Reconciliation moves in Sri Lanka has received a much needed boost with the Tamil Diaspora offering assistance after the government de-listed several organizations accused of having links with the LTTE.
The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the de-listing opens the doors for discussions, which will prevent future conflict and ensure healing between and within communities.
“HRW welcomes the de-listing of diaspora groups. This is a positive step towards the reconciliation process if it leads to the kind of honest and difficult discussions that are necessary for mutual understanding, preventing future conflicts, and healing between and within communities,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams told The Sunday Leader.
Following a review on the groups and individuals listed over alleged terrorism links, the government announced last weekend that there was no intelligence or evidence justifying the listing of eight organisations and 267 persons. However, groups that continue to espouse separatism, including eight organizations and 157 individuals, remain proscribed.
The amended list gazetted by the government, removes the ban on the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the British Tamil Forum (BTF), Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) and the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), among others.
The new gazette notification has also lifted the ban on the head of the Global Tamil Forum, Father S. J. Emmanuel.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Father Emmanuel said that the listing of Tamils and organizations by the former government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa was done with an evil intention of tarnishing the Tamil Diaspora as terrorist or potential terrorists before the international community.
This, he feels, was done to justify Rajapaksa’s own state-terrorism against the Tamils at home and weaken the democratic and non-violent efforts of the Diaspora Tamils vis-a-vis the international community.
“As a consequence, many Tamils of the Diaspora were prevented by fear from visiting their loved ones still in Sri Lanka as well prevented from undertaking humanitarian assistance for the victims of war,” he said.
While many still remain on the list of proscribed groups and individuals, Father Emmanuel says he considers the attempt by the new government as an attempt to correct, at least partially, the ‘evil actions’ of the Rajapaksa regime in the interest of good governance and to show the goodwill of the new government towards the Diaspora Tamils as encouraged by the international community.
“Hence while welcoming the goodwill attempt of the new government, we of the GTF will wish that sooner than later that the whole list be done away with, since it was a 100% evil act of the Rajapaksa regime against the freedom and democratic rights of the Diaspora Tamils to continue their struggle for the rights of the Tamils and the well being of all peoples in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Father Emmanuel has been in self-exile since 1997 after the then government accused him of supporting terrorism. He says the allegations even damaged his personal standing as a Catholic priest including through false accusations in the website of the Defence Ministry when it was under the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
“The present government has understood me better and the President and the foreign Minister have invited me to come back and help in the work of reconciliation. Since I am in the first place a Catholic priest working always for reconciliation by the path of truth, justice and accountability, I am closely watching the developments and efforts made by the government,” he said.
Father Emmanuel however says he had told President Maithripala Sirisena that reconciliation cannot be done by politicians alone and that all four religions must also take an active role.
“All four religions must also take an active role in that effort because, as pointed out recently by Samantha Power, reconciliation or inclusiveness should come from the people. Till now, except for the late Sobitha Thera, the other religious leaders are conspicuously silent,” he said.
Father Emmanuel says while he will continue his efforts for reconciliation from London where he is based, he will return home when necessary for a more active role.
The other well known Diaspora group, which was de-proscribed by the government, is the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC).
David Poopalapillai, the National Spokesperson of the CTC, said that his organization welcomes the initiative by the new Sri Lankan government to de-list some of the Diaspora organizations from the March 2014 list, including the CTC.
Poopalapillai told The Sunday Leader that all along CTC has said that the original listing itself was arbitrary and not based on facts, and was implemented by the previous government to silence many in the Diaspora.
“We had written to both the previous and the present government to produce evidence or de-list the CTC. All in the Diaspora can play an important part in rebuilding Sri Lanka, and this action is in the right direction as we move forward,” he said.
The new government, after taking office this year, said it will de-list some Tamil Diaspora groups in order to seek their support to work with Sri Lanka.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera also had talks with the GTF in the presence of the Tamil National Alliance and former Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim in London this year.
The GTF and other Tamil Diaspora groups are to be invited to Sri Lanka to attend a diaspora festival set to be organized by the government.
While most Diaspora groups had welcomed the initiatives of the new government, there are some, including the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and its leader, former LTTE negotiator V. Rudrakumaran, who continue to be critical of Sri Lanka and are pushing for an Eelam State. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government banned several organizations operating on foreign soil as foreign terrorist organizations, utilising the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which was brought about by the Unites States on September 28, 2001 after the attack on the New York twin towers on September 11, 2001.
The then government raised concerns over the alleged activities of the Tamil Diaspora saying they could fund another war in Sri Lanka.
United Nations Regulation No. 1, approved by Parliament in 2012, obliges the government to review and update its list of proscribed organisations at least once a year. The new government, resolute in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, undertook a systematic review process in order to update the list of organisations.
The new government said it was willing to negotiate with the Diaspora and look at their concerns and work with them instead of sidelining them.
The government last week urged other groups and individuals banned in Sri Lanka over terrorism links to renounce separatism in addition to taking other necessary measures so they can be considered for de-proscription.
