Daily Archives: December 17, 2006

Washington Times says Strangulate Tiger Financial Resources for Peace

By Walter Jayawardhana

Advocating strongly the strangulation of financial resources for the terrorist Tamil Tigers for a successful peace accord in Sri Lanka the Washington Times said one major source for their war chest is ostensibly charitable organizations like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO).

Editorially attacking the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the second consecutive day the strongly anti-terrorist newspaper in its issue of December 17 said that the Tamil Tigers have one political goal and that is the division of the small island and the creation of a separate state, which is justifiably rejected by the Sri Lankan government.

The editorial entitled, The Peace and the Tamil Tigers? charged the LTTE is collecting money from the Tamil Diaspora by coercion and extortion for their war chests.

The following is the full text of the editorial:

A successful peace accord cannot be reached in Sri Lanka until the financial support for the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam can be altogether strangled. The Tamil Tigers have one political goal: a division of the small island and the creation of a separate state. The Sri Lankan government, however, justifiably rejects this notion. The Tigers’ pursuit of that goal, the last two decades of conflict and failed ceasefires have shown, trumps considerations of peace.

One major financial source for the Tigers are Tamil expatriates living in the United States, Canada and Europe, isolated from the violence that their money supports. Ostensibly charitable organizations — the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization is a prominent example — collect donations and channel the money to the Tamil Tigers and their war chest. These donations are sometimes made with the purposeful support of the Tigers, but — alarmingly — other times donations are coerced or extorted from Tamils living in the West, according to a Human Rights Watch report released in March. "Fundraisers for the LTTE and LTTE-linked organizations went from house to house, and approached businesses and professionals, demanding significant sums of money for their cause. In Canada, families were typically pressed for between Cdn$2,500 and Cdn$5,000, while some businesses were asked for up to Cdn$100,000. Members of the Tamil community in the U.K., France, Norway, and other European countries were asked for similar amounts." Failure to pay led to harassment and threats.

The reliance of the Tigers on its "charitable" groups in the West like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization should give the Tamil communities outside of Sri Lanka influence in the Tigers’ objectives and tactics, the Human Rights Watch report argues, but that influence is "effectively neutralized by the LTTE’s effective use of intimidation and extortion within the community." While true, the Tigers’ financial dependence on the Tamil diaspora also gives Western governments the opportunity to help bring the Tigers back to the negotiating table. Restrictions on Tiger fundraising in the West was seriously hampered this year by bans in Canada and the European Union, and in the United States this year, authorities arrested several men in New York and Baltimore suspected of attempting to purchase weapons for the Tigers. This is the kind of crackdown that needs to continue.

To bring the Tamil Tigers into meaningful and lasting cease-fire agreement, and stop the violence that is besieging the small nation, it’s fund-raising activities in the West will need to be stopped. As long as the Tamil Tigers have the support of funds flowing in from outside Sri Lanka, the group will be undeterred from pursuing its political agenda through violent methods.

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Crack in Reformists group emerges

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The campaign to clip UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s wings has suffered a setback with the Reformists going their different ways.

The reversal couldn’t have come at a worse time, a former minister told the Sunday Island.

A well informed source said that Wickremesinghe’s erstwhile buddy Milinda Moragoda, MP, weakened the Reformists’ campaign by seeking a private arrangement with President Mahinda Rajapakse, a charge vehemently denied by him.

Moragoda’s recent confab with Rajapakse at Temple Trees in the company of a media mogul who is a mutual friend of both Wickremesinghe and Moragoda had taken the Reformists by total surprise.

A furious reformist slammed Moragoda over what he termed as a treacherous move that would cause irreparable damage to their cause.

The Sunday Island learns that Wickremesinghe’s camp was taking advantage of the situation to undermine the Reformists’ campaign.

"The media is manipulated to paint a case of deception and deceit," an insider said adding, "A section of the media would shield the business tycoon.

Others would speculate on the possibility of Moragoda switching allegiance to President Rajapakse to cripple the ongoing inquiries by the parliamentary watchdog on state sector corruption."

The JVP had been flabbergasted by the unprecedented move. JVP sources claimed that this would have far reaching implications. The fallout would be catastrophic, the sources said faulting President Rajapakse for giving into a devious strategy. Referring to the UNP – Sri Lanka Freedom Party bilateral agreement, the sources said that the business-magnate led move remained a mystery.

Wickremesinghe is scheduled to return from the US tonight. UNP sources said that Wickremesinghe’s position had been dramatically strengthened by the crisis in the Reformists’ camp. "They are no longer united," an MP said. He described them as a gang of opportunists bent on securing ministerial perks.

