Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Sri Lankan Charity President Responds

by N. A. Ranjithan, MD, TRO-USA President, Cumberland Times-News, November 29, 2007

As a charity registered in the U.S.A., TRO has diligently and faithfully been complying with the laws and all regulations related to registered charities. TRO-USA reiterates that it is NOT a "front to facilitate fundraising for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."

Sri Lanka is a country plagued by civil war for the past 25 years, resulting in over 70,000 civilian deaths (over 90 percent Tamils), displacement of civilians from their homes, with at least 75 percent of Tamils in the north east being displaced and seeking shelters in camps. Economic and food embargoes, closing of the A-9 highway linking North Sri Lanka to the capital city of Colombo, repeated bombings, shellings, etc. have reduced a once proud and educated people to a state of poverty and starvation.

As president of an organization (TRO) in the news lately, ("U.S. says Sri Lankan Charity with Maryland Offices Funds Terrorists," Nov. 17 Times-News, Page 1A), I wish to clarify some issues to your readers.



TRO-USA is a charitable organization registered in the U.S.A. and legally independent of TRO Sri Lanka and other TRO organizations in other countries. All money collected by TRO-USA has been used only for relief work in Sri Lanka, except for Katrina relief contributions in the U.S.A.

TRO in Sri Lanka assists TRO-USA in appraising projects and programs needed and in implementing such agreed operations. TRO-USA itself monitors all programs so financed, including field visits by myself and other representatives from the U.S.A., until the outbreak of intensified war in April 2006 made travel in affected areas virtually impossible.

We have deep gratitude for the dedication with which TRO (Sri Lanka) officers and employees have helped to implement our programs in a successful, cost effective, transparent manner.

As a charity registered in the U.S.A., TRO has diligently and faithfully been complying with the laws and all regulations related to registered charities. TRO-USA reiterates that it is NOT a "front to facilitate fundraising for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)."

Sri Lanka is a country plagued by civil war for the past 25 years, resulting in over 70,000 civilian deaths (over 90 percent Tamils), displacement of civilians from their homes, with at least 75 percent of Tamils in the north east being displaced and seeking shelters in camps. Economic and food embargoes, closing of the A-9 highway linking North Sri Lanka to the capital city of Colombo, repeated bombings, shellings, etc. have reduced a once proud and educated people to a state of poverty and starvation.

Malnutrition is rampant amongst the Tamil children and only rudimentary health care is available for the civilians in the northeast. All visiting dignitaries, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, ex-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others, have been prevented by government of Sri Lanka from visiting "Tiger" controlled areas, from seeing the plight of civilians. Northeast Sri Lanka bore the brunt of death and destruction from the December 2004 tsunami, but the American Red Cross did not do any relief work there, post-tsunami.

The Tamils survived post-Tsunami only because of relief work done by the TRO, which is the main non-government organization (NGO) working in the northeast, partnered by NGOs from Europe and two NGOs from the U.S.A. The accolades TRO (Sri Lanka) had received from the likes of then Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunge, other foreign dignitaries and International NGOs, both for tsunami relief work and otherwise, speak for themselves.

Despite the protestation of the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake that, "...this designation is an action against the LTTE, not against the Tamil people," the actions of the U.S. Treasury Department will in fact severely impact the Tamil people and cause further suffering to the most vulnerable sections of the Tamil population.

There seems to be an ongoing political witch hunt in Sri Lanka aimed at discrediting the TRO and other national and international organizations working in LTTE-held areas. It appears that the goal of this is to reduce humanitarian assistance provided to the Tamil civilian population in LTTE-controlled areas, as well as in GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) war-affected areas.

The freezing of the TRO bank accounts by the GoSL (Sept. 4, 2006) and the U.S. government (Nov. 15, 2007) will further exacerbate the humanitarian situation and cause untold suffering to the approximately 300,000 persons that rely on TRO assistance.

Scandanavian cease-fire monitors have accused the government security forces of killing 17 aid workers of the French NGO Action against Hunger. Civilians are now routinely subjected to torture, kidnappings for ransom, abduction of children to be forcefully recruited as child soldiers, disappearances, etc. The final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry of Missing Persons, says "Most of the disappearances have been caused by the Army and Police."

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has pointed out that the Millennium Challenge Corporation suspended over $11 million in U.S. aid intended for Sri Lanka based on statements by Freedom House about serious human rights abuse and restriction of press freedom by the GOSL.

In this difficult environment, despite personal dangers and the killing of seven TRO workers 1 1/2 years ago with none ever brought to trial for their murder, TRO personnel have been working hard to alleviate the misery imposed on our people.

Tamil National Alliance (comprised of most of the elected Tamil members of Parliament) MP Kajendren says: "U.S. has made the situation worse for the Tamil people internally displaced and reeling under economic hardships by stopping the humanitarian aid from branches worldwide of TRO. More than 300,000 Tamils are displaced by the offensive Sri Lanken Armed forces. TRO, as the only organization capable of providing the day-to-day support for the most vulnerable IDP's, will now be debilitated by scarcity of funds. Children's homes, schools, aged peoples homes, livelihood beneficiaries - including Tsunami beneficiaries - will be affected by the ban."

I am deeply concerned about the future of Tamils in Sri Lanka, persecuted by their own government and left without many friends in the world. Now that TRO accounts are frozen, I hope and pray that some other organization will step in to fill the void.