Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
An Open Appeal to the Leaders of the Member Nations of the European Union
Honourable Leaders of:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Republic of), Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom
Re: The Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union condemning the actions of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The above declaration made on the 29th September 2005 by the EU Presidency on behalf of your Nations has been received with confusion and apprehension by the peace-loving Tamils living around the globe.
The Cease-fire Agreement of 2002, followed by the 6 rounds of negotiations between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Government (SLG) with the help of the Norwegian mediators, was based on the condition, accepted by all the parties privy to the peace process, that both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government are to be treated as equal partners in this process. From the time the US tried to undermine this condition by not inviting the LTTE to the Washington meeting the peace process has run into stormy waters.
The EU, no doubt, has become a major stakeholder in this peace process as it has come forward to be a Co-Chair of the Tokyo Donor Conference. Until 29th of September 2005, the EU has positively contributed to this peace process, not only by its financial assistance, but also by the neutral stand taken by it in exerting pressure on both sides whenever needed to keep them on course vis-à-vis the peace process.
Even as late as 19th of September 2005, after the Co-Chairs met in New York to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka, following the assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kadirgamar, the EU joined the other three members of the Co-Chair to caution both the parties equally. While the Co-Chairs asked the LTTE to immediately put an end to political assassinations and to the recruitment of child soldiers, the Co-Chairs underscored the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government under the cease-fire agreement to disarm or to relocate the paramilitary groups from the northeast.
These statements demonstrate the fact that the LTTE’s alleged political assassinations and the failure of the government to disarm or to relocate the paramilitary groups are interrelated.
However, within a period of 10 days the EU’s shift in its neutral position to one that is supporting the SLG has only confused the Tamil people and made them apprehensive. There were no major allegations against the LTTE during this 10 days period for the EU to shift its position from neutral to partisan. Therefore, it is obvious that some other force outside the EU has played a hand for the EU to change its position. Although the Sri Lankan government has been complaining that the EU is lenient with the LTTE and needed to act against the LTTE, the EU never acceded to this request.
What is this external force that persuaded the EU to change its position? A day after the declaration made by the EU Presidency, Christina Rocca, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, in an interview to the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) said "the travel ban is a concerted message from the Co-Chairs – the US, EU, Japan and Norway – which strongly felt that a wanton act of terrorism of the nature of the assassination of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar should not go unpunished." However, Norway has publicly declared that they had nothing to do with the EU ban and they have not changed their role in the peace process. Japan is maintaining silence on this matter. Is Rocca correct that this is more than a message from the EU? Is it any wonder Tamils are confused?
Dear leaders of the European Nations, did you ask for evidence from your Presidency to prove that the LTTE is alone suspected of assassinating the Sri Lankan foreign minister Laksman Kadirgamar, as Sri Lankan government claims, before you decided on the change in the EU’s position on the above matter?
Dear leaders of the European Nations, some of you may not know that Britain's actions are one of the main causes of the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. The Dutch and Portuguese colonizers who occupied the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) did not amalgamate the two separate Kingdoms (Tamil and the Singhalese) that existed at that time in Ceylon during their reign. But, when Britain took over Ceylon, the two Kingdoms were amalgamated for easy administration. However, when Britain gave independence to Ceylon, she failed to establish a federal government in Ceylon and left the Tamils to be ruled by the majority Singhalese. This has led to the present situation and all the violence related to the freedom struggle taking place on the island. Britain now, instead of trying to help to solve the problem it created by its blunders in the past, is using its current EU Presidency to throw spanners into the good works the Norwegians have achieved so far.
On the issue of the LTTE’s alleged recruitment of child soldiers, are you aware what Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe, the former Prime Minister and the present presidential candidate, said in parliament on 08.05.1998, "The security forces are campaigning in schools, to encourage 15 year old school children to join the army. When I comment on this, they call me a traitor. If it is so, is Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar also a traitor, who is campaigning in foreign countries saying that the LTTE is recruiting children to their forces?" Wickramasinghe pointed out that the Army had launched a campaign in schools to recruit school children into the army while Mr. Olara Otunnu, UN Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict was visiting the country at that time. It is hard to understand why there is such a double standard between the LTTE and the SLG on this issue.
I have well documented 96 cases of rape and murder of Tamil youths, several of which had more than one victim - even tens of victims in some cases - committed between 1983 and 2000 by the Sri Lankan security forces. Why did the EU turned a blind eye to these violent incidents while now trying to control the violent activities of the LTTE as alleged by the Sri Lankan government?
While the EU has turned a blind eye when the Sri Lankan air force bombers bombed churches full of Tamil refugees and school playgrounds full of Tamil students, and Tamil people were buried in mass graves like the one which was dug out at Chemmani, why is the EU only raising its voice against the LTTE that is alleged by the Sri Lankan government to be conducting political assassinations?
Dear leaders, you may think that, due to the EU’s pressure, the LTTE may be forced to come to the negotiating table. Most probably the opposite is going to happen. By the EU’s action, the Tamil people, who all this time relied on the international community to find a peaceful settlement to their problem, will loose faith in the international community and may walk away from the peace process.
Therefore, I urge you leaders, to break your silence on this matter and re-consider lifting the travel embargo that has been announced by your Presidency on the 29th of September for the peace process to continue.
Dr. Victor Rajakulendran
Posted October 6, 2005