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Diaspora groups reject SL ban, vow to continue struggle

07:12 GMT, updated 23:01 GMT (TGTE, TYO)

Tamil diaspora groups, accused of being "LTTE fronts" by the Sri Lankan government and due to be proscribed, condemned the move as an attempt to criminalise and terrorise Tamils overseas, and vowed to continue to struggle for the Tamil people's liberation from Sri Lankan state repression.

Speaking to Tamil Guardian, representatives of the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC), Canadian Tamil Congress, National Council of Canadian Tamils, Tamil Coordinating Committee UK, British Tamils Forum, and the Global Tamil Forum, said the move was an attempt to silence Tamil voices outside the island, and force the homeland to distance itself from the diaspora, for fear of reprisal.

Speaking to the Tamil Guardian Mr. Suren Surendiran of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) said,

"President Mahinda Rajapaksa's authoritarian tendencies make him think that he can now suppress freedom not just on the island, but even overseas."

Stating that this was yet further proof of the Sri Lankan government's lack of will to even attempt to resolve the root causes of the Tamil national question, Mr Surendiran added,

"The proscription is an attempt to intimidate members of organisations like the GTF with terror tactics.”

Highlighting the Sri Lankan government's long-standing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to curtail Tamil resistance, Krisna Saravanamuttu of the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) told Tamil Guardian.

"The PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) is a tool of Sri Lankan genocide. It's been used to commit heinous crimes against our people both before and during the war. Today the PTA continues to terrorise Tamils in the North-East. The government is now directing the PTA against the Tamil diaspora, which is emerging as a serious factor in the Tamil liberation struggle.”

“Regardless of the shortcomings of the UNHRC resolution, the government's ban is a cynical move in the aftermath of Geneva,” he added.

Expressing serious concerns about the impact of the proscription on the safety of Tamils in Sri Lanka and those abroad who returned, Kana Nirmalan of the British Tamils Forum (BTF) told the Tamil Guardian,

“This move would enable the Sri Lankan government to target any Tamil on the island who has a link, direct or indirect, to one of these organisations.”

“In the past few weeks, Sri Lanka has markedly stepped up its campaign of detaining and harassing human rights defenders, witnesses to international crimes and the Tamil population at large; hence, these reports give us cause for great concern.”

Echoing concerns about the implications for Tamils on the island currently engaging with the Tamil diaspora organisations proscribed, Mr. David Poopalapillai of the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) told the Tamil Guardian the proscription was “yet another attempt by the Sri Lankan state to break the intrinsic connections between the diaspora and the Tamil people on the island."

He added,

"We are concerned about the well-being of our people back home, as this legislation will criminalise the people we work with, and prevent Tamils on the island from receiving any help from the diaspora abroad. Our brothers and sisters on the ground rely on diaspora organisations to voice their grievances to the international community,” 

“Any Tamil person reaching out to the diaspora is now at risk. Such unwarranted and undemocratic actions by the Sri Lankan government, come of no surprise to our organisation, and are in line with government of Sri Lanka's abhorrent response to the UNHRC resolution on promoting accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,”

“The proscription of our organisation, that has never condoned violence nor breached any international laws, defies all international norms. It is one of many continued attempts by the Sri Lankan government to silence the Tamil people on the island,”

Speaking to Tamil Guardian early this morning, Dr Raj T. Rajeswaran, the Chairman of the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) described the Sri Lankan government's actions as "a knee jerk reaction to the recently passed UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka."

"After having silenced all the voices that stood up for democratic governance in Sri Lanka, the government is now trying to intimidate democratic civil society organisations outside Sri Lanka who lobbied in their respective countries to garner support for the recent UNHRC resolution," said Dr Rajeswaran.

"They think they can gag democratic organisations such as ATC from lobbying politicians and eminent persons in Australia to bring an end to what has happened and what is happening to the minorities there."

"The Sri Lankan government's abuse of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 to ban civil society organisations such as the ATC is in a desperate attempt to discredit anyone who is seeking an open, transparent and independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a just and equitable solution to the long standing grievances of Tamil people in Sri Lanka."

