E.U. may decide to list LTTE as ‘terrorist’ by Friday

May 17th, 2006

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The European Union (EU) may take a policy decision on Friday May 19th on the question of listing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organization said informed diplomatic sources.

According to these sources the decision in Brussels would most probably be that of listing the LTTE as terrorist and proscribing it among the 25 member European Union states.

“The decision seems inevitable. Only a major miracle can reverse or postpone this ” said the diplomatic sources.

Once the policy decision is taken each member state will have to ratify it. Thereafter each EU state could bring in specific legislation individually if it wished so to ban the LTTE within the Country concerned. This legislation would define the rules and regulations governing the conduct of a listed organization within the country.

Only the United Kingdom of the EU has already banned the LTTE as a terrorist organization under anti – terrorism laws in Britain. None of the other EU countries have done so.

The EU has already imposed a “travel ban” on the LTTE in EU countries. The decision came in September last year after Sri Lankan foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated in Colombo in August by a sniper in a murder suspected of being masterminded by the tigers.

The EU then condemned the LTTE for using “violence and terrorism” and announced that the tigers would not be made officially welcome in member states. It also called upon member states to review the situation individually and take further steps if necessary to curb LTTE activity on their soil.

No European Country followed up on that proposal but abided by the collective EU decision to impose a travel ban on the LTTE.

When the LTTE came to Europe in February this year to participate in talks with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in Geneva the tiger delegation did not go to any other country in Europe except Norway.

Switzerland being officially “neutral’ And “peace maker” Norway are not members of the EU.

The EU action last year was perceived as a warning signal to the LTTE to refrain from violence and engage seriously in peace talks.

Escalation of violence in recent months made the EU actively re- consider the LTTE ban issue again. Britain was in the forefront campaigning for a total ban on the LTTE. It was felt by some EU members that the LTTE had not taken full cognizance of EU warnings and that further action was necessary.

Representations made by Norway from “outside” and three Scandinavian nations “inside” EU helped stave off that proposal on the basis that the LTTE was engaged in a peace process facilitated by Oslo.

It was also pointed out that Finland. Denmark and Sweden were actively engaged in Sri Lanka as ceasefire monitors. An EU ban may restrict scope for further participation it was argued.

The matter was then put on hold and the LTTE got a reprieve.

The issue was reactivated after a woman suicide bomber attack on the military headquarters in Colombo on April 25th in which nine people were killed and twenty – seven including army commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka were injured.

Political observers are of the opinion that a number of factors may have weighed heavily against the LTTE this time.

Chief among them is the pressure exerted by the world’s sole super power on the EU to list the LTTE as terrorist.

Donald Camp, US principal assistant deputy secretary of state for South Asia and Central Asia affairs mentioned this specifically in media interviews while on a visit to Sri Lanka early this week.

” We have encouraged the EU to list the LTTE. We think the LTTE is very deserving of that label. We think it will help cut off financial supplies and weapons procurement and the like.” Donald Camp said.

Sri Lanka has also been waging a quiet diplomatic war in recent weeks to urge a EU ban on the LTTE. Colombo has been telling the Western nations that a total EU ban will pressure the tigers into suspending violence and participating fully in talks.

Both Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Peace secretariat director Palitha Kohona and several Sri Lankan envoys to Europe have been involved in this effort.

Palitha Kohona even went to Barcelona recently on a low – key mission to meet with Norwegian special peace envoy Jon Hanssen – Bauer and explain the reasons behind Sri Lankas call for a EU ban

Earlier Norway in an unofficial capacity had campaigned against a full ban stating it would affect the peace process.

Informed sources said that in recent times even Oslo had “lost heart” because of consistent “uncooperative ” conduct by the LTTE.

Norway was disappointed greatly by the refusal of LTTE chief negotiator and political adviser Anton Balasingham’s to meet with Jon Hanssen – Bauer on grounds of ill – health. Norway was informed that the tiger ideologue was “indisposed” from May 8th to 25th due to medical reasons.

LTTE leaders in the Wanni were also not cooperative when Hanssen – Bauer who went to Kilinochchi to meet the tiger hierarchy over vital concerns.

Diplomatic sources also said that the Norwegian minister in charge of the Lankan peace process Erik Solheim was now showing more interest in Nepal than Sri Lanka.

The proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back in this instance could be the May 11th attack on a Lankan naval flotilla by the LTTE and its aftermath say informed diplomatic sources.

