தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search

Home  > Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom >International Frame of  the Tamil Struggle > European Union > Exchange of Letters Between the European Union and the International Federation of Tamils >

EUROPEAN UNION & THE TAMIL STRUGGLE

Exchange of Letters Between the European Union
and the International Federation of Tamils

1.International Federation of Tamils  to European Union, 16 December 2005
2.European Union to International Federation of Tamils 27 October  2005
3.International Federation of Tamils  to European Union, 27 September 2005

"...a crisis such as the present one may also hopefully lead to a meeting of minds – and create opportunities to progress the cause of justice and peace. The question is whether two peoples sitting together as equals cannot agree upon political structures which protect each of their perceived interests. There may be a need to telescope two processes - one the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam and the other the terms in which an independent Tamil Eelam may associate with an independent Sri Lanka, so that the national security of each may be protected and guaranteed. We take the view that the struggle for  Tamil Eelam is not in opposition to many of the underlying interests of the parties concerned with the conflict in the island - and that includes Sri Lanka, India and the United States. There may be a need to explore fresh pathways concerning the terms on which an independent Tamil Eelam may associate with an independent Sri Lanka. The European Union itself stands as an example of what may be achieved in this regard..."


From: International Federation of Tamils
18 rue des Paquis, CH-1201 Geneva Switzerland

To: European Commission External Relations Directorate General,
Deputy Director General, Asia (except Japan and Korea) and Latin America
Brussels

17 December 2005

Dear Sir,

We thank you for your letter of  27 October 2005 and for your assurance that the European Union is committed to following a balanced approach in relation to the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka.

Before we address the specific issues that you have raised in paragraph 3 of your letter, we feel that it may be helpful if we respond to a general observation that you have made in the same paragraph. We refer to your view that

‘in the three and a half years since the Ceasefire Agreement was signed, the LTTE has given very few signs of evolving from a military to a political organisation.’

Here we would like to persuade you that the assessment of the Australian Member of Parliament, Ms Virginia Judge after a visit to the Tamil Eealm in September this year is more in accord with the reality on the ground. She said in the Australian Parliament on 15 September 2005 (after a visit to Tamil Eelam) -

“…I observed that in a remarkable three year period the Tamils developed a virtual state within the north and north-east of Sri Lanka. I visited their judiciary and court, school of law, police station, police academy, medical and technical colleges and small industries, a community bank plus a children's home housing 278 children left orphaned by the war and the recent tsunami. The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) runs a variety of development, relief and reconstruction projects as well as assisting several non-government organisations with their projects. All this is a tribute to the spirit and resilience of the Tamil people…”

We now turn to the four specific matters that you have referred to in paragraph 3 of your letter under reference, namely the failure of the LTTE to respond to your repeated calls to -

1. renounce violence
2. stop political killings
3. put an end to child soldier recruitment and
4. allow for political pluralism in the North and East of Sri Lanka

We believe that it will be helpful if we address each of these four matters separately.

Renounce Violence

1. On the question of renouncing violence, the Ceasefire Agreement of February 2002 suspended the resort to violence and paved the way for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The Ceasefire Agreement did not require the LTTE or for that matter, Sri Lanka to renounce resort to violence in the event of a complete break down of negotiations.

On the contrary, Clause 4 of the Agreement provided that the Ceasefire may be terminated by either party giving notice of termination to the Royal Norwegian Government and that such notice shall be given fourteen (14) days in advance of the effective date of termination.

Clearly, both the LTTE and Sri Lanka retained the option of resuming the armed conflict in the event of the negotiating process reaching a dead end.

Again whilst it is true that Sri Lanka has resorted to violence to secure its territorial boundaries and impose its rule on the Tamil homeland, it is also true that the armed resistance of the LTTE arose as a last resort against decades of oppression by the Sri Lankan state and its agencies.

Given these circumstances, we would suggest that whilst it is entirely appropriate to call upon the LTTE and Sri Lanka to abide by the terms of the Ceasefire Agreement, it would be neither appropriate nor balanced to call upon one of the parties, the LTTE, to renounce violence independently of the outcome of the negotiating process.

