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Monday 01 April 1996
Hot News Section

36,000 civilians killed by Tigers, say 9,000 petitioners

US assures: no hesitation in prosecuting LTTE groups

From Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

The State Department has assured the Sri Lankan expatriate community that it will seek the prosecution of any illegal activity by pro-LTTE groups in the United States.

This assurance was given by Mr. Steven R. Mann, the State Department's Director for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maladives Affairs to a delegation of Sri Lankans who handed over a mass petition signed by 9,046 US citizens and residents seeking increased US government action against LTTE terrorism.

The letter giving this assurance was addressed to Kenneth Abeywickrama, a longtime World Bank consultant and Sri Lankan community activist here who led the delegation of Sri Lankans. Mann who accepted the petition addressed to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher concerning LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorism, noted in his letter that:

Regarding your concern about pro-LTTE activities in the United States, I wish again to assure you that we will forward to the Department of Justice any information which suggests that pro-LTTE groups or persons are contravening US law.

Mann also noted in his letter that the US considers the LTTE a terrorist group and that the State Department in its most recent report Patterns of Global Terrorism, had included the LTTE in a special appendix that included background information on major groups involved in terrorism, and added that We continue to deplore acts of terrorism committed by the LTTE.

He said that Most recently, we condemned the contemptible, January 31 attack on the Central Bank in Colombo the same day it occurred.

At the time, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns described the bombing in the heart of Colombo's business district which killed over 70 people and injured over 1,000 others as a contemptible terrorist attack.

Mann in his letter emphasized that the US continued to hope for peace in Sri Lanka, and said that in this regard, the United States continues to support a negotiated political settlement of Sri Lanka's conflict - one that is lasting and comprehensive, protects the rights of all its citizens, and preserves the unity of Sri Lanka.

Consistent with this policy, recalled Mann, a former Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Colombo, last year the United States deplored the LTTE's resumption of fighting on April 19 and welcomed the Sri Lankan government's August 3 announcement of wide-ranging proposals for constitutional reform.

In sum he said, we believe that only a peaceful political solution offers the possibility of a lasting solution to the conflict that would protect the entire Sri Lankan population from further suffering.

He concluded by saying that the State Department does - appreciate your concerns and those of the over 9,000 signatories of the petition.

In the petition to Warren Christopher, the petitioners said that the massive bomb explosion on January 31 by the LTTE terrorists, highlighted once again, the menace of this terrorist organization to society.

The petition alleged that LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka has cost the lives of over 36,000 civilians and caused the assassination of a prime minister of India and president of Sri Lanka.

It said that the LTTE is the most ruthless and uncompromising terrorist movement in the world, exterminating other leaders of the minority Tamils as well as other civilians residing in areas they have earmarked for ethnic cleansing and terrorist rule,

The petition noted that They have rejected the generous offers of the Sri Lankan government for minority self-rule and used all cessation of military operations to strengthen their forces and wage war.

It drew attention to several studies carried out in the US and Canada on the criminal enterprises operated by the LTTE in Europe and North America, the latest being the report of the Mackenzie Institute of Canada.

These involve the petition stated, drug-trafficking, gun-running, organized illicit immigration (based on legal loopholes favoring asylum seekers), regular extortion of money from Sri Lankan communities and violence against those who are uncooperative.

According to the petition These have involved the association of the LTTE with other criminal elements in these countries.

The LTTE is therefore an international problem, it said.

The petition implored Christopher to assist Sri Lanka to combat LTTE terrorism through Surveillance and prosecution of Sri Lankan terrorists or their supporters in the USA involved in criminal activities.

It also urged a Prohibition on the raising of funds within the USA for terrorism in Sri Lanka and the Closure of pro-LTTE offices in the USA which have already been identified by the State Department.

The petition also called on the US to assist the Sri Lankan government In terms of equipment, technology and training to deal with the terrorist problem.

Abeywickrama told the Daily News that the idea of a petition was a consequence of the massive demonstration by over 600 protesters in front of the White House on February 24 condemning the LTTE terror and criminal activities by its supporters here in the US.

He said that We collected these signatures during a 30-day period and we had several hundred more that came in after our cut-off date but we had to have a deadline.

Abeywickrama said that besides Sri Lankan expatriates a third of the signatures were of Americans who are friends of Sri Lanka and have visited Sri Lanka or have lived there at one time or the other, who deplore the LTTE terrorism and what it was doing to the country and its people.

Mann, according to Abeywickrama had acknowledged that this was the biggest petition ever received by his office, and had noted that earlier the letters to the State Department were almost always from the LTTE supporters in the US.

He told us that the number of representations made against the LTTE were only about 10 percent of the representations made on their behalf by LTTE supporters in the US.

Abeywickrama added that Mann had acknowledged that now the tide was changing.