Latest UTHR Report...
Is a Damage Control Exercise say Tamil Activists

Sydney, July 1, 1998 (SAMS) Tamil activists in Australia and in the West described the latest report by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna Branch) (UTHR(JB)) as a damage control exercise commissioned by the Sri Lankan government.

Tamils have repeatedly accused UTHR(JB) of being a bogus human rights organization run by two brothers, Rajan Hoole and Rajeevan Hoole, who have personal grudges against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Also, the University of Jaffna wrote several open letters distancing itself from the UTHR(JB).

Tamil activists say that the latest report was prompted by the embarrassment caused by the visit of the UN official Mr.Olara Ottunu to the LTTE controlled area.

Sri Lankan government accused the LTTE of recruiting children in its war against Sri Lanka. Mr.Ottunu visited the LTTE controlled area to assess the veracity of Sri Lanka's claim and got assurance from the LTTE that it will not recruit anyone below the age of 17 and that it will not send anyone below 18 to battle. LTTE further wanted the UN to set up a monitoring team in Sri Lanka to monitor compliance by both parties.

During Ottunu's visit, Sri Lanka's deputy defense minister, Mr.Ratwatte announced that the Sri Lankan army faced a severe shortage of manpower due to large scale desertions and that the government will target schools for fresh recruits. Moreover, Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Mr.Kathirgamar refused Mr. Ottunu permission to set up any UN monitoring team in Sri Lanka although Mr.Ottunu was invited by Sri Lanka.

Many analysts in Sri Lankan papers have written that the LTTE has used Mr.Ottunu's visit to embarrass the Sri Lankan government. "What was supposed to be an exercise in tarnishing the image of LTTE has seriously back fired", one analyst wrote.

"This is where [Dr. Rajan] Hoole comes in to save Sri Lanka once more" says Mr.Balan, a Tamil activist in Australia. "UTHR reports state that LTTE is in an advanced state of decay and that it is forcing the closure of schools in a desperate attempt to recruit students... within a week of the UTHR(JB) report, LTTE stopped a major assault by the Sri Lankan army, inflicting heavy casualties on the Jeya Sikurui troops." he added.

Another Tamil activist wrote in an Internet newsgroup: "The LTTE assured Mr.Ottunu that it will not send anyone below 18 to battle and wanted the UN to deploy a team to monitor compliance... it is the Sri Lankan government which refused permission for any UN monitoring team...the Sri Lankan government also does not allow reporters into the north and east. If there is any truth in the UTHR(JB) claims, the Sri Lankan government would have allowed independent observers into the region to verify them. Instead the Sri Lankan government has imposed a strict censorship on reporting."

Recently, the UTHR(JB) reports have also been contradicted by a popular Tamil weekly, Thinamurasu, published from Colombo. UTHR(JB) reports accuse the LTTE of murdering Ms. Rajini Thiranagama, the founding member of UTHR. However, Thinamurasu has published details of the murder as the work of the Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), a militant group which worked for the Indian army during its 1987-1990 operation against the LTTE.

Copyright 1998 South Asian Media Services

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