Political Killings

2. Admittedly the question of political killings is a vexed question. In May 2004, Aiyathurai Nadesan was shot dead by a para military group supported by Sri Lanka. In August 2004 Dharmeratnam Sivaram declared -

“States that want to oppress a people do so by breaking their political will to resist injustice. To do this, oppressing states kill a society’s intellectuals and journalists who speak for the rights of their people. This is is why they killed Nadesan…”

In April 2005, Dharmeratnam Sivaram was himself murdered. In February 2005, Mr.Kausalyan, the LTTE political leader and coordinator for Tsunami relief work in the Eastern part of the island of Sri Lanka and Mr. Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru, former Member of Parliament and founder of the Northeast Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR) were murdered. The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the killings as a setback to the peace process.

More, recently, at a Press Conference on 12 December 2005, two paramilitary cadres who surrendered to the LTTE revealed that Sri Lankan Government Ministers A L M Athaullah, Douglas Devananda and Maithripala Sirisena are complicit in helping paramilitaries operating in the east. The cadres also said that the paramilitaries were involved in violence against Muslims to create dissension between Tamil and Muslim communities.

We do recognise the need to sift the available evidence before apportioning blame.At the sametime, we would commend for your attention the views expressed by the Tamil Guardian on 8 December 2005

“What is concerning about the ongoing violence is that nothing is being done to reduce it. Despite repeated urgings by the international community – and at least two formal reprimands by the Co-Chairs of the peace process – Sri Lanka steadfastly refuses to disarm the Tamil paramilitaries. Instead, military intelligence is aggressively – even forcibly – recruiting more gunmen and expanding the scope of its war. The induction of newly constituted paramilitary units to the Jaffna peninsula in the past few weeks is the latest step in this war. Hopes that newly elected President Mahinda Rajapaske would be more prepared than his predecessor to rein in Sri Lanka’s military intelligence and halt its campaign against the LTTE and its supporters have now been dashed. Efforts by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) to arrange a meeting between military officials and the LTTE failed when the government – without explanation - withdrew permission for its officers to attend – even though the Army’s new commander has also called for dialogue…”

We suggest that an even handed approach would demand that the European Union explicitly call upon Sri Lanka to comply with clause 1 (8) of the ceasefire agreement and disband all paramilitary groups – unfortunately, it is this which the European Union Declaration of 21 September 2005 failed to do.

Child Soldiers

3. It is undeniable that questions relating to child recruitment are matters of importance – and are multi layered. Here, there may be a need to examine both the law and the facts.

It is our understanding that the current situation in international law in relation to child soldiers may be summarised as follows:

a. Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years' into national armed forces or armed groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.

b. Conscripting or forcibly recruiting children under the age of eighteen years by State Parties or armed groups is a breach of the Optional Protocol to Child Convention.

c. All feasible measures shall be taken by State parties to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities and failure to take such 'feasible' measures is a breach of the Optional Protocol to Child Convention.

d. Enlisting children under the age of 18 years by State Parties is not a breach of international law.

e. Enlisting children under the age of 18 years by armed groups is not a breach of the Optional Protocol, (and not by any means a 'war crime') though armed groups may have a 'moral obligation' to avoid doing so.

Here, we are particularly mindful of the comments of the International Red Cross in its Introduction to the Optional Protocol, in May 2000 -

"..The ICRC welcomes the fact that the issue of non-state actors has been included in the Optional Protocol, but regrets that the provision imposes a moral, as opposed to a legal obligation. Although Article 4 also provides for criminal prosecution under domestic law, this is likely to be of limited effect, because those who take up arms against the lawful Government of a country already expose themselves to the most severe penalties of domestic law, and because the capacity of a Government to enforce its laws is often very limited in situations of non-international armed conflicts. Third, it is uncertain whether non-state actors will feel bound by a norm which is different from that imposed on States, and thus whether it will be respected..."

Given this legal frame, it is unfortunate that Reports such as those by Human Rights Watch failed to distinguish beween under 15 year olds and under 18 year olds in relation to recruitment of ‘child soldiers’ by the LTTE. Additionally, there is a need to examine carefully the alleged facts relating to recruitment because much of the evidence appears to have been obtained at the instance of a Tamil paramilitary group supported by the Sri Lanka government.