The lives of two Nordic monitors traveling on the navy ships were endangered despite the vessels flying SLMM flags as stipulated.

The LTTE also sent harsh critical letters to the SLMM issuing a last warning to keep away from Lankan ships or be prepared to face consequences.

The SLMM responded strongly to the LTTE warning saying they could not be intimidated.

LTTE political Commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan was uncharacteistically tough when he met SLMM chief Ulf Henricsson in Kilinochchi on May 12th. The LTTE issued a virtual ultimatum then

The SLMM has suspended all naval monitoring until further notice.

It is reported that two of the five Countries involved in monitoring are seriously contemplating a pull out if there is no sign of improvement in the situation. They are concerned about the safety of their nationals. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland are the SLMM members.

With the LTTE’s Scandinavian “friends” losing heart the call for an EU ban gathered momentum and strength.

The European Union strongly condemned the LTTE attack as being “reckless” and jeopardizing the ceasefire. The EU statement further said –

“The LTTE have committed gross violations of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) at sea in recent days. The attack on a troop carrier and the reported sinking of an accompanying navy vessel is the latest and most severe violation. The known presence of SLMM monitors on board that vessel adds to the seriousness of the violation. The claim by the LTTE that the SLMM has put its own monitors at risk by allowing them to travel on naval vessels is utterly unacceptable. This seeks to negate LTTE responsibility for the safety of monitors. This is a clear violation of the Ceasefire Agreement that requires all parties to take all measures to preserve the safety of the SLMM monitors”.

It was against this backdrop of a stern reprimand that EU ambassador in Sri Lanka , Julian Wilson, told a Colombo newspaper that the question of listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization “was under close review” by the EU.

If the ban is finalized and follow up action is taken LTTE and pro – LTTE activity in many European Countries could get affected. LTTE assets could be frozen and fund raising drastically reduced. Propaganda too could be restricted.

Among European Countries with a sizable Tamil diaspora are Britain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and Ireland.

Some analysts however are concerned about the potential EU ban for three reasons:

Firstly they are worried that the ban instead of pressuring the LTTE into participating more actively in the peace process could actually be counter productive. With the tigers perceiving the “world” to be against them the LTTE could pull out of the talks completely and go for war.

Secondly the “hawkish” Sri Lankan regime under Mahinda Rajapakse could get the wrong signal from the EU move. Colombo egged on by elements such as the JVP and JHU could interpret the EU ban as an endorsement for full war against the LTTE and by extension the Tamils. The present anti – Tamil violence could escalate.

Thirdly Tamils living in European Countries may find themselves unnecessarily harassed and subject to repressive activity through the ban. In a climate where the LTTE enjoys substantial support among the Tamil Diaspora the European law- enforcement authorities may find it difficult to differentiate between Tamils and tigers.

It is learnt that some last ditch efforts are underway by concerned religious and human rights organizations to urge the EU into not proceeding with the intended ban. It is doubtful whether these efforts could succeed.

Meanwhile a Reuters news report from Brussels also referred to a possible EU Ban:

Excerpts of the reuters report are given below -

EU to list Tamil Tigers as terror group-diplomats
BRUSSELS, May 17 (Reuters) – The European Union is set to
list Sri Lankan rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
as a terrorist organisation, EU diplomats said on Wednesday.
The move will further isolate the group as Sri Lanka is
sliding back into a low-intensity conflict some fear could
spiral into resumption of a two-decade war.

The United States, Canada and Britain have already listed
the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group, and the EU imposed a
travel ban on the group’s cadres last September and said then it
was considering banning it for “use of violence and terrorism”.
“A decision in principle is due within the next couple of
days,” a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said.

A second EU diplomat said a decision was due by Friday. The
move would then have to be rubber-stamped by the 25 member
states of the bloc at a later date.
A ban on the Tamil Tigers in the EU would outlaw the group
and its followers by shutting down premises and freezing assets
belonging to it.

The Tigers are fighting for a separate state for ethnic
Tamils in the north and east of the Indian Ocean island, and
have pioneered the use of suicide bombing.

There has been an escalation of violence recently and April
was one of the bloodiest months since a 2002 cease-fire halted a war that killed over 64,000 people since 1983.

Washington last week accused the group of violating the
truce with an attack on a Sri Lankan navy transport ship
carrying hundreds of servicemen.

The military said 17 sailors and 50 Tigers died in the
attack that prompted air strikes on rebel territory.

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Contact DBS Jeyaraj : djeyaraj2005@yahoo.com

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