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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil Eelam Struggle for FreedomInternational Frame & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > United Kingdom > International Tamil Foundation, London to UK Government on proposed proscription of LTTE

united kingdom
& the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

International Tamil Foundation to UK Government 
on proposed proscription of LTTE

7 February 2001

Rt Hon Jack Straw
Secretary of State 
Home Office
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT

Dear Sir

Proscribing the LTTE 

We, the members of the International Tamil Foundation, based in London and functioning as a 'think tank' in this country for the past thirteen years, wish to submit the following for your urgent and earnest consideration.

There have been disturbing reports in recent weeks that the British Government is giving serious consideration to pressures being exerted by the Sri Lanka Government to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on British soil. Repeated demands for a ban have been made by Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, who, as you would know is NOT an elected member of parliament, representing neither a Tamil nor a Sinhala electorate. Sinhala racist organisations in Colombo have also now joined the noisy chorus. We of course do not believe, as they expect, that making an unnerving din in Colombo should become a good enough reason to ban an organisation in Britain, 5,000 miles away. After all, every country is known to act in its own self-interest, and not in the self-interest of another. It is a heartening sign however that Her Excellency the President herself has not hitherto made a public issue of this.

History of proscription in Sri Lanka and the lessons to be drawn from it

It is not widely known that though the war in Sri Lanka is in its eighteenth year, the proscription of the LTTE goes back to twenty two years! On the 22nd May 1978 the Sri Lankan government, under a previous President, Junius Richard Jayawardene, introduced what was described as "Proscribing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil eelam and other Similar Organisations Law No.16 of 1978". The period of that proscription was limited to one year, in the expectation that the LTTE yet in its nascent stage, could be suppressed within that time. Instead, it appeared to be getting stronger. One year later, on the 21st May 1979, the earlier Act was amended substituting the words 'two years' in place of 'one year'. But when it was discovered by July the same year that the exercise was becoming profitless, it was decided to replace the earlier law proscribing the LTTE by a wider one - the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary  Provisions) Act.

Three years later, in July 1982, the PTA, despite the indications of its temporary nature, was made a part of the permanent law of the land. One year later came the horrendous State-aided, anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983. The now ongoing ruinous war that had its beginnings then, has been going on endlessly. What price proscription? There is a saying "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". In Sri Lanka, Sir, the experiment with proscription has also led to an entrenched racist outlook: in the eyes of the government, every Tamil (in bad light) looks like a Tiger!

India and the US

The two other governments that have proscribed the LTTE are India and the US, each for a different reason; India, which having gone into Sri Lanka as a 'Peace-Keeping Force' has been unable to live down its history of a fruitless war against the LTTE, and the US, because Madame Albright at that time thought it would be a good idea! 

India, the country next door to Sri Lanka, the regional superpower with a long history of intervention in Sri Lankan affairs, and a country that once spelt out the doctrine that she has the first exclusive say in her little neighbour's affairs, today stands like a helpless onlooker while faraway Norway has taken centre stage as a virtual mediator. Why? The price of banning the LTTE. She has lost credibility in the eyes of the world as a legitimate interventionist and in the eyes of the Tamils as an honest broker. So has the US, the world's only superpower that has a finger in every pie. 

This issue of proscription Sir, is not one that affects the LTTE only. It is an issue that affects all Tamils, including the 100,000 Tamils living in this country, leading peaceful lives, and contributing towards the economy of this country in various ways. One should not fall for the fiction that Sri Lankan governments have all along propagated - that the LTTE and the Tamil people are two different entities. It has been a convenient ruse to point out at some small Tamil parties functioning in Colombo as representing a different, wholesome Tamil opinion. That theory now stands exploded, after a group of ten Tamil parties, consisting of men who have been 'democratically' elected to parliament met the British High Commissioner in Colombo and emphasised the need to talk to the LTTE.

We, who represent the International Tamil Foundation, consist of professionals, many of whom were born under the British rule in Ceylon, and who have lived in this country for several years and become part of the landscape here. We have learnt to admire the sturdy foundations of British Democracy, and Human Liberty going back to the Magna Carta of 1215. It therefore alarms us that a self-important, non-elected Foreign Minister of a non-functioning Democracy, such as Sri Lanka, dependent on international doles, should succeed in laying down the law to the Mother of Parliaments, and threaten this country with dire consequences if she does not proscribe the LTTE. Viewed in isolation, one could dismiss Mr Kadirgamar's performance as some light comic opera, but what really alarms us are the reports that the British Government is giving serious attention to his threats.

We live in the hope that you Sir, will not be a party to what could become an ominous precedent in Britain's long history of tolerance and liberal values. 

With assurances of the highest esteem, we remain, Sir,

C J T Thamotheram - Founder
R Ganeshalingam - Chairman


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