There is also a further circumstance which the various reports have failed to consider. It is important to recognise that the LTTE administers a de facto state within the lines of control recognised by the Ceasefire Agreement. Some persons recruited by the LTTE serve in the administrative services of this de facto state – and these include the judiciary and court, school of law, police stations, police academy, medical and technical colleges, small industries, a community bank and children's homes. It appears to us that such employment is lawful – and given the conditions prevailing in these areas both humane and warranted.

Political Pluralism

4. We do recognise the importance that is attached to political pluralism. The freedom for several political parties to freely function within the confines of a state, is admittedly a fundamental feature of a functioning democracy.

At the same time, all states (without exception) also have laws against treason to protect the state itself against subversion. Treason is the crime of disloyalty to one's nation. A person who betrays the nation of their citizenship and/or reneges on an oath of loyalty and in some way willfully cooperates with an enemy, is considered to be a traitor. Political pluralism does not mean that a state is called upon to condone or permit treason or its own subversion. In the case of Sri Lanka, in addition to the laws against treason, the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution outlaws a political party which espouses (even peacefully) the creation of a separate state in the island of Sri Lanka.

The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement was founded on the basis that Sri Lanka and the LTTE controlled different areas of the island – and on the basis of the existence of a defacto state in part of the Tamil homeland. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe remarked in Parliament on 4 March 2002 –

"...Under this Agreement the free movement of armed cadres of the LTTE is limited to the areas presently dominated by the LTTE. Outside these areas, the LTTE members have to be unarmed and are to be governed by the Agreement. While the Sri Lanka Government is responsible for the civil administration throughout the country, we have no control over law and order on significant portions of land in the North and East. The armed units of the LTTE dominate these areas. The armed forces have so far been unable to regain control. We all know this is the reality but we do not want to speak about it. We have been fooling the people and in the process we have fooled ourselves..."

We take the view that in the case of a de facto state, with a functioning judiciary and court, school of law, police station, police academy, medical and technical colleges, small industries and a banking system, political pluralism cannot be given a different meaning to that given in a dejure state. Again, given the ceasefire, and given the existence of lines of control recognised by the ceasefire agreement, it would seem reasonable that pending a final resolution of the conflict, the continued existence of either party (and the territories within its control) is not undermined by subversion.

It appears to us that within these constraints, the LTTE has permitted political parties to function within its area of control – such as for instance TELO, Tamil Congress, and ofcourse the Tamil National Alliance. However, we suggest that political pluralism does not extend to permitting the functioning of political parties whose avowed objective is to overthrow the defacto state, particularly where they are also members of armed para military organisations supported by Sri Lanka.

We agree with your statement that we are at a crucial moment in the peace process. Indeed, if that was so on 27 October 2005 (the date of your letter), it is more so today at a time when the Sri Lanka President has reneged on that which his country agreed upon at Oslo in December 2002 – and also reneged on the P-TOMS agreement which Sri Lanka had signed on 24 June 2005.

Having said that, a crisis such as the present one may also hopefully lead to a meeting of minds – and create opportunities to progress the cause of justice and peace. The question is whether two peoples sitting together as equals cannot agree upon political structures which protect each of their perceived interests. There may be a need to telescope two processes - one the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam  and the other the terms in which an independent Tamil Eelam state may associate with an independent Sri Lanka, so that the national security of each may be protected and guaranteed.

We take the view that the struggle for Tamil Eelam is not in opposition to many of the underlying interests of the parties concerned with the conflict in the island - and that includes Sri Lanka, India and the United States. There may be a need to explore fresh pathways concerning the terms on which an independent Tamil Eelam may associate with an independent Sri Lanka. The European Union itself stands as an example of what may be achieved in this regard.


From: European Commission External Relations Directorate General,
Deputy Director General
Asia (except Japan and Korea) and Latin America
Brussels 27 October 2005

To: International Federation of Tamils 18 rue des Paquis
CH-1201 Geneva Switzerland


Subiect: EU statement on Sri Lanka
Ref: Your letter dated 27  September 2005

Dear Sir,

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner forwarded to me your letter concerning the EU Declaration issued on 26 September. I have taken due note of your concerns and I thank you very much for sharing your reactions with us.

