- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 2, 2006

‘Ostrich-like’ response

The ambassador from Sri Lanka is urging foreign governments that have banned the Tamil Tiger rebels to shut down front groups that finance the terrorists, using methods such as extortion of Tamil immigrants.

Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke told a recent Washington forum that his embattled South Asian island nation has been having enough trouble just getting foreign governments to outlaw the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“For many years, our plea for help was a cry in the wilderness, as the LTTE was seen as freedom fighters by some and underdogs by others,” he said at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

“The barbarity of LTTE action against the Tamil people, whom they claim to represent — forcible conscription of teenage Tamil children for armed combat, fundraising through intimidation and physical threats against the Tamil diaspora living particularly in the Western Hemisphere — were ignored.”

Mr. Goonetilleke complained of an “ostrich-like attitude” by some governments that avoided outlawing the Tigers because they posed no threat to their countries. Five nations have banned the LTTE. India, Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor, moved first in 1992. The United States followed in 1997. Britain banned the group in 2000. Canada, which has a large Tamil population, and the European Union outlawed the LTTE earlier this year.

However, the ambassador said front groups still operate in many countries. Police and terrorist watch groups in several nations have identified the World Tamil Association, the World Tamil Movement and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils among organizations suspected of laundering money for the LTTE.

Mr. Goonetilleke said many front organizations “dealing with humanitarian, cultural, religious, commercial and social dimensions of ethnic groups” might “look quite innocuous at first sight, but surreptitiously [they] work in tandem with terrorist organizations.”

More than 65,000 people have been killed since the LTTE took up arms against the government in 1983. The rebels, who perfected the use of suicide bombers, reached a shaky cease-fire with the government in 2002, but the pact is teetering on the brink of collapse. Many diplomats fear a return to all-out civil war.

More than 700 people have died this year in violations of the cease-fire. The Sri Lankan navy last week sank a LTTE boat on course to hit a military base.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Wednesday

• President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia, who meets President Bush. He addresses the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on Thursday.

• Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta of Afghanistan, who meets Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on a three-day visit. He addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday.

Thursday

• Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, who meets President Bush.

• Foreign Minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev of Kazakhstan, who addresses the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

• Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey, who meets Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and addresses the Brookings Institution on U.S.-Turkish relations.

• Farooq Sattar of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies on political conditions in Pakistan.

• Nasser Saidi, executive director of the Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance in Dubai. He addresses the Center for International Private Enterprise.

• Marina Litvinovich, chairwoman of the Aid to Victims of Terror Foundation in Moscow. She addresses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on threats to Russian democracy.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]


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