The Chair of the Tamil Coordinating Committee UK (TCC UK), Kandiah Rajamanoharan, said to Tamil Guardian that it was no coincidence that Sri Lanka's proscription of the diaspora comes amidst heightened repression and widespread arrests of Tamils in the North-East by the Sri Lankan military.

"The government, even now, has an underlying fear that the Tamil diaspora has not given up on the dream of Tamil Eelam, and has not stopped working towards it. Meanwhile, the state is equally aware that any action taken by those Tamils in the homeland towards Tamil freedom, will be supported and assisted by the diaspora.”

"After the end of the armed conflict, people in the homeland have little political space to act, they remain in a state of deprivation, and are kept by the state in a position where they are unable to conduct even day to day affairs normally. Therefore, the government believes that any act of resistance, however small, even a little protest, must have been funded and supported by the diaspora. Hence they are trying to repress those in the diaspora."

Reflecting on the divisions and differences between all the organisations, Mr. Rajamanoharan said,

"At the end of the day, the Sri Lankan government views any Tamil diaspora political activity as something criminal against the state. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what differences we have between all the groups, when they [Sri Lankan state] attack us they attack us simply because we are Tamils. They do not care about which organisation is which, the fact that we are Tamil is the only incentive they need.”

A highly placed source from the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), told the Tamil Guardian late last night, that the leadership was considering its response, which would be made public in due course. Meanwhile the source added that the TGTE was continuing its scheduled program of work, including its international advocacy initiatives.

Commenting on the proscription the following day, the head of the TGTE, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, said it showed the Sri Lankan government's "desperation, racial exclusiveness, and authoritism," and a "a pathetic attempt of the GOSL to stifle the Tamil political aspirations outside the island."

Calling on the international community to denounce the proscription, Mr. Rudrakumaran said it was an "attempt to weaken the Tamil nation by prohibiting the Tamils inside the island from communicating, sharing and working together with Eelam Tamils outside the island.

A spokesperson from the Tamil Youth Organisation (Norway) said that the Sri Lankan government is criminalising legitimate Tamil political demands.

"It is without a doubt that the proscription of Tamil organisations in the diaspora seeks to create a divide between Tamils abroad and Tamils on the island, and is effectively criminalising legitimate Tamil demands," Vithya Nareshkumar said.

"The intention of this process fits into the state’s overall strategy of genocide to isolate Tamils in the homeland from their kith and kin around the globe."

Reiterating the BTF's commitment to continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of Tamils in the island regardless of any moves by the Sri Lankan state, Mr. Nirmalan said,

“British Tamils Forum has always upheld the values of democracy, transparency and accountability. We have worked and continue to work with well-respected NGOs, governments and institutions in our work to defend the rights and freedoms of Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

“Although we take Sri Lanka's threat seriously, we have high confidence in the rule of law in the UK and are seeking advice on how we may vigorously counter Sri Lanka's efforts to persecute and harass Tamils wherever they may be in the world,” he added.

Emphasising the GTF's determination to work towards solving the Tamil national question and belief in non-violence, Mr. Surendiran said,

"We will be deploying a full array of legal and political measures to send a clear message to the Sri Lankan government that none of these 'terror' tactics will work."

Expressing the NCCT's lack of faith in Sri Lanka's judicial process, Mr. Saravanamuttu of the NCCT said,

"In the coming weeks and months we will be intensifying our efforts amongst global civil society to win support to economically and diplomatically isolate Sri Lanka until their is a genuine solution based on the Tamil Nation's right to self-determination."

See related articles:

Diaspora orgs proscription should not be to stifle free speech or legitimate criticism, UK tells Sri Lanka (02 Apr 2014)

APPGT deplores diaspora ban, calls on international community to condemn Sri Lanka's actions (02 Apr 2014)

Diaspora ban worsens climate for journalists, NGOs and others working with Tamil groups, says Amnesty (02 Apr 2014)

Proscription of diaspora orgs is to demoralise Tamils in homeland - K. Guruparan (02 Apr 2014)

Sri Lanka aims to cut us off from the diaspora - TNA's Shivajilingham (02 Apr 2014)

The proscription of the Tamil Diaspora: War by other means (01 Apr 2014)

Proscription of diaspora orgs 'shameful' says former UK MP, GTF policy advisor (01 Apr 2014)

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