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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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united kingdom
& 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,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,

Dear Sir,

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 and wrong.

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 armed 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 nation state.

Yours truly,
Dr. N. Satchithananthan
General Secretary.

Copies To:

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 annexure.

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, MBBS,DMJ,MRCGP

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 Liberation Struggle:

"...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" 

In 1958....

"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)

In 1977...

"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 support." (Sir John Foster, David Astor, Louis Blom-Cooper, Dingle Foot, Robert Birley, James Fawcett, Michael Scott, London Times, 20 September 1977)

In 1983...

"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)

In 1995...

"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"... (21 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, such as 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 United Nations:

'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 frequently voluntary.'....

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.".

Prof. 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, Numher3:May 1998: 

"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 norms...

...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..."


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