Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso
Fax No: 0032 2 2981299
Re: EU Declaration of 26 September 2005 instituting a travel ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka
On behalf of the Tamil Writer's Guild, representing Tamil Writers and professionals in the UK , I wish to express our serious concerns regarding your declaration banning the travel of Liberation Tigers to EU countries at a time when the stalled peace process in Sri Lanka needs to be carefully nursed and nurtured back into life. We are law-abiding subjects of the UK and the objective of our letter is to help preserve and protect the peace process in Sri Lanka .
The fragile peace process has been very carefully protected and moved along by the Norwegian Government facilitators, involving methodically constructed moves to take delegates from both sides of the conflict to EU and other western countries to educate and expose them to the workings of different forms of constitutional democracy. You may not be entirely aware that the EU's travel ban has seriously jeopardised this process of confidence building undertaken by the Norwegians.
Wholly unsubstantiated allegations made by the Government of Sri Lanka against the Liberation Tigers relating to the killing of Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister have led to this ban. Unfortunately, it is in the partisan interest of the Sri Lankan government to make this allegation. We believe that it is unfair and unjust to presume the guilt of one of the parties in preference to the other in the absence of corroborative evidence. Natural justice would require that a fair hearing be given before a judgment is delivered.
In the ten weeks since the murder, the Sri Lankan government police authorities have not disclosed any link for this killing at all with the LTTE. On the other hand, there is rumour that it might have been the dastardly deed of a militant pro government faction as a result of internal wrangling. There is also the daily scourge of the murder of Tamil civilians in their homeland induced by the Sri Lankan armed forces in what is seen as a shadow war and the alleged LTTE reprisals consequent to them. We appeal to you to actively promote the peace process between the Government and the LTTE so that these cruel killings can be banished forever in that tragic country.
The ceasefire has been teetering on the brink of collapse for some time now and it is only the unrelenting effort of Norwegian facilitators that has saved it thus far. The fundamental principle that has underscored this ceasefire agreement (CFA) is the total and absolute equivalence of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE as the two partners to this agreement. The Ceasefire agreement entered into between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, with the Government of Norway acting as the facilitator, legally recognises the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka . Having signed this agreement at a time when it was facing military and economic debacle, the Sri Lankan government does now feel bridled by it as it comes under extreme Sinhala chauvinist pressure in the current Presidential hustings and probably would like now to abrogate it. However, it is international governmental pressure that is keeping the Sri Lankan government away from re-launching a military solution to the problems of dealing with the fundamental rights of the Tamils in the country.
These are some of the facts that we would request the EU to consider in order to play a positive role in relieving a long running humanitarian and ethnic problem in Sri Lanka . The Tamil people in Sri Lanka have suffered from political and economic oppression by the Sinhala State since the country obtained its independence from Great Britain in 1948. From 1983, the Sri Lankan Government has waged an ethno-religious war with all its modern weaponry for over two decades to suppress the Tamils. This has resulted in large-scale suffering, death and destruction among the Tamil civilian population in their homeland, which has gone unreported in the Western world.
To compound their suffering, the Tamil people in North East Sri Lanka were the worst affected of all by the devastating effects of the deadly Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami which directly hit their coastline. Yet, the government of Sri Lanka has chosen to discriminate against the Tamils once again, and has not allowed any significant government aid to reach the Tamil areas for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and all foreign government donations have been completely blocked.
It is for this reason that we urge the EU to desist from applying any act of international sanction against the Tamil representatives based on uncorroborated grounds, which will only serve to aggravate the plight of the Tamils. The Sinhala nationalist extremists in Sri Lanka have already taken your action to be an endorsement of their anti-Tamil position regarding the rights of the Tamils and their virulent propaganda cites the EU declaration with triumphalism. This is bound to have an adverse impact not only on the Peace Process itself, but it will also encourage the State to carry out with impunity further discriminatory acts against the Tamil people living in the northeast and the rest of Sri Lanka .
We have prepared the analysis in the annexure to this letter to help you review the strictures expressed by yourselves for the travel ban in the EU Declaration of 26 th September 2005 , against the realities of the ground situation in Sri Lanka . We believe that you will now be able to come to the conclusion that the ban is neither necessary nor just, provided the peace process is safeguarded. We will be grateful for an acknowledgment of this letter from you as our democratic representatives and later, for a considered and favourable reply. We will be honoured to place ourselves at your disposal for any discussions or clarifications you may wish to have in the interests of peace in our troubled homeland.
Ivan Pedropillai B.Sc., M.Sc., FCCA, FCMA
Tamil Writers Guild ( UK )
Copy to: Mme Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Commissioner, External Relations
Fax no: 0032 2 2981299
Annexure: Re: EU Declaration of 26 September 2005 concerning Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka
The Tamil Writers Guild (TWG) has carefully considered the contents of the EU Declaration and the contents of the Resolution of the Donor Co-chair Meeting of 19 September 2005 , quoted therein, and wish to express our concerns for your consideration, based on the following grounds:
To hold one party to the conflict responsible for the killings without sufficient evidence in a situation where there is no law and order in government-controlled areas is, in our opinion, untenable and unfair. Army deserters with guns and mafia gunmen are rampant in these areas and they could be equally responsible.
