Letter to the Washington Times

January 31, 2005

The editor,

Washington Times

Washington, DC.

Re: "Rebel's ties to charities cause concerns" - A rebuttal

Dear Sir:

This refers to the news story titled "Rebel's ties to charities cause concerns" by your enterprising and imaginative correspondent Ashish Kumar Sen.

Lately, virulent LTTE bashing has become a fashion among some western correspondents/columnists in the USA and Canada. Your correspondent is the latest to join this quixotic adventure of demonizing the LTTE.

The allegations repeated ad nauseam of recruitment of child soldiers and procurement of weapons using aid meant for victims of the tsunami by the LTTE are becoming stale without substantiation. Only those with their own agendas will keep repeating  such unfounded allegations. 

I wonder whose agenda Ashish Kumar Sen is fulfilling in this article.

TRO does operate in areas controlled by the LTTE. This is no secret. It is the TRO that rushed food, medicine and other relief supplies to help tsunami victims of the Northeast within hours of the disaster. This is despite losing 150 of their own members to the tidal waves. No aid came from foreign INGOs for weeks.  For your information -

(1) TRO Sri Lanka is the major organization in Sri Lanka that is active in clearing land mines with financial assistance from the UK-based Mine Action Group (MAG) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

(2) TRO runs many children's homes for the war-orphaned children. TRO Canada supports about 600 such children through sponsorship.

(3) Foreign diplomats, including Carol Bellamy of UNICEF and the Canadian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Valerie Raymond, have visited the TRO office in Kilinochchi and have witnessed for themselves the humanitarian services rendered by it.

(5) TRO's Headquarters in Kilinochchi was declared open by His Excellency British High Commissioner H E Stephen Evans in March, 2004.

(6) Secretary General of UN Kofi Annan and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin met with the TRO's Executive Director K.P. Regi during their recent visit to Sri Lanka.  

(7) TRO, in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP, ADB, Red Cross etc., executes projects like housing, roads, etc.

(8) TRO is the largest non-state employer in the Northeast. In addition to hundreds of volunteers there are more than 4000 full-time employees on their payroll. 

So all this talk of the "TRO has become the subject of scrutiny by politicians in Canada and Australia, and State Department officials in Washington say the charity's ties to the Tamil Tigers are 'problematic'" is troublemaking. Only those who no compassion for the poor and the downtrodden will level such accusations. If not for TRO thousands of people, including children, will face starvation, deprivation and disease.

Although the TRO operates closely with the LTTE, it is a distinct and separate entity engaged in humanitarian relief and reconstruction work.

Funds raised by TRO are strictly disbursed to alleviate poverty, promote education, etc.

It is common knowledge that LTTE gets most of its weaponry from the Sri Lankan army.  The LTTE that runs a de facto government and levies taxes is not in need of any funds from the TRO to buy weapons. So the allegation that TRO's funds are diverted to LTTE to procure weapons is bereft of common sense. If at all, the truth is the other way round! 

When the tsunami disaster struck, LTTE released Rs.40 million of its own funds to help provide food, medicine, temporary shelter, etc. to victims.

The quote attributed to Kirubairaja Somasundaram, that "money collected by TRO "goes to the LTTE fund used to purchase military hardware and to maintain their prisons" is a total frabrication. I am a Canadian from Toronto, but I have not heard about this infamous "Toronto-based freelance journalist who has done extensive research on the LTTE." This person is a fictitious character created by your correspondent to sensationalize his news story. I invite your correspondent to give me his address or telephone number to check his physical existence.

It is true that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan decided to cancel his tour of the LTTE-dominated regions when President Chandrika Kumaratunga refused permission. A frustrated Kofi Annan said ""I would like to visit all the areas, but I am a guest and the government sets the itinerary." But your correspondent cleverly doctors his statement by saying "Mr. Annan decided to avoid the LTTE-dominated regions." 

The statement of Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, that the Thamil Tigers are "preying on the most vulnerable by taking advantage of children who have been orphaned or displaced by the tsunami" is outrageous.  Her mock show of breast-beating is simply laughable when HRW made not a peep when Thamil children were bombed and killed by the Sri Lankan air force, or during the 6 year-long economic blockade which caused so much starvation and disease in the North. 

The claim "New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates the wave killed at least 2,000 rebels, including nearly 400 women and girls who were washed away from an LTTE training camp in Mullaitivu" is total rubbish.  How the HRW did estimate the deaths without going anywhere near the scene of the tragedy? 

Finally, I wish to tell your correspondent that if he wishes to look for terrorists he should do so in his own backyard. He will find a surfeit of state terrorists.

Yours truly,

V.Thangavelu

Toronto, Canada

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Posted February 3, 2005