Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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TCHR Response to HRW Reports on Underage Recruitment & Extortion

A human rights organisation will look into instruments of international law and see how the articles are violated and how international obligations and standards have been breached. The recommendations of the human rights organisation will then be based on these factors.

In the reports published by Jo Becker in the name of HRW, the recommendations diverge widely from these principles. The reports in fact, give a strong impression to a general reader that there is a political agenda behind them.

Tamil Centre for Human Rights reflections on the reports of Jo Becker, published by Human Rights Watch - HRW 

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19 April 2006

* * * * * *



Report of November 2004

Report of March 2006

            A -       Methodology
            B -       Recommendations
            C -       To the Tamil diaspora           

Hiding the Sri Lankan government's violations

            D -       War in Sri Lanka           

Sources and Credibility under question

            E -       The Tamil Diaspora and Support for the LTTE                       

                        (a) List of sources given in this report
                        Paragraph i to ix

                        (b) Not a single incident of intimidation reported by HRW

Neutrality not maintained

F-     A Culture of Fear : LTTE Intimidation, Threats and violence
                 Paragraph i to iii 

Factually incorrect statements

            G -       Paragraph i to iii 

Our conclusions

                        Pre-Planned publicity
                        Confusion about author
                        Diaspora Tamils – harassed, arbitrary arrested and detained
                        Only four cases with details
                        Do email and telephone interviews have credibility?
                        Fund raising for war by Government, JVP and other groups
                        Usual anti LTTE writings
                        Partiality visible in the title
                        Responsibility and Credibility

* * * * * *


In the recent past, two reports were published by HRW on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). One was in November 2004 “Living in Fear – Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka” and the other one was in March 2006, “Funding the war - LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in Tamil Diaspora”. Jo Becker is the author of both reports.

According to international human rights standards, any cases of violations complained of, or reported by, individuals, organisations and others should have the following details:

(1) Full Name of victim (2) place of incident (3) date of the incident (4) those considered (person, group, forces) responsible for having carried out the violation (5) detail of the incident (6) name(s) of eye witness(es), if there are any and several other pieces of information (7) date of Birth of victim (8) gender (9) present or previous address of victim.

Any case which is short of answers to at least the first four of the above questions is not considered for processing under international human rights mechanisms.

This is one of the reasons that even though genocide has been carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces, the victims (Tamils) find it difficult to process all the cases.

Organisations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and anyone with broad experience regarding international human rights standards, international law and legal standards cannot ignore these principles when reporting on human rights violations...

Responsible organisations working on human rights do not write reports like propagandists, columnists, and fiction writers. They will always consider their credibility when reporting...

Usually the recommendations put forward by a human rights organisation are based on the improvement of legal matters concerning the violating party, within the framework of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. The party may be government security forces or non state actors in UN terminology.

A human rights organisation will look into instruments of international law and see how the articles are violated and how international obligations and standards have been breached. The recommendations of the human rights organisation will then be based on these factors.

But in the reports published by Jo Becker in the name of HRW, the recommendations diverge widely from these principles. The reports in fact, give a strong impression to a general reader that there is a political agenda behind them.

The recommendations in both reports are highly political. It is not in the role of a human rights organisation to make such statements. Even in the United Nations, heads of human rights mechanisms never issue such recommendations, to any state or non state actor.

Report of November 2004

Let us consider the recommendations in the report published in November 2004:

There are recommendations (1) To the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) (2) To the Government of Sri Lanka (3) To the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (4) To the international Labour Organisation (ILO) (5) To the Northeast Commission on Human Rights (NECOHR) – (In fact it is NESOHR) (6) To the Government of Norway (7) To the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) (8) To Donors (including Japan, the United States, the European Union and Scandinavian countries) (9) To the Tamil Diaspora (10) To Government of Countries with a Significant Tamil Diaspora (including Canada, Switzerland, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Scandinavia) (11) To the United Nations Security Council (12) To All United Nations Member States.

The recommendations made to UNICEF, ILO, Norway, SLMM, Donor Countries, UN Security Council and all UN Member states look utterly bizarre.

First of all, what qualifies a human rights organisation to give recommendations to all these institutions including the UN Security Council?

It is extremely interesting to note that after the long list of institutions, there is not a single recommendation to the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

Let us analyse some of the recommendations in this report (1) To the Government of Sri Lanka (2) To Donor countries (3) To the Tamil Diaspora (4) To the United Nations Security Council (5) To All United Nations member States.

(1) To the Government of Sri Lanka  

“Ensure that an end to child recruitment and immediate demobilisation of children from the LTTE are part of any new peace agreement with the LTTE”. (HRW Nov 04 – Page 10)

This was exactly the Sri Lanka government agenda in the last peace talks in February 2006 in Geneva.