It would appear that the main reason for the EU initiative is based on the shocking murder of the former Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar and “so many others” which, we believe, refer to the killings and counter killings in the restive east of the island. It has now spread to the North and in Colombo . These murders have being taking place solely (as far as we are aware from published information) within areas strictly controlled by government security forces, for which the government must take responsibility. The causes for these killings are shrouded in accusations and counter-accusations between the LTTE and the Government
We (TWG) condemn unequivocally the murder of the former Foreign Minister. We reiterate the need to solve this crime and to find the perpetrators who should be brought to justice.
Again, to hold one party, at random, fully responsible for the murder based merely on suspicion and accusations without proper police investigation, evidence and judicial follow-up is not at all justifiable. We would go further and state, with great regret, that the climate of serious crime has become ingrained in the country by the mass murders of tens of thousands of Tamil people by the Sri Lankan armed forces, mainly innocent civilian men, women and children estimated at well over 65,000; along with the commission of gross human rights violations and other grave crimes against humanity almost continuously since the holocaust against the Tamils of July 1983. Because of State terror nearly a million Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka have had to flee their homes and become refugees either internally or in third countries, tantamount to carrying out ethnic cleansing.
As far as we are aware, legal action by the State against the perpetrators had been instituted only in just three of these cases; and that too as a result of mass agitation by the Tamil public. Here, I refer to the gang rape and murder of a Tamil school girl Krishanty , the well known Chemanni mass grave (Tamil civilians) court case yet under prolonged postponements and the failed Bindunewewa mass murder case of Tamil detainees. Details of all these cases are available on the Internet but they help illustrate the absence of law and order in relation to crimes committed against Tamil citizens in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Government's callous disregard of proper criminal investigation of such racially motivated crimes and the total failure to obtain convictions of the perpetrators in the courts. The process of justice is blind in so far as it concerns Tamils as victims.
The issue of child soldiers is being considered by UNICEF in collaboration with the LTTE where, as far as we are aware, there has been progress between them; although this has to considered against the background of the war waged on the Tamil people in the northeast of the country and the occupation of their land by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
However, it is lamentable that no institution or country, to our knowledge, has yet thought it fit to condemn the mass killings of innocent Tamil children and infants in the northeast by indiscriminate aerial bombing and shelling of villages by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces over nearly two decades nor to mention the plight of thousands of children orphaned by the massacre of their parents in these areas to this day. Neither is there any reference made to numerous crimes against children in the rest of the island.
With regard to the CFA and commitment to the Peace Process, what is palpably clear to the Tamil people is the total non-fulfilment by the government of vital clauses contained in the CFA for the provision of minimum basic requirements for the day-to-day living of the people. These unfulfilled basic clauses include: vacating of homes of Tamils commandeered by the Armed Forces; release of their agricultural fields for cultivation and their freedom to fish off their own coasts; vast expanses of their own villages and towns are arbitrarily deemed High Security (military) Zones by the army which is causing untold suffering to tens of thousands of local Tamil people. Additionally, the lack of any progress by the State for the distribution of foreign aid meant for the Tamil Tsunami victims in the northeast even after ten months of the Boxing Day 2004 catastrophe, makes it clear that it is the State that is in breach of the essentials of the Peace Process. Even the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) signed between the Government and the LTTE for the distribution of foreign Tsunami funds to the Northeast has been stymied by the Sinhala south of the country and the Government's judiciary.
On the political front, as far as we are aware, both the LTTE and the Government had agreed to a federal constitutional model under the principles of the Oslo Accord following the Norwegian backed facilitation. But this is now under threat from the Sinhala side.
Although this commitment from both sides should not be altered, we see yet again, in the context of the on-going Presidential elections, one of the candidates- the (Sinhala) Prime Minister - has issued a manifesto pledge that he would not go through with the Federal constitution as agreed with the LTTE in Oslo . He is tied to extremist Sinhala Buddhist parties in the south that have vowed to abrogate the CFA and the P-TOMS Agreement. Should this Accord also be abrogated, it will be yet another instance of Sinhala government perfidy, adding to a long history of serious political about-turns by Sinhala governments after entering into solemn constitutional Agreements signed between Sinhala Representatives of the central State and elected Representatives of the Tamil people from 1948 to date. To the Tamils of Sri Lanka, these constitutional agreements with the governments have not been worth the paper that they have been signed on. It is our earnest hope and desire that the involvement of the international community and, the EU in particular, will result in a guarantee of constitutional safeguard as agreed and a level playing field to both parties
In view of the foregoing submission and any other aspect you may wish to take into consideration, we request you to kindly re-consider the existing EU Declaration in the interest and context of the Peace Process in Sri Lanka.