& the Struggle for Tamil Eelam
Federation of Tamil Associations, UK
writes to Prime Minister Blair on LTTE proscription
14 February 2001
The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP,
10 Downing Street,
Proscription of the LTTE
The British Government is being heavily lobbied by the Sri Lankan Government to
proscribe the LTTE under the Anti - terrorism act. The Foreign Minister of Sri
Lanka is a persistent advocate of this line, issuing veiled threats to the
British Government that failure to do so would be considered as an unfriendly
act by the Sri Lankan Government. These threats are frequently made in public
via the printed media in Sri Lanka and India.
The British Government has a unique and historical link with the many peoples
who together form Sri Lanka of today. It is under the constitutional guarantees
given by the British Government of the day , that the Tamil people who had lived
and thrived as a nation of their own before the advent of the British Empire,
acceded to the formation of Ceylon which had a Sinhala majority.
The British Government is aware of the contempt with which the Sinhala majority
treated the constitutional guarantees given to all the peoples at independence.
The rulings of the Privy Council in constitutional disputes were bypassed with
total disregard to British sensitivities.
Since early 1950's the Tamils have been settling in Great Britain in increasing
numbers in order to live in peace and rear our children without fear or
intimidation. We were fleeing from the land of our birth where respect for
individual and group rights had disappeared and
where the rule of law
and liberty were being flouted. The Tamils of Sri Lanka are a cultured
people with a high level of literacy with the ability to recognise between right
We have integrated well into the cultural life of this country and contributed
our best to the advancement of our domicile land. We are intensely proud of the
British values, its contribution to freedom, democracy and above all to justice
and fair play.
However one looks at it -
Sri Lanka's record of humanitarian abuses are too evident to suppress. A
great country at independence fifty years ago, and now by corrupt governance
cascading to chaos and anarchy.
The Tamil people are the main victims and have suffered many indignities in the
process is also well documented. The international community had then turned a
muted eye to their suffering. It is the
struggle of the LTTE which brought our people's suffering into the open for
all the world to see. The LTTE and its armed struggle is the only leverage the
Tamil people have to address their grievances against the Sri Lankan state.
Your Excellency we trust that the British Government will not lament like
Lord Soulbury the author of the independent Constitution and the first
Governor General of Ceylon did after hindsight. To quote Lord Soulbury:
"Needless to say the consequences have been bitter disappointment to myself and
my fellow Commissioners "
We trust the British Government will not abandon the Tamil
people the second time around on promises alone, as it did before.
The callous and
irresponsible rape of the independent constitution of Ceylon and all its
safeguard by the Sri Lankan state live fresh in our memories through our
suffering as displaced people over many decades. We have witnessed the decay of
our ancestral land and our value systems put in peril.
The British Government has a responsibility in an even way to safeguard the well
being of the Tamil People and in that, its position is unique unlike any other
Dr. N. Satchithananthan
Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP , Secretary of State, Home Office.
Rt. Hon. Robin Cook MP, Secretary Of State , Foreign Office.
Rt. Hon. Frank Field MP
*In order to make this letter short supporting documents are sent as an
The Federation of Tamil Associations United Kingdom:
Chairman: Mr.A.Selvaratnam, LL.B.,DMS, A.C.I.A - Deputy Chairman:
Dr. S.Yogarajah, DMRD, FRCR - Gen. Secretary: Dr. N.Satchithananthan, MBBS -
Secretary: Mr.J.K.Karan, FCCA, FCMA, MBIM - Treasurer: Dr.L.S.Ratnam,
Member Associations: Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Bolton, Hertfordshire,
Liverpool, East London. Tamil Action Committee (UK), T.E.M. London, Manchester,
Milton Keynes, Nottinghamshire, Scotland, Shropshire, St.Albans
Justice Satchi Ponnambalam in Sri Lanka : The National Question and the Tamil
"...The Soulbury constitution was designed for a stage in
constitutional evolution prior to dominion status and full self-government. The
questions of crucial importance to an independent state - citizenship,
franchise, individual and group rights - particularly in a multi-ethnic state,
were not the concern of the Soulbury commission, as it was not fashioning an
independence constitution. At that time, there were no citizens of Sri Lanka, as
all were subjects of the UK... But the British Government granted independence
on the basis of this constitution, which contained no law on citizenship,
franchise and protection of individual and group fundamental rights. These
lacunae in the law of the constitution bequeathed by the British to the people
of Sri Lanka at independence
led to the loss of
citizenship and franchise of one million Tamil people within one year and
progressively they were to lose a lot more ."
Lord Soulbury, the author of the 1946 constitution after having served a
term as governor-general of independent Sri Lanka, in a spirit of repentance for
the failure of the British. took the blame upon himself and later admitted:
" Needless to say the consequences have been bitter
disappointment to myself and my fellow Commissioners. I now think it is a pity
that the commission did not also recommend the entrenchment in the constitution
of guarantees of fundamental rights"
"Among the hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder and
plain barbarity some incidents may be recorded as examples of the kind of
thuggery at work. In the Colombo area the number of atrocities swiftly piled up.