As indicated to you in my earlier letter, the European Union has always been committed to a peaceful and sustainable solution to the Sri Lankan conflict, guaranteeing the rights of all ethnic minorities. We have followed a balanced approach and we have listened and will continue to listen to all parties involved, including the LTTE. Commissioner Patten met with Mr Prabhakaran when he travelled to Sri Lanka in November 2003. Commissioner FerreroWaldner intended to meet him when she visited the island on March 2005 but he was unable to receive her. I also had several discussions with Mr Tamilselvan over the last years.

In all these instances we have repeatedly called for the LTTE to renounce violence, stop political killings, put an end to child soldier recruitment, allow for political pluralism in the North and East of Sri Lanka. However, in the three and a half years since the Ceasefire Agreement was signed, the LTTE have given very few signs of evolving from a military to a political organisation. On the contrary, recent signals point to a hardening of their stance.

The international community acknowledges the responsibility of all parties, especially the two signatories to the Ceasefire Agreement, to make progress towards a peaceful settlement of the Sri Lankan conflict. However, at this crucial moment in the peace process and in the aftermath of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar's assassination, there is an impending need that the  LTTE further demonstrate its commitment to peace through progress on the key issues that I highlighted above. I hope you will consider using your good offices to convey this message to them.

Yours faithfully.
Herve JOUANJEAN


From:  International Federation of Tamils
18 Rue des Paquis,1201 Geneva, Switzerland
tel/Fax 00 41 22 7320 831 ift@bluewin.ch

To: Hon Prime Minister, Government of UK (The Office of the Presidency of EU)

also in PDF

27 September 2005

Dear Sir,

Urgent appeal/Sri Lanka

EU STATEMENT ON SRI LANKA - AN IMPEDIMENT TO PEACE PROCESS

The International Federation of Tamils (IFT), wishes to express, on behalf of the Tamil Diaspora, its shock and exasperation at the lopsided EU statement on “Terrorism in Sri Lanka,” issued on 26.09.05 condemning the LTTE.

The IFT wishes to point out to the EU, the plausible damage the “European Union Declaration condemning terrorism in Sri Lanka (26/09/05),” could bring to the peace process at a time when the extreme Sinhala nationalist terrorism is rearing its fierce head again in the southern parts of Sri Lanka. With the Presidential election propaganda machinary at its full swing, the extreme nationalist Sinhala elements rallying behind the Presidential candidate, Mahinda Rajapakse are clamouring for the abrogation of Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) facilitated by Norway and the P-TOMS, recommended by the CO-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference.

From the Election Propaganda platforms these elements are making loud appeal to the outside world to ban the LTTE in all countries. With their anti-Tamil slogans, they are also urging the Sri Lankan armed forces to resume war against the LTTE. Now, they are going to misconstrue the EU Declaration as a vicarious moral support for their purported genocidal attempt. We wish to point out to the European Community that the EU Declaration may retard the peace process as well.

When Member States of the European Union gave asylum to Tamils two decades ago, it was in recognition of the fact that the Tamils faced annihilation in a genocidal rage of the extreme nationalist elements in Sri Lanka. The IFT fears the recent EU Declaration, inadvertantly, is going to encourage a similar rage which is in the brewing.

The Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) was forged between the Government of Sri Lanka acting on behalf of the Sinhala nation and the LTTE representing the Tamil nation and the Peace Talks were also held on the same equal basis. The international community, too, recognised and supported this understanding.

The decision not to receive any LTTE delegations into any of the EU Member States denies the Tamil people and the LTTE a chance to present, face to face, their case, predicaments and proposals to the EU countries. It also denies them of the chance to continue gaining firsthand information and values of the well established democratic institutions functioning in the West.

At a time when there are too many political killings taking place in Sri Lanka, it is unfair and unacceptable to arbitrarily choose one party to the peace talks and penalise it.

On behalf of the Tamil people, the IFT pleads with each Member State of the European Union to refrain from taking any punitive action against the LTTE, as it will affect all Tamils, both at home, as well as in Europe, and will obviously jeopaordise the success of the peace process, also. The IFT pleads for restraint and understanding

Secretary General
International Federation of Tamils


Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home