UK govt. urged to take up ban on Diaspora groups with SL

GTF writes to Secy of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond

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From Shamindra Ferdinando in London

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has requested the British government to persuade the new Sri Lankan administration to lift the ban on Tamil groups imposed by the previous governmnet. The GTF is among those groups included in the list of proscribed organisations.

GTF President Rev. Dr S. J. Emmanuel has requested the ruling coalition’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond, MP, to take up the issue with the visiting Sri Lankan delegation. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel, too, has been designated as a terrorist.

President Maithripala Sirisena is leading the delegation.

The President and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera are scheduled to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron today (March 10).

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was scheduled to meet President Maithripala Sirisena at Park Lane Hilton, London.

GTF spokesperson Suren Surendiran, on Sunday afternoon, confirmed their request to the British government. Surendiran told The Island that they strongly believed that the gazette notification bearing the number 1854/41, dated 21 March 2014 should be repealed.

The appeal is made in the run-up to May General election in the UK.

The list of designated persons, groups and entities whom the previous government had committed or attempt to commit, participate in or facilitate the commission of, terrorist acts within the meaning of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) (hereafter UNSCR 1373).

The GTF spokesperson said that Rev. Dr. Emmanuel had raised the issue with MP Hammond in early October last year. In a letter dated March 5, 2015, addressed to MP Hammond, the priest alleged that there hadn’t been tangible measures to rectify the situation.

Welcoming the change of the government consequent to recently concluded presidential election that brought the former General Secretary of the SLFP into power; Dr. Emmanuel asserted that there was an opportunity for change as the new administration had been elected on a promise to set aside what the priest called the majoritarian politics of the previous government.

The GTF refrained from organizing protests against the visiting delegation in spite of some elements calling for large scale protests in London.

Referring to a spate of statements attributed to President Maithripala Sirisena and government leaders that members of various Diaspora organizations and exiled journalists could return to the country, the GTF asserted the proscription imposed on them would be a severe impediment.

Accusing the previous government of resorting to blatant measures of harassment and intimidation, the GTF has called for speedy resolution of the issue.

GTF SurenIn addition to the designation of GTF and Rev. Dr. Emmanuel as ‘foreign terrorist entities’, the proscribed list contains 16 diaspora groups and 424 individuals. Some of those named individuals are citizens of the United Kingdom. There are also others who are not citizens, but resident in the UK.

Surendiran said that the repealing of the regulations was a necessity as all those who had been listed by the Sri Lankan government were vulnerable to action taken by domestic or foreign authorities while travelling. Surendiran pointed out that it was due to Sri Lankan regulations that had been imposed in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).

The GTF has also appealed to Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Giles Thomson, Director – South Asia and Ms Julie Scott, Head – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives teams to facilitate de-proscription of Diaspora groupings.

The GTF came into being after the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009. The GTF recently joined over a dozen other overseas organizations to request the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) not to defer the presentation of war crimes report on Sri Lanka by six months. Earlier, it was to be presented at the ongoing Geneva sessions.

The then Sri Lankan government strongly opposed the previous Labour administration in the UK as well as other major political parties, including the Conservatives recognizing the GTF. The then Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama summoned the Acting UK High Commissioner in Colombo Mark Gooding in late February, 2010 to express Sri Lanka’s deep concern over the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband addressing the GTF at the House of Commons.