Sri Lanka scales back list of banned pro-LTTE outfits

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisenahas significantly scaled back a ban imposed by the previous regime on several Tamil diaspora groups and individuals thought to have links with the LTTE, as part of its efforts to reconcile with the ethnic minority community.

Eight such groups were de-listed according to a gazette notification on November 20, but the ban was retained on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was defeated by Lankan forces in 2009 after a bloody three-decade civil war. According to the notification, the government has lifted ban on British Tamil Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress, Australian Tamil Congress, Global Tamil Forum, National Council of Canadian Tamils, Tamil National Council, Tamil Youth Organisation and World Tamil Coordinating Committee.

In March 2014, 16 organisations and 424 individuals were proscribed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime after the outfits were accused of raising funds for the LTTE. But the latest gazette notification issued by the Sirisena government, which came to power in January ending the decade- long Rajapaksa rule, bans only eight organisations and 155 individuals.

President Sirisena, a one-time Rajapaksa aide who defected overnight in November to derail the former president’s bid for a third term, started a dialogue with Tamil groups based in the West after coming to power. His government had promised eight months ago to carry out a review of the list as part of reconciliation efforts.

“The gazette was issued more for political reasons than anything, so we wanted to review it with a view to start talks with anyone who would not seek a division of the country,” said Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. The 2014 gazette named 424 individuals domiciled in India and in the West for funding the LTTE. “Most of those names were of people who had died long ago,” Samaraweera said.

He said the previous government took the measure to “build up the hysteria about the LTTE regrouping” in the run up to the presidential election but there was hardly any evidence to link them to the LTTE, and most of the organisations listed may have merely been vocal proponents of Tamil rights.

The new government has bravely launched new measures for reconciliation with the Tamil minority. Several confidence- building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January. Lanka’s main Tamil political party has accepted the government’s efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of ethnic war that claimed over 100,000 lives.

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