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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2790

Proscribe Tamil Tiger Front Organizations and Prevent Fund Raising in US - Appeals Sri Lanka Foreign Minister in Washington

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 16 March (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka’s visiting Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama Thursday March 15 called on Bush administration’s top officials to assist Sri Lanka’s quest for peace, by taking stern action to prevent the LTTE from engaging in fund raising activities through numerous front organizations in the U.S.Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama with the U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Justice DepartmentSri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama with the U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Justice Department

He made this request when he met with the U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Justice Department and Mr Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush.

While expressing Sri Lanka’s appreciation for the proscription of the LTTE in the U.S. since 1997, as well as the recent arrests and prosecution of LTTE agents in New York and Maryland, the Minister noted that it is a matter of deep concern to Sri Lanka that the LTTE continues to function in many western countries including the U.S. through numerous front organisations involved in cultural, religious, economic and rehabilitation activities.

He particularly noted that Sri Lanka had taken action to freeze the accounts of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) which while purporting to be a charitable body, has been the LTTE’s primary fundraising arm in the U.S. He said the Sri Lanka Government had observed substantial irregularities in the remittances received by TRO (Sri Lanka), when compared with its collections overseas, particularly in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

The Minister said, along with the denial of access to weapons, curbing fundraising abroad is the key action the international community could take to force terrorists groups to give up terrorism and come to the negotiating table. The U.S. administration taking such action at the present juncture, when Sri Lanka is showing a genuine commitment to evolve consensus in the South to find a lasting settlement to the conflict, will send a clear message to the Tamil Diaspora in the United States that supporting terror through whatever means will not be condoned.

On Thursday afternoon the Foreign Minister briefed the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus at the Capitol Hill on current developments in Sri Lanka, specifically the government’s peace initiative with broad-based political consensus in the south for a sustainable peace. The Minister pointed out that for these positive political developments to take effect, Sri Lanka needs greater support from the US and the international community to ensure that the LTTE becomes a stakeholder in the peace process. The Minister said that this needs concerted effort by the international community to prevent fund raising.

When the issue of a Special US Envoy to Sri Lanka was raised, Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona said that the moment one tries to change focus, the effort put into finding a solution to the conflict changes and the dialogue shifts, dissipating the effort. The Minister and the Secretary said that the government is already inquiring into specific human rights allegations through a Commission of Inquiry (COI) whose work is being observed by an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) which also has US representation. There are also special mechanisms in place to handle humanitarian situations if they arise. Thus, both the Minister and the Secretary were of the view that there was no need for a Special US Envoy.

In early February this year, the leaders of the Sri Lanka Caucus in the United States Congress sent a letter to President Bush, signed by 38 lawmakers, that Sri Lanka’s human rights and humanitarian situation is deteriorating that it warrants the president to send a special envoy to ascertain the real scenario in this South Asian nation. Sri Lanka has resisted such a move.

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister and his foreign secretary are on a public diplomacy campaign in the United States capital meeting with influential policymakers on the Bush administration and lawmakers from the Congress to apprise them of the current situation in their country and to enlighten the U.S. officials of the necessity of extending substantial support to isolate Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and in the U.S. to pave the way for a lasting and meaningful solution to the ‘national question.’

The Tamil Tigers have been at military offensive against successive Sri Lankan administrations and on a political/diplomatic offensive against this South Asian nation in the Western World especially the United States since mid-eighties to show that they are the sole representative of Sri Lanka’s 12.5% minority Tamils. It endeavours to convince the international community that the minority Tamils, whom they are the sole representatives, are a discriminated community and that the minority Tamils need to separate from the Sri Lankan state to have a separate ‘Tamil Eelam’ nation in the north and the eastern provinces.

While accepting that the minority Tamils have legitimate grievances, past Sri Lankan regimes, and the current Rajapaksa administration says that the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) have no intention of entering into a negotiated settlement but focussed on a separate state using terrorism as a weapon.

The current administration says that 54% of the minority Tamils are now living in other distracts among majority Sinhalese and that even the Tamil Diaspora in Western countries have distanced themselves from the Tamil Tigers losing its earlier claim that it is the ‘sole representative of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa government, justifying its military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the east and north of the country, says that it is important to break the military might of the Tigers to force them to come to the negotiating table.

The Sri Lanka delegation led by its foreign minister in this massive overseas public diplomacy program especially targeting Washington endeavours to convince the top officials of the Bush administration the need to provide further support to isolate the Tamil Tigers as an incentive for them to return to a negotiated settlement.

- Asian Tribune –

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