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Letter to Rt. Hon Priti Patel, MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department, Great Britain:

Priti Patel

17 November 2020

Dear Mrs Patel MP

We, the undersigned, write to request that you deproscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) following the judgement on 21 October 2020 by the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (‘POAC’), allowing the appeal brought by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) against the decision by your predecessor, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP to continue the ban on the LTTE.

On 21 October 2020. POAC found the Home Secretary’s decision not to deproscribe the LTTE to be flawed and allowed the TGTE’s appeal. POAC found that the information presented to the then Home Secretary when he made his decision to maintain the LTTE on the list of proscribed organisations “materially misstated” the conclusions reached by the Proscription Review Group. POAC also found that the submission “inaccurately” summarised the views of JTAC (the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre). POAC considered these to be a “serious concern” and therefore held that the decision to maintain the LTTE on the list of proscribed organisations was unlawful and went on to allow the appeal.

With respect to the remedy, the TGTE argues that the Home Secretary should immediately remove the LTTE from the list of banned organisations. We understand the Home Secretary argues to revert the matter to her to review that decision.

In case the matter reverted to you to review the proscription of the LTTE, we strongly urge the Home Secretary to remove the LTTE from the list of proscribed organisations for the following reasons:

  • There is no independently verified evidence of violence by the LTTE since May 2009;
  • The proscription has stifled political debate and created a climate of fear of speaking out as Tamils fear being regarded as committing terrorism offences if they express support to realise the Tamil right to self-determination in the form of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam or international independent investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Tamil people in Sri Lanka and it has therefore caused significant collateral damage. The ban has therefore had the unintended consequences of providing impunity to the Sri Lankan State and to those guilty of these international crimes.
  • It has erased from public debate, in a number of significant ways, the issues of political resolution, Tamil culture, social issues, humanitarian relief or self-determination;
  • It has enhanced the political position and confidence of the Sri Lankan government, which facilitates further military oppression of Tamils. This has enabled the government to suppress others seeking to enter the political debate e.g. those seeking to report on matters, such as the BBC, as they are vulnerable to accusations of supporting terrorism by the government. Even the representatives of the United Nations are not exempt. This exemplifies the even greater difficulty Tamil activists are placed in; Therefore, Sri Lanka enjoys the significant propaganda value of the proscription of the LTTE in the UK despite being a very repressive regime.
  • The need for political debate, particularly in relation to the atrocities committed against Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the rights of Tamil people to self-determination is at its highest and is necessary for a resolution of the Sri Lankan conflict; and
  • The proscription of the LTTE serves to allow the persecution suffered in Sri Lanka by Tamils to follow them to the U.K. and have a material effect. This is inconsistent with the protection of refugees and overriding obligations under the Convention and possibly inconsistent with the Secretary of State’s international obligations.
  • The continued proscription of the LTTE despite the lack of independent evidence clearly demonstrates that this has been done by the UK Government to further its foreign policy goals. In the absence of independently verified evidence of violence by the LTTE since the end of the war in May 2009, we are of the view that it will be an abuse to maintain the proscription to further the UK Government’s foreign policy goals.
  • The proscription has had a severe impact on the civic rights of British Tamils, as it stifles freedom of expression. Sri Lanka has long used the LTTE terrorist designation to crush dissent and Tamils’ freedom of expression. Britain’s readiness to accept Sri Lankan assertions as justification for continuing the ban deepens the feeling of vulnerability amongst British Tamils, and has suppressed their voice;
  • The ban has had the unintended effect of deepening the fear psychosis amongst British Tamils – a psychosis created by the Sri Lankan government using direct and indirect threats. The throat-slicing gesture by a Sri Lankan official during a peaceful demonstration in the UK is an example of a direct threat. Indirect threats range from intimidation of relatives in Sri Lanka to the threat of usurping their properties;
  • The terrorism label applied to the LTTE has a chilling effect on Tamils and their allies in the UK expressing their aspiration for an independent state, which is the appropriate form of remedial justice following the Mullivaaikkaal Genocide and a necessary protective measure against the state’s continuing Tamil persecution;
  • The Home Secretary’s decision to keep the ban in place appears to have been informed, in part, by Community Impact Assessments that appear to downplay British Tamil support for lifting the ban. These assessments are inherently flawed as they have been carried out against the backdrop of an existing ban that has already succeeded in suppressing free expression while promoting anxieties within the Tamil community. In this climate, few Tamils would dare to voice how they truly feel about the ban being lifted;
  • The ban has significantly impeded assistance from reaching civilians in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Many British Tamils have refrained from participation in welfare projects aimed at assisting civilians in desperate need of assistance in the aftermath of the war. This is because they fear potential Sri Lankan government accusation – usually on a whim - that such projects are associated with the LTTE would receive a sympathetic hearing from the British government;
  • The ban in the UK has unintentionally extended the Sri Lankan modus operandi of collective criminalisation (of Tamils seeking to realise their right to self-determination in the form of an independent a sovereign state in Sri Lanka) to British shores, thereby stigmatising the Tamil people;
  • The terrorism label denigrates the Tamils’ campaign for an independent state based on the right to self-determination, self-defence, and self-help, as enshrined in International Law;
  • Bolstered by the U.K. and other states labelling the LTTE a terrorist organisation, the Sri Lankan state hid its genocide of Tamils behind the guise of fighting terrorism - a ruse that other states, such as Myanmar (in committing genocide of the Rohingya), have adopted since then to defend their own perpetration of atrocity crimes and violating international law.
  • The Sri Lankan government still plays the terrorist card to hide its ongoing activities to destroy the Tamils as a distinct nation in Sri Lanka. The 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act remains in force, with the newly detained held along with those held for 20 years, and the security forces remain overwhelmingly deployed in the Tamil-dominated North-East part of Sri Lanka.
  • The LTTE which represented the Eelam Tamils as their authentic representative in peace negotiations facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government under the auspices of EU and Japan, is more than that. LTTE is an idea in the Tamil National struggle for freedom. By labelling LTTE as a “terrorist organisation' the Sri Lankan state attempts to extinguish the Tamil struggle for freedom.

By designating one party to the conflict a terrorist organisation, the UK undermines its credibility as a neutral player able to play a role in (a) securing accountability for grave crimes committed against Tamils during the armed conflict, and (b) facilitating a resolution to the conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamil people of the island.

- Thiagu

 (This article was published in Fortnightly Magazine 'Abel', December 20, 2020)

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