EU snubs LTTE’s HR group
by Dushy Ranetunge
@ The Island / 06Mar2006
As exposed in The Island last week, an LTTE propaganda exercise titled 'EU's contribution to the peace process in Sri Lanka' was held at the European Parliament on of March 7, 2006 from 3.00 to 5.00p.m. There was no EU representation other than Mr Robert Evans MEP. A total of 22 persons attended.
The Island exposure had rattled the LTTE and its front, the Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR). The husband and wife team that make up the TCHR, Mr. Kirubakaran and Deirdre McConnell had travelled to Brussels from Paris for the event. The two were married in London a few years ago with the blessings of Anton Balasingham. It is doubtful if Robert Evens is aware of this fact, as the LTTE is much more likely to try and deceive him into thinking that the TCHR is some big human rights operation, rather than the truth, which is that it is a husband and wife LTTE front.
The combined intelligence of the LTTE and the TCHR had anticipated that The Island newspaper would attend the event since it had exposed the event last week. S. V. Kirubakaran and Mrs Deirdre McConnell-Kirubakaran had prepared themselves for a showdown with The Island. They had come armed with a publication that stated that this correspondent was conspiring to assassinate Tamil leaders and had together with Dr. Rohan Gunaratne prepared a hit list. This piece of fiction was published in a Canadian LTTE newspaper about five years ago and this was going to be Kirubakaran's thrust to discredit this correspondent.
Unfortunately, The Island newspaper was covering an event in the British parliament by Tamils who truly care for human rights, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrators.
The LTTE event was patronised by Dr. Brian Seneviratne, who lives in Australia. He said he lived in Australia and had no intention of going back to Sri Lanka. He did not want to be associated with the Sri Lankan Government or Sinhala chauvinists. According to him, Sri Lanka has a Sinhala Government that has violated human rights and discriminated against Tamils. He said that blatant anti Tamil discriminatory acts were heaped on the Tamils. e.g use of their language, education, employment and job opportunities and also had neglected the Tamil areas. He said Sri Lankan democracy is in crisis. He criticised the EU for condemning the LTTE, and stated that it should have instead condemned the Sri Lankan Government.
He spoke against blocking funds for LTTE at international level and stated that it was unfortunate that the EU has accepted GOSL propaganda. He also blamed the Sinhala extremists for the present situation and said that Sri Lanka had elected a hard line President who talks about a unitary state. He said that LTTE cannot be crushed. The separation of Sri Lanka into two independent governing states each a member of the UN and bound by the UN Charters Provision is more attractive and a practical prospect.
Robert Evans then invited Douglas Wickramaratne, a Sinhalese in the audience to respond to the speech. Although he was not listed as a speaker Mr. Wickremaratne, who had travelled from London, was allowed to give a lengthy reply. He started by saying that there was a big gulf between propaganda and fact and he said "I live in England as a member of a minority group and would be happy if I had one-tenth of the rights of the minorities in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country in the world that gives public holidays to all religious minorities. It was only recently that the British Government appointed the first Asian Minister, whereas Sri Lanka from independence has had minority Cabinet members. The highest positions in the land like Chief Justice, Attorney General, IGP and Service Commanders, Ambassadors posts etc have been held by Tamils. I wonder when such positions could be held by a member of an ethnic minority in England".
He replied to Dr Senewiratne's allegations of discrimination and challenged his reference to the GOSL as a Sinhala Government and said "I live in the UK and an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians are English". He asked "would you refer to this as an English Government or would you refer to South Africa as a Black Government as opposed to the white apartheid regime?" He admonished him not to use words like 'hard line President'. He pointed out that the President of Sri Lanka had said that Sri Lanka is the motherland of everyone and all races should be able to live in harmony in any part of the country. "Is that not a fair statement and would that qualify him to be a hard liner?"
He referred to Mr. Anandasangaree, who, at a recent meeting in London, said that he wants his people freed from LTTE. Mr Wickremaratne outlined a catalogue of LTTE terrorist activities and said the EU should condemn terrorism and support Sri Lanka to defeat terrorism, so that people of all races could live together in peace and harmony. He said that the island of Sri Lanka cannot be divided into racist states like Tamil state, Muslim state, Burgher state or Sinhala state.
The next speaker was Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam, MP. He referred to Article 1.8 of the CFA, entered into between the LTTE and the GOSL, giving a mandate to disarm all para-military forces and said that this did not take place. He stated that although talks were held in Geneva, targeting of Tamil civilians have continued and the Tamil nation is being constantly denied meaningful access to governance to pursue their political, economical and cultural development. To heap the LTTE with terrorist organisations is not only unacceptable to the Tamil people. He mentioned the number of prominent Tamil leaders that have been assassinated and blamed the security forces for them.
Ponnambalam was put on a spot by a member of the audience Mr Dick Gupwell, the Secretary General of the European Institution for Asian Studies, who asked him "would you not agree that by having such an unsavoury group as the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamils, great injustice is done to the Tamil cause". Ponnambalam said that although this caused them a lot of problems, the LTTE were their real bargaining chip and that is why they are going along with the LTTE as the sole representative.
The last speaker Ms Deirdre McConnell, Director TCHR said that international media coming from Sri Lanka is not independent because the vast majority of the international correspondents were Sinhala. She did not comment on the diversity and vibrancy of the free press in LTTE held areas. She charged that the Government of Sri Lanka was perpetrating genocide. She wanted the EU to reconsider the decision of September 27 and overturn it. She was questioned by Mr Wickremaratne and also by one or two others about the accuracy of her statements. Later, the General Secretary of TCHR, Deirdre's husband, attempted to reply to Mr Wickremaratne about his earlier condemnation of LTTE on child abductions by saying that the GOSL has not shown any concern about over 100,000 child prostitutes in the south of the country but they were mentioning child abductions to satisfy the international media. Mr Wickremaratne retorted by asking him not to exaggerate figures and stated that even UN bodies have never said that there are 100,000 child prostitutes in the whole of Asia, let alone Sri Lanka. He said " for your information, when three policemen pursued a child molester to the Wanni, the LTTE arrested the three policemen and allowed the criminal to get away, so much for the concern of children".
This event was titled 'EU's contribution to the peace process in Sri Lanka'. It was not clear what relevance the content of the event had to the title.
Robert Evens MEP had read the report in the Island newspaper last week and stated that he had not received any payment for the event. He stated that the doors were open and anyone was welcome. Evens went out of his way to ensure that the meeting was conducted in a fair manner giving Mr Wickremaratne adequate time to respond.
The meeting ended around 5.30 pm with no decisions taken and Robert Evans thanked all for the different views expressed.