. . .The (Sinhala) thugs ran amok burning houses and shops, beating-up
pedestrians, holding-up vehicles and terrorising the entire city and the
suburbs... .a pregnant (Tamil) woman and her husband were set upon. They clubbed
him and left him on the pavement, then they kicked the woman repeatedly as she
hurried along at a grotesque sprint, carrying her swollen belly."
(Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency' 1958- The story of the Ceylon Race Riots, Andre
Deutsch, London 1958)
"A tragedy is taking place in Sri Lanka: the political conflict
following upon the recent elections, is turning into a racial massacre... At a
time when the West is wake to the evils of radicalism, the racial persecution of
the Tamils and denial of their human rights should not pass without protest...
these cultivated people were put at the mercy of their neighbours less than
thirty years ago by the British Government. They need our attention and
(Sir John Foster, David Astor, Louis Blom-Cooper, Dingle Foot, Robert
Birley, James Fawcett, Michael Scott, London Times, 20 September 1977)
"Under the convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy... a national
ethnical racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide.
The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala
rioters on the Tamils (in July/August 1983) amounted to acts of genocide."
(The International Commission of Jurists Review, December 1993)
"During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights
and the Sub Commission has heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern
at The situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. 'The record shows that
it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early
as 1956 and in 1958 and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from
1972 to 1977 and
culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the
lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people"...
non-governmental organisations at the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on 9 August1995)
David Selbourne, then of Ruskin College Oxford who had studied the conflict in
Sri Lanka closely over the years had this to say:
"The crimes committed by the Sri Lankan State against the Tamil
minority - against its physical security, citizenship rights, and political
representation - are a growing gravity for the international community. Other
countries across the world which have had to shelter the thousands of Tamil
refugees who have fled and are still fleeing the island, must increasingly bear
the cost of the denial of the fundamental political rights of the Tamils of Sri
Lanka. . Report after report by impartial bodies- by Amnesty International, by
International Commission of Jurists, by parliamentary delegates from the west,
by journalists and scholars- have set out clearly the scale of the growing
degeneration of the political and physical well being of the Tamil minority in
Sri Lanka�. everyone who possesses an elementary sense of justice has no moral
choice but to acquaint himself fully with the plight of the Tamil people. It is
an international issue of growing importance. Their cause represents the very
essence of the cause of human rights and justice; and to deny it, debases and
reduces us all."
Anthony Spaeth, Time Magazine 9 February 1998:
"Over the next three decades, politicians indulged in an orgy
of Sinhalese chauvinism at the expense of the Tamils. They devised the
notion that Sinhalese and Tamils didn't "fit" together in Sri Lanka: there
weren't enough jobs, university seats, land. They revived old myths,
the story of Vijaya and the pure, north Indian blood of the Sinhalese race,
and fanned old vulnerabilities."
Peter Popham, The Independent February 10, 1998:
"If images of northern Sri Lanka's internal refugee crisis
were to reach the outside world, there would be an international outcry. But
since the resumption of hostilities in April 1995, the government has forced
a strict blackout of independent coverage of the war�The crisis is made
worse by the government's embargo on medicines. Along with the rationing of
food and other goods, the government has since 1995, imposed tight controls
on the shipping of medicines to the North. Even such basic medicines as
aspirin and antibiotics are in short supply."
The US Committee for Refugees reporting on Sri Lanka:
"For decades, younger generation of Tamils had watched a
succession of Sinhalese dominated governments conspire to undermine Tamil
cultural heritage, linguistic rights, traditional homelands, and education and
employment opportunities all in the name of Sinhalese nationalism and majority
rule. They had watched their own leadership suffer defeat upon humiliating
defeat in Parliament in a futile effort to secure at least equal rights or
limited autonomy. The only way to keep the Sinhalese lion (Sinha) at bay, they
decided, was to become tigers and forcibly wrest from Sri Lanka a separate
nation, Eelam, where Tamils would enjoy the majority or die..."
Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Deng of the
'They (the LTTE) are, however, considered the only credible
Tamil group in terms of power.. ..The Tamil community perceives them as the only
ones capable of defending the "Tamil cause", therefore, recruitment and
mobilization, especially after any heavy LTTE casualties, are massive and
The British Parliamentary Human Rights Group in its 'Annual
Review- 1997 defines the conflict in Sri Lanka as a "war of national
liberation in exercise of the right to self-determination.".
Paust, Law Foundation Professor at the University of Houston and (co chair
of the International Criminal Law Interest Group and the American Society of the
International Law in Vanderbilt .Journal of Transnational Law Vol. 31,
"Internment, as such, creates other responsibilities under
Geneva Civilian Conventions... There are serious claims and significant
recognition's that the government of Sri Lanka does not comply with these
...Collective penalties and systematic terrorism are also among the customary
prohibitions in the 1919 List of War Crimes... There are serious allegations and
significant recognition's that both reprisals against and collective punishments
of civilian persons have occurred in Sri Lanka...
...It is time for the international community to recognize that, in addition to
medicine and medical supplies, food should always be treated as neutral property
during an armed conflict. Because of highly predictable consequences, both short
term and long term, food should never be used as a weapon of war. Moreover the
international community should strive to assure that corridors for the free
passage of food and medicine and medical supplies are negotiated or imposed
during any armed conflict. For the children and others who suffer, criminal and
civil sanctions are inadequate and come too late, if at all..."