A leading member of the Reformists yesterday expressed the belief that they could still outgun Wickremesinghe. "If he didn’t accept our proposals, we’ll remove him," he said. Claiming that the Reformists had the numbers to push Wickremesinghe out of the Opposition Leader’s office, the former minister emphasised that they would make their case at tomorrow’s Working Committee.

Among the proposals was the expansion of the Working Committee to 117. The proposals envisaged the appointment of 15 members by the leader and the rest by organisations and associations affiliated to the party.

The Reformists also proposed that all appointments should be recommended by the Political Affairs Committee and endorsed by the Working Committee.

The Sunday Island learns that Wickremesinghe would move amendments to the proposals. The Reformists would accept amendments if they did not dilute the original proposals, the sources said. However the recent developments triggered by the media tycoon is likely to dent the Reformists’ campaign. -The Sunday Island

Terrorist offences broadly defined in anti-terror law

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has called on parliament and the Government of Sri Lanka to amend the new counter-terrorism regulations promulgated by President Mahinda Rajapakse, to ensure they do not criminalize peaceful and legitimate activities and that they respect the rule of law.

"These regulations create sweeping and broadly defined terrorist offences that go well beyond recognised terrorist acts that can be legitimately criminalized," says Gerald Staberock, director of ICJ’s Global Security and Rule of Law Programme, in a statement issued on Friday. "The regulations could lead to prosecutions of, amongst others, peaceful demonstrators, those seeking peacefully to resolve the conflict, humanitarian aid workers, human rights workers and journalists," he notes. "Indeed, anyone who has dealings in the North or East of the country, or who is remotely connected to any person suspected of terrorism, could find themselves a terrorist suspect."

The ICJ recognises that Sri Lanka faces serious security threats, especially in light of recent violent attacks, such as the killing of 68 civilians in a claymore mine attack in Kebitigollewa in June, the assassination of the Deputy Secretary General of the Government’s Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process in Colombo in August, and the suicide attack on the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence in Colombo in December.

However, security laws, especially those establishing new criminal offences, must comply strictly with the principle of legality: people must know clearly whether their actions would amount to a criminal act, the statement says. Furthermore, the law must not criminalize the legitimate exercise of constitutional rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

The regulations criminalize actions that disrupt public order if the aim is to bring about "political or governmental change" or compel the government "to do or abstain from doing any act". Such sweeping language could easily include lawful conduct such as organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations or industrial strikes.

The regulations also open the door to people being convicted of helping suspected terrorists even if they had no knowledge or intention that their acts would have this effect. For example, under these regulations, a person could be sent to prison for five to 10 years for unknowingly supporting, advising, encouraging, promoting or assisting a person or group engaging in terrorism (as it is defined in the regulations).

"Under international law, a government has a right to prosecute people who incite others to violence, racial hatred and terrorist acts. But the regulations do not make clear that any person accused of having somehow contributed to a terrorist act must have intended to do so. These regulations threaten open and possibly controversial debate over the conflict in Sri Lanka," Staberock is quoted as saying.

The ICJ is concerned that the regulations will have a detrimental impact on humanitarian assistance, attempts to resolve the conflict and human rights work. Under the regulations, national and international organisations must obtain prior written authorisation by a "Competent Authority" before they can deal with any person or group who may be engaged in "terrorism" or "any specified terrorist activity". In effect, this applies to organisations providing aid and assistance in the North and East.

"So many civilians in the North and East depend for their survival on humanitarian assistance from national and international organisations. We urge the authorities to ensure that these vital organisations can continue to carry out any lawful activities without hindrance," Staberock asserts.

The regulations set up an "Appeals Tribunal" to which decisions of the "Competent Authority" can be challenged. However, any appeal process must be carried out by an independent and impartial judicial body using established, transparent and fair procedures. The "Appeals Tribunal", which consists of representatives of key government ministries, clearly does not meet these standards.

Of equal concern is the inclusion of blanket immunity from any legal proceedings for government officials who may commit wrongful acts when they implement these regulations. Legal proceedings will be blocked if an official acted "in good faith and in the discharge of his official duties". This immunity echoes similar provisions in other security legislation in Sri Lanka and will only further entrench the culture of impunity prevalent in Sri Lanka.

The ICJ called on parliament to engage in a meaningful and transparent debate about these regulations. Substantial changes should be made to make any such regulations fair and just, by bringing them in line with the rule of law and Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations. -The Sunday Island

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