The following summary tries to explain in short why the LTTE wants and needs to visit European, and generally Western countries. The LTTE motivations are two, educational and political.
Coming to the educational motivation, the LTTE delegations in Europe took much trouble in educating themselves about different systems of state building and about democracy. Just to give some few glimpses: The team visited the German parliament, where they received a guided tour and an introduction to the practicalities of the federal structure in Germany. The next day was spent taking in lectures about the federal structures in four European countries and compared aspects of their systems. The committee visited the German Federal Foreign Ministry before heading to the Bundesrat, or second chamber for a discussion on the role of that house. The day concluded with a tour of the political sights around Berlin.
The LTTE team, coming to Finland, went on board a ferry to Mariehamn on the Aland Islands.The Aland Islands are a demilitarised, neutral autonomous region of Finland. It was granted demilitarised status in 1856 and this was reconfirmed in 1921, when the League of Nations, in their first decision, decided that the islands should remain a part of Finland, but be made neutral and granted sufficient autonomy to preserve the language and culture of the Swedish speaking population. On board the ferry, a member of the Swiss Parliament addressed the group on models of self-government, while another specialist provided some general background on the autonomy of the Aland Islands. In Mariehamn, the Deputy Speaker of the Aland Parliament spoke on the role of the parliament, while the Secretary General of the Legislative Assembly; spoke of the legal guarantees that protect the status of the islands and the duties of the Legislative Assembly. The Governor, spoke on his role as the Finnish representative in the Aland Islands, while the Deputy Head of the Aland Government also addressed the team. There was an address titled “Aland in the Finnish Parliament”, by the MP representing Aland in the Finnish parliament. This was followed by presentations on different aspects of the administrative functions carried out by the Aland Government. The team visited Bomarsund, a fortress that was supposed to form the base of Russian defences against France and England in the 1800s. The fortress was destroyed in 1856, during the Crimean War, and the Aland Islands first became demilitarised when the parties singed the Paris Treaty that same year. The visit was followed by a lecture from the director of the Aland Peace Institute on the demilitarisation and neutralisation of the Aland Islands. In Helsinki, the LTTE delegation visited the Prison of Vantaa, to study the Finnish corrections system. While at the parliament, the team was presented with an introduction to legislative work by the Director of Legislation, and a personal view of the status of Swedish speaking people in Finland by the honorary Consul General of Sri Lanka. This was followed by a discussion with the Human Rights Group in the parliament. The LTTE committee was provided with an opportunity to have informal discussions with many representatives from Finish Ministries. Also at dinner was Mr. R. Sivalingam, a lecturer in Tamil at Helsinki University who translated the Finnish national literary epic Kalevala into Tamil. In a seminar the LTTE learned about the role of civil society in Finland in protecting human rights and empowering minorities. The LTTE team had a thematic afternoon focussing on disabled persons at the Invalid Foundation’s Rehabilitation Centre Orton. There was an introduction to Orton by the Director of the centre, before the group was addressed by the Threshold Association, a human rights organisation for disabled people, and by a development fund for supporting organisations of disabled people. There was also a presentation by the Director of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute’s Centre for Torture Survivors in Finland. In Copenhagen the team visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Lars Bo Olsen of the Danish Ministry of Defence addressed the committee on democratic control of the military. This was followed by an address on Denmark’s foreign policy by the Director of the Asia Office in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The team was introduced to the local government system in Denmark, which included a visit to Gentofte local council. The LTTE also visited the Danish Institute for Human Rights. The team was informed of the work the Danish Institute for Human Rights has been doing in Nepal, Malawi, Albania and South Africa among other places. A representative from International Media Support also spoke to the team on the role of the media, and especially on the workshops his organisation has been running on the topic of “Being a professional journalist, whilst also supporting the peace process in Sri Lanka”. The team was able to discuss issues surrounding Home Rule in Greenland with the Greenland representative in Copenhagen. The study tour concluded two weeks later with a tired LTTE delegation leaving Copenhagen for their various destinations. It had been viewed as a success by all concerned, with many officials expressing their joy and satisfaction at being able to meet representatives of the LTTE personally.
Coming to the political motivation, the LTTE and the Tamil diaspora realised it was vital to counteract the campaign of the Sri Lankan state by informing about the Cease-Fire Agreement, ISGA, elections, and p-toms. The lobbying may also have helped in some cases in legitimising the LTTE in the eyes of international community. Due to constant lobbying and engagement with the international community, the LTTE was able to neutralise the Lankan government’s diplomatic initiatives carried out from its missions overseas.
The EU’s decision to restrict travelling for the LTTE has put a stop to the educational process in democracy that the LTTE itself has chosen to pass through. The decision has also resulted in a reduction of information about the LTTE’s aspirations through personal encounter. The present official information is limited to one sided government propaganda launched by Lankan ambassadors in Europe. What has been exchanged in oral communication in personal encounters between the LTTE team and European state officials has been of great value for trust building. The decision of the EU has been extremely destructive for the process to reach a negotiated peace. It should be revised without delay.