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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2703

TRO: Canada, Australia urged to follow the U.S.

Colombo, 17 November, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka's Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday called upon the international community to speedily follow the precedent set by the United States in freezing the TRO's assets in that country. He made this appeal particularly to Australia, Canada, Denmark, France and the UK. As Sri Lanka had repeatedly emphasized, the continuing ability of the LTTE's numerous front organizations to pose off as charities had undermined the ban imposed on the Tigers by India, USA,the UK, EU member states and Canada, the Minister noted.

Following is the full text of the Minister's statement:

On Thursday? 15 November, 2007, the US government designated the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), a charitable organization that acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement of weapons for the LTTE. The effect of this decision is that it freezes any assets the TRO may have under U.S. jurisdiction and bans Americans from engaging in transactions with it.

The following? entities have been added to Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)'s Specially Designated Nationals ( SDN list)- TAMILS REHABILITATION ORGANISATION (also known as –a.k.a) ORGANISATION DE REHABILITATION TAMOULE; a.k.a. ORGANISATION PRE LA REHABILITATION TAMIL; a.k.a. ORGANIZZAZIONE PER LA RIABILITAZIONE DEI TAMIL; a.k.a. ORT FRANCE; a.k.a. TAMIL REHABILITATION ORGANIZATION; a.k.a. TAMIL REHABILITERINGS ORGANISASJONEN; a.k.a. TAMILISCHE REHABILITATION ORGANISATION; a.k.a. TAMILS REHABILITATION ORGANIZATION; a.k.a. TAMILSK REHABILITERINGS ORGANISASJON; a.k.a. TRO; a.k.a. TRO DANMARK; a.k.a. TRO ITALIA; a.k.a. TRO NORGE; a.k.a. TRO SCHWEIZ; a.k.a. TSUNAMI RELIEF FUND -- COLOMBO, SRI LANKA; a.k.a . WHITE PIGEON; a.k.a. WHITEPIGEON.

This measure carried out under Executive Order 13224 has been described as aimed at financially isolating terrorist groups and their support networks. It has previously been applied to a number of front organizations of particularly Islamic militant groups.

The Government of Sri? Lanka has in recent times emphasized that the proscription of the LTTE by India, US, Canada and the EU member countries has been undermined and diluted through the continuing ability for numerous front organizations of the LTTE which posed off as charitable fronts – under the guise of rehabilitation, educational, social, religious, and economic groupings - to continue collecting funds to bolster the LTTE arsenal. The TRO has been the most prominent among them and in September 2006, following investigations into its financial transactions by the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank under Sri Lanka's Financing of Terrorism Law, the Government of Sri Lanka froze TRO accounts in Sri Lanka.

I have emphasized the damage done by this organization particularly in the USA and we have provided evidence that lends credence to our concerns at meetings I have had with the US Treasury Department during my visits to the US in March and October this year. We were assured that the Treasury Department, despite its pre-occupation with Islamic terrorist groups and their front organizations, was closely tracking the activity of the TRO.

It is in this? context, that I wish to place on record the deep appreciation of the government of Sri Lanka and this entire house, to the US Administration, especially the Treasury Department, for the speedy investigation carried out and for the action taken yesterday against the TRO. In doing so the US Government becomes the first foreign government to take tangible action against an LTTE front organization. . It must be recalled that besides India which proscribed the LTTE in the aftermath of the assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1992, the U.S. was the first Western government to take action against the LTTE, when the Department of State designated the LTTE a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on October 8, 1997 and on November 2, 2001, named the LTTE a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

Following the August 2006 arrest of 17 LTTE agents in New York and in several US cities across the US and Canada, the October 2006 arrests of 6 persons including a Sri Lankan national (who have already pleaded guilty), the May 2007 arrest of US based leader of the LTTE leader Karunakaran Kandasamy, yesterday's action constitutes a vital further step in US cooperation towards helping end terrorism by the LTTE.

The results of this? investigation, detailed in the statement issued by the US Department of the Treasury, titled " Treasury Targets Charity Covertly Supporting Violence in Sri Lanka ", is revealing. It quotes Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as saying, the "TRO passed off its operations as charitable, when in fact it was raising money for a designated terrorist group responsible for heinous acts of terrorism". This statement confirms much of what we have been pointing out to the international community with regard to LTTE front organization operations that have been taking place for decades".

It observes:

- The TRO is the preferred conduit of funds from the United States to the LTTE in Sri Lanka and raised funds on behalf of the LTTE through a network of individual representatives.

- The TRO has facilitated LTTE procurement operations in the United States, including the purchase of munitions, equipment, communication devices, and other technology for the LTTE.

- The TRO's efforts worldwide reportedly have allowed the LTTE to use humanitarian aid, which TRO collected from the international community after the December 2004 tsunami, to launch new campaigns to strengthen LTTE military capacity.

- The TRO maintains a headquarters office in Killinochchi, Sri Lanka and operates branch offices throughout Sri Lanka and in seventeen countries worldwide, including the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The announcement also provides identifier information for Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, including AKAs and address information for its branches worldwide.

- The LTTE oversees the activities of TRO and other LTTE-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sri Lanka and abroad. Directives issued by the LTTE suggest that LTTE-affiliated branch representatives are expected to coordinate their efforts with the respective TRO representatives in their locations and report all activity to the LTTE. Recent information indicates that the LTTE has ordered international NGOs operating in its territory to provide all project funding through local NGOs, which are managed collectively by TRO. This arrangement allows TRO to withdraw money from the local NGO accounts and to provide a portion of the relief funds to the LTTE. The LTTE has reportedly exerted pressure to comply on a few international NGOs that have resisted these arrangements.

- While one can expect a significant decline in the monthly collections of the LTTE's worldwide, estimated at US $ 20-30 million, at the same time we need to be vigilant, of the propensity shown by the LTTE to shift its operations from one organization to another, when they realise its running into trouble with the law of the land.

- It would be recalled, how when the management of the TRO- UK was taken over by the UK Charity Commission in 2002 following a series of internal investigations pointing to misappropriation of funds and allegations of connection with the LTTE, and subsequently it was de-listed as a charity on 10 August 2005, 18 days later - on 28 August, 2005, the LTTE registered a company with Companies House, UK under the name International Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation London (ITRO) with the same aims and purposes. It is also noted that another UK charity, 'White Pigeon' is also engaged in fundraising for similar purposes. Having been a trustee of TRO-UK, Dr N Sathiyamoorthy is also a trustee of the charity 'White Pigeon', whilst at the same time being a director of ITRO.

Similarly, when the French authorities shut down the Tamil Television Network (TTN) which broadcast LTTE propaganda material, within days the LTTE was able to shift its operation to Switzerland and serve the same TTN subscriber base through a new channel Tharisanam.

Hence the need for vigilance, to ensure that the functions carried out by the LTTE front organization the TRO now proscribed in the US, is not taken on by another front.

Above all, yesterday's action by the United States shows with no uncertainty that the TRO was not focused solely on rehabilitation but also on financing LTTE's arms procurement. This precedent set by the freezing of the assets of the TRO in the US following a detailed investigation, we believe should encourage other countries which are also investigating LTTE front organizations including the TRO – particularly Australia, Canada, Denmark, France and the UK, to take tangible action against these organizations. I call upon the international community to act speedily in this regard.

- Asian Tribune -

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