“We hope that other groups and individuals make similar public commitments condemning violence and renouncing separatism in addition to other necessary measures.
Then they too can be considered for de-proscription and join other formerly proscribed organisations, both in the North and South, who have successfully entered the democratic mainstream and are now working for the betterment of Sri Lanka,” the Foreign Ministry said last week.
As a result of this review, the Foreign Ministry says Sri Lanka’s law enforcement and intelligence services are now able to target their resources more efficiently and focus their energy on genuine threats improving the security of all Sri Lankans.
Meanwhile, The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and its leader V. Rudrakumaran who remain proscribed over terrorism links, accused the government of ‘selective de-listing’ and said that it will not contribute to reaching a political resolution to the Tamil national question. Rudrakumaran told The Sunday Leader that his organisation will push for self-determination for the Tamils.
Q. The Sri Lankan government has decided not to de-proscribe the TGTE. How will this affect the reconciliation process?
A. Given the fact that the TGTE’s constitution states its goal is the establishment of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam, we are not surprised that it was not ‘sanitized’ by the Sri Lankan government. The government’s selective sanitization smacks of a ‘divide and rule’ policy of the government towards the Tamil diaspora. The UNP and its leader Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe is well versed in the art of ‘divide and rule’ tactics. Ranil employed these tactics during the ceasefire period and got Karuna to defect from the LTTE. Now it seems that he is trying this on the Diaspora.
This selective de-listing will not contribute to reaching a political resolution to the Tamil national question. On the contrary it is counter-productive. Selectively embracing certain groups who are also equally committed to the Tamil aspiration carries the danger of delegitimizing these groups in the eyes of the Tamil people. This will impair and undermine their contribution to the resolution of the Tamil national question.
Successive Sri Lankan governments used the terrorism label to tarnish the Tamil campaign for an independent state. The new regime is not only doing that but goes further to drive a wedge among the Tamil Diaspora with that same terrorism label to divide and rule them. However, we believe that these tactics will contribute to consolidation of the mutual understanding among the Tamil Diaspora entities and will contribute to a reaffirmation of the fundamentals, namely, Nation, Homeland, and Right to self-determination.
Q. The Government wants those still on the list to denounce separatism. Will you denounce separatism?
A. The question before us is not whether the TGTE will renounce or denounce separatism, but whether the Tamil people denounce separation ideals if they are allowed to exercise their free will in the absence of the 6th Amendment to the Constitution, which criminalizes peaceful advocacy for an independent state.
While TGTE believes that due to the rigidity of the ethnocratic nature of the Sri Lankan State, and only in an independent State can the Tamils live in dignity and security, we also believe that it is up to the Tamil people to decide on this if and when they are given a choice through a referendum to decide their future. In my view all the Tamil Diaspora entities including the de-listed ones are also subscribed to this position.
To my knowledge while some de-listed entities say that Tamils do not want separation, they themselves will not oppose a demand that the Tamils should be given a choice to decide their future. It is not just a political issue, but a human rights issue. Even the TNA leadership, whenever they visited abroad, have agreed on this position and pledged to raise it. Next year will see the fortieth anniversary of the Vaddukoddai Resolution. Thus TGTE, along with other Diaspora and domestic entities, are planning to file a complaint with the Human Rights Committee of the UN arguing that the 6th Amendment is a violation of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association.
It is a fact that the people’s thirst for freedom cannot be quenched by a mere listing phenomenon. As the late South Korean President Kim Young-sam said, “Dawn will come, even if the rooster is strangled.”
I must also say that the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, the resolution cited by the government of Sri Lanka as a basis for the listing, is not promulgated to combat independence or separatism. There is not a single word about separatism in those 1,287 words resolution. Not only that the UN Security Council Resolutions pertains to terrorism, but it is also true that none of the constitutions in any country nor statutes of any country equate separatism with terrorism.
It is true that in some countries their constitutions prohibit separatism, but no country equates separatism with terrorism. David Cameron did not put Alex Salmond in the terrorism list, nor did President Rajoy designate Arthur Mass as a terrorist. It might be true that we cannot expect such statesmanship and moral and legal clarity from the Sinhala leadership, but the international community cannot turn a blind eye to this outrageous and idiotic abuse of the UN Security Council Resolution.
It is an irony that the new regime which came to power to uphold rule of law is deliberately abusing the international legal process. We call upon the International Community to condemn this.
I must also point out that while Sri Lanka has not done anything constructively to fulfill its obligation under the Human Rights Council Resolution pertaining to accountability, a Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, it is embarked on a mission to distort the International legal process. Anticipating this, we at the TGTE have nominated a Monitoring and Accountability Panel (MAP) comprising experts with much depth of experience of participation in UN-sponsored international and hybrid tribunals.
I would like to take this moment also to point out that presently not a single Diaspora entity is talking about violence as a means to realize the Tamils’ political aspirations. The TGTE’s constitution mandates that it should realize its political goal through peaceful means. The GoSL’s harping on violence is nothing other than a ruse to justify its repressive Sinhala militarization of the Tamil homeland.
(Courtesy The Sunday Leader)