The Proscription of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the EU

The Austrian Presidency on behalf of the European Union announced the decision taken on May 29th by the Council of the European Union to list the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

As a result, paragraph one of the Declaration orders the immediate freezing and banning of financial and other economic resources that could directly or indirectly benefit LTTE-related persons, groups and entities. To put these provisions into effect the judicial and police services in the 25 member states of the EU are instructed to cooperate in taking appropriate measures for their enforcement. In other words, the primary objective of the EU proscription is to dry up the external material support for the LTTE in its struggle against the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), the primary group aimed at is the Tamil expatriate community in Europe.

(1) While the EU declaration expresses in the following its desire to maintain a dialogue with the LTTE, thus recognizing that the organization is an indispensable institution in any peace process, it sets out to not only materially weaken one party in an the armed conflict, but squarely denies its political and ideological credentials as a liberation movement thus undermining its legitimacy as a dialogue partner. Further, its representative character is questioned by differentiating between the LTTE (which one condemns and seeks to marginalize) and the Tamil people for whom sympathy is expressed. By thus trying to drive a wedge between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Tamils in the Northeast on the one hand and the LTTE and the Tamils living in Europe on the other, the Council of Ministers’ declared desire to help in arriving at a just negotiated peace is belied by its actions. Implicitely, the declaration calls on the Tamils to submit to the diktat of the Sinhala state. It is objectively an incitement to war.

(2) Formally, the Declaration appears even-handed in addressing and castigating in the following three paragraphs not only the LTTE but also the GOSL for the upsurge in violence. Thus, it calls on both to curb violence in the areas under their respective control, it demands from the government to stop the culture of impunity and ensure law and order for all citizens of the country, and, finally, warns to keep the situation under active review taking account of the activities of all parties to the conflict. But this equi-distance is only rhetoric. When it comes to actions a different picture emerges.

(3) The Karuna group is mentioned as effectively a third party to be considered in the conflict. This is disingenuous because (a) the then UNP government boasted having secretly helped the Karuna group to split off from the LTTE while publicly favouring peace-talks; (b) in the Geneva talks of February 2006, the LTTE revealed what had been an open secret that the paramilitaries work hand in hand with the army carrying on a low-intensity proxy war; (c) according to the CFA of February 2002 it is the responsibility of the GOSL to disarm the paramilitaries, a stipulation which, however, has at no time been implemented. That, for all pratical purposes, the government is in control of the paramilitaries was proved when prior to Geneva there was a sudden and dramatic drop in violence on all fronts. Thus, to treat the Karuna faction as a third party effectively exculpates the GOSL.

(4) To call on the GOSL to ensure law and order for all citizens, the reminder to both parties of their agreement in Oslo 2002 ‘to explore a specific institutional solution for Si Lanka’ is as vague and neutral in its formulation as it is one-sided, if not false in fact. The peace–talks in the aftermath of the CFA – which incidentally followed a unilateral cease-fire by the LTTE – were made possible by the prior declaration of the LTTE to explore internal self-determination. Oslo explicitely specified the framework as meaning a federal state. The proposal for an Internal Self-Governing Administration (ISGA) of 2003 by the LTTE provided a possible operational structure. By contrast, no concession has been offered by the Singhalese parties and governments, no constitutional proposals in that sense have ever been made. On the contrary, this President together with his governing coalition came to power explicitely rejecting any dilution of the unitary centralized state. The P-TOMS, the organizational set-up suggested for the distribution of aid to the tsunami victims were torpedoed precisely on these grounds by the same Sinhala extremist coalition. For them they are neither ‘citizens of Sri Lanka’ nor destitute victims of a natural catastophe but primarily ‘races’, especially Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese. To formally call on both sides, denies these truths, shifts the blame to both sides where the GOSL specifically, the majority community generally, carry the principal responsibility for the impasse.

(5) Against this background, the talk of dialogue with the LTTE, the EU’s proclaimed determination to continue playing its role as Tokyo Co-Chair, to help bring about peace, simply ring hollow. They can not be taken seriously because the proscription of the LTTE changes their character from a party in a politico-ethnic conflict and equal partner in negotiations to a criminal gang that poses a problem of law and order and has to be dealt with by repression ands according to penal law. Thus, the very basis for negotiations has been removed as the then Wickremasinghe government knew only to well when it lifted the proscription of the LTTE prior to talks.

(6) As pointed out at the outset, there is yet another, even more sinister side to the EU listing. It is not only directed against the forces fighting for their rights on a far away island in the Indian Ocean. No, the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Europe who in the face of collective discrimination and presecution, even bloody pogroms, have fled their home in the search for security and a peaceful existence must know that not dissimilar from their experience back home they are first of all collectively viewed with suspicion. No Tamil can again come to Europe to successfully ask for political asylum because of persecution by the Sinhala state; he must at the same time destroy the suspicion of any direct or indirect association with the LTTE. In this context, one wonders as to the EU’s claim of cherishing democracy. Did not the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which obtained 22 out of 23 seats in the Tamil dominated electoral districts of the Northeast during the elections of 2004, proclaim the LTTE as sole authentic representative of the Tamil people? Was it not an overwhelming democratic proof that the Tigers are considered the bulwark and guarantee of the Sri Lankan Tamils’ existential interests? Will association with it now be branded as a criminal activity? Whatever individual decision will be taken in future, every organisation of Tamils here in Europe, whether engaged in cultural or humanitarian activities will now come under scrutiny by the police, the secret services, and the judiciary from Italy over France, to Germany, the Netherlands and the UK acting individually and jointly. Fear will now be an additional feature of the already socially marginalized, legally insecure Tamils living in the EU. From now on they will be subject to permanent surveillance and rampant denunciation because every material link with back home can/will be suspected as support for the LTTE, an association which renders everyone here a terrorist and criminal.

It is high time that not only the Tamils but all immigrants in the EU and, not least, the native citizens of Europe themselves rise in protest against this new government sponsored attack on human rights not only out of solidarity with a suffering minority but in their own long-term interest.

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