Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Open Letter to the American Red Cross

from Jayantha Donald Gnanakone, April 6, 2006

The humanitarian aspect needs to be separated from the political aspects, both by the international community as well as the Sinhala GOSL. Tamil victims' rights should not be hijacked nor compromised by anyone for political expediency.

American Red Cross

Dear Mr. Brian Hatchell,

Re: Aid for tsunami-affected NorthEast

It is two months since, on behalf of the American Red Cross, you confirmed that your organization Quote "do not work in either the north or the east because of US government laws prohibiting us from working in any LTTE controlled areas or partnering with any other aid agencies working in LTTE controlled areas. (Your letter dated 2/10/2006).

The governing legislation is called OFA and Michael will fill you in on the details of OFAC and the implications for ARC in Sri Lanka." Unquote.

Since that date the American Red Cross in Washington or Colombo and the American Government authorities have decided to stonewall all my inquires for further information or dialogue on this subject. The Tamils are still in shock and have not recovered from your surprising revelation and have not decided what needs to be done, as this is a violation and breach of trust of the US public, who collected money for the benefit of all the Tsunami survivors, including the Tamils.

I have not received any challenges from the ARC Washington office regarding the collected amount nor how it was spent, for obvious reasons. They are in agreement with my figures and have no dispute on that matter. Accounts should be available to the public as well as to the auditors considering the huge amounts collected by the ARC and the 3 US Presidents promoting the ARC to the US public.

From the article enclosed you would notice that the International Committee of the Red Cross have a close relationship and constant contact with the LTTE and the Tamils living in the LTTE-controlled area. As I have said previously, either the ARC can channel humanitarian assistance to the Tamils in the entire NorthEastern Province via the ICRC or other Red Cross Organizations like those from Canada, Australia or EU countries which operate in the same region, or through the several UN agencies. You and the US embassy in Colombo are fully aware that there are nearly 1 million Tamils living in the GOSL military controlled areas, under Emergency rules and regulations. What would your (ARC) difficulty be to part with the money collected from the US public for those Tamils living in GOSL controlled areas?

May I remind you, Mr. Hatchell, and the American Red Cross, that you may be guilty of not only violating US laws, but these acts of dishonesty and theft are violations of the nature of humanitarian aid to those in need. All those in authority who are aiding and abetting are equally guilty of such crimes. I wrote to the US President and other US authorities on the 5th of January 2005, just 10 days after the disaster, alerting them to the great difficulties experienced by the Tamils in the North East.

If the ARC and others believe these violations would be easily forgotten, by Americans or Tamils, you are sadly mistaken. These allegations would be relentlessly pursued for many months and years to come. The US Congress, and other authorities will investigate this matter sooner or later.

The humanitarian aspect needs to be separated from the political aspects, both by the international community as well as the Sinhala GOSL. Tamil victims' rights should not be hijacked nor compromised by anyone for political expediency.

If the American Red Cross has 1 grain of dignity or self-respect in them, I have no doubt that they will take the necessary steps to distribute some of the millions of dollars collected on behalf of the Tsunami survivors, who have so far not been recipients of the American public's generosity, or even the US Government's. Of course, we had the testimony of the US State Department senior official, Donald Camp, at the recent Congressional hearing claiming that the US Government's assistance has gone into the Colombo Plan work, the UN, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the IMF. A very tiny percentage of such funds to these organizations have trickled down to the survivors of the 20-year war or the Tsunami survivors, and most of the banks have given loans, which have to be repaid some day.

That does not mean, that ARC can blatantly deprive the Tamils of such funds, which morally, ethically and legally belong to them.

Even at this late stage, I urge the American Red Cross, and the US authorities to provide assistance such as permanent homes and replacement of fishing boats, nets, engines, etc to the people of the NorthEast. These are the two primary capital losses suffered by the Tamils, and for other infrastructure losses, the GOSL has received billions of Dollars, as well as debt forgiveness, and special export quotas, which could be easily utilized.

I hope to hear from you in Colombo, your office in Washington, or the US Embassy.

Thank you,
Donald Gnanakone.
Los Angeles, California, USA

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