2001.

These laws prevent Australian citizens or persons in Australia providing funds or dealing with financial assets of persons or entities engaged in terrorism or support terrorism or under the direct or indirect control of such persons or entities. Such acts have been made offences punishable with five years imprisonment.

Names of persons and entities listed as associated with terrorism are included in the Consolidated List of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. Besides others, the current Australian Consolidated List of banned persons and organisations include theLiberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE, Tamil Tigers and Ellalan Force.

Though the Australian Government has declared Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation as associated with the proscribed LTTE, its supporters here have launched a major campaign to influence Parliamentarians and others to channel aid for tsunami victims through the TRO.

The Tamil Coordinating Committee, a pro LTTE organisation, has set up various committees including media and political committees to canvass support for TRO’s disaster relief fund.

Another pro-LTTE organisation, Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations has written to Parliamentarians with requests for direct assistance to the TRO. In a recent letter addressed to Australian Federal Parliamentarians, Mano Navaratnam, Secretary of the Federation has referred to the step motherly attitude shown by the Sinhalese in the handling of tsunami relief operations in the predominantly Tamil North East Sri Lanka. Making a case for direct assistance to the TRO, Mano Navaratnam has said that even international organisations have their own rules and regulations and even limitations, often subject to the formalities and delays of bureaucracy.

The Secretary of the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations has described the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation as a people-centred organisation. But, TRO functions in Australia as a company limited by guarantee and has been registered as such with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It’s registered name is Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (Australia) Limited. TRO is also registered under the same company name as a charity in New South Wales under provisions of the Charitable Fundraising Act, 1991.

Tracing the history of TRO, Mano Navaratnam has said in her letter to the Australian Parliamentarians that it was formed in 1985,soon after the Holocaust of 1983, to give immediate relief and organise rehabilitation for the victims of war disasters. This is again far from the truth.

In fact, Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation was hastily formed by the LTTE in the early part of 1986 in the Indian state of Tamilnadu as Velupillai Prabaharan’s Tamil Tigers needed a registered organisation to receive a massive assistance of thirty million in Indian rupees from the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu the late M G Ramachandran.

Until then, LTTE was part of a unified relief organisation called MUST (Medical Unit of Service of Tamils) which included other Tamil militant organisations such as the PLOTE, EPRLF, TELO and EROS.

Dr Jeyakularajah, an LTTE nominee, functioned as the President of MUST. MUST was the brainchild of Douglas Devananda, the leader of EPDP who is now a Minister in the cabinet of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

It provided medical assistance to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who started arriving in the Tamilnadu state to escape the ongoing ethnic conflict in the island. It functioned well for two years, but by early 1986 LTTE representatives including its nominee Dr Jeyakulerajah started disassociating from MUST.

It was at this time that M G Ramachandran, the late Tamilnadu Chief Minister came forward with a donation of forty million rupees to Tamil militant groups.

He wanted to give thirty million to Prabaharan who had become his favourite but was faced with legal snags in giving state assistance to a militant rebel outfit. To satisfy legal requirements, LTTE formed the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation and duly registered it as a charity under the Tamilnadu Cooperative Law to receive the thirty million state funding.

The organisation thus formed by the LTTE to receive funding from M G Ramachandran’s Tamilnadu Government was later consolidated as the relief and rehabilitation wing of LTTE. It spread its international operation to other countries when Tamil refugees started arriving in large numbers in countries such as Canada, United States and UK. TRO in the United States is the only TRO branch organisation recognised as a charity for tax purposes.

Though TRO operatives try to camouflage the fact that it is in fact the relief and rehabilitation wing of LTTE, it has been identified as such in many countries besides Australia. According to media reports, a Special Canadian Senate Committee had identified TRO as a group raising money for guns and materials used by the Tamil Tigers.

In 2000, the British Charity Commission raided the offices of TRO in London. TRO’s bank accounts in London were frozen following accusations that its monies were going to the LTTE. It was reported in the media that investigations were conducted after a complaint by Lord Avebury, the then Vice Chairman of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group.

In Sri Lanka, though earlier banned as the arm of LTTE’s international network to finance arms purchases, it was allowed to be registered as an NGO on condition that the LTTE would come to peace talks and drop violence.

The Australian TRO has been functioning for over ten years and Australian Tamils of Sri Lankan origin had been generously contributing to TRO Fund. Most of the Australian TRO functionaries are respected professionals dedicated to serve Tamil community’s interests.

TRO has undertaken many relief and rehabilitation projects in North East Sri Lanka and had been praised for its efficient and well-organised relief efforts in areas under LTTE control.

However, TRO has not openly declared how monies collected in Australia are sent to Sri Lanka despite allegations that funds collected from Australian Tamils end up for LTTE’s arms purchases. Monies from Australia could be sent legally to Sri Lanka only through the official Sri Lankan banking channel, that is, via the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

- Asian Tribune -

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