(2) To Donor countries 

“Provide financial and logistical support for the deployment of international human rights monitors in support of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka as envisioned in the Hakone talks” (HRW Nov 04 – Page 12) 

Here HRW supports the raising of funds for the National Human Rights Commission, at that time headed by Radika Coomaraswamy. But in the meantime HRW is totally against any funds going to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) for humanitarian work in the Tamil areas.

“Consider the appropriateness of channelling economic assistance through agencies, such as Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, that are linked to the LTTE” (HRW Nov 04 – Page 12)

After the devastating Tsunami, the Sri Lanka government cut off international funding from going to the TRO, who were supporting both tsunami and war victims. In fact, the government cut off aid altogether from going to the tsunami victims in the NorthEast by upholding the Supreme Court blocking of the Post-Tsunami Operations Management Structure P-TOMS, a joint mechanism for humanitarian work.

(3) To the Tamil Diaspora 

“Express public opposition to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict by the LTTE and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka” (HRW Nov 04 – Page 12)

“Ensure that funds provided to organisations in Sri Lanka do not directly or indirectly benefit the LTTE so long as it recruits and uses child soldiers or otherwise commits serious rights violations; (HRW Nov 04 – Page 12)           

This report was forced onto the Tamil Diaspora by Jo Becker in the name of HRW in two meetings in London, United Kingdom and Toronto, Canada in November 2004.

TCHR executives attended the London meeting and witnessed everything that took place in this meeting.

The nature of the meeting was political rather than human rights-focussed.

(i)         Even though this meeting was said to be organised in the name of HRW, it was fully managed by the members of the Tamil Broadcasting Corporation (TBC). The stall outside the hall was manned by the volunteers of the TBC and the platform was also shared by one of their speakers.

(ii)        TBC is a radio station run by the Sri Lankan government. This Radio station (license N°. 04448141) was registered in the United Kingdom as a company on 27 May 2002. Until recently, the Director, appointed on 8 March 2004, was Mendis Bernard, a Singhalese person who is a British citizen.

(iii)       This Radio station, managed and run by supporters of the Sri Lankan government in London, is connected to paramilitary groups in Sri Lanka.

The person who was in charge of the daily functioning of this station, V. Ramaraj, was arrested in Geneva in February 2006, during the peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

Ramaraj had been wanted by the Swiss Police for a long time, for drug trafficking offences, human smuggling between Asia and Europe and credit card fraud. He is still in the custody of the Swiss police. (Please refer to F, iii in this report)

(iv)      The person who shared the platform with Jo Becker belongs to a paramilitary organisation known as the EPDP. He spoke in Tamil.

This person belonging to this anti LTTE group was very offensive towards the political ideology of the LTTE and an English translation was given by another person working for the TBC radio station for the benefit of non Tamils. The English version was a deliberately  incorrect translation of the speech made in Tamil. This fact was immediately challenged by some of the participants in this meeting.  These objections were ignored by Jo Becker. This was witnessed by British parliamentarian Andy Love.

In 1984, soon after the armed conflict started in Sri Lanka, two Americans known as the 'Alan couple' from Ohio in USA were kidnapped in Jaffna by the Douglas Devananda group. Douglas Devananda, head of the EPDP, is a minister in the present cabinet in Sri Lanka.

(v)       There were 30-35 participants in this meeting from the TBC. They did not allow members of civil society to ask any questions concerning this report. Much hooting and shouting heckled those who asked questions from Jo Becker. She answered none of the questions.

The Toronto meeting raised even more controversy for Jo Becker, since the Toronto Tamil diaspora asked ever more searching questions about the report. Eventually the Canadian metropolitan police calmed the situation.

(4)       To the United Nations Security Council

“In accordance with ……………..Such measures could include the          imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions ………….” (HRW Nov 04 – Page 12)

This is exactly what the Sri Lanka government wanted and achieved to a limited extent – at least regarding travel restrictions on official engagements - within the European Union.

Can these sorts of recommendations come from a genuine Human Rights organisation?

In serious diplomatic and human rights circles there is widespread  understanding of the legitimate demands of the Tamils for a durable negotiated political solution to the island's ethnic conflict. This need for power sharing has been endorsed and understood by the International Community which applauded the Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) signed in February 2002 and the Interim Self-Governing Authority - ISGA proposals.

It is astonishing that the report in the name of HRW recommends the exclusion of the LTTE from "ANY governance structures." This is a most absurd idea which is furthermore clearly against a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Anyone following the situation in Sri Lanka even remotely, knows the only way tsunami victims received any assistance at all was through the existing infrastructures built up in the self-governing LTTE-administered areas. The HRW recommendation takes no cognisance of the developments and subtleties of the seven rounds of peace talks to date and reveals the paramilitary agenda of certain groups who wish to destabilise the peace efforts.

It appears totally bizarre for Jo Becker in the name of HRW to recommend war-mongering actions to the Security Council. These recommendations do not take into account any considered evaluation of the peace process in Sri Lanka and the balanced and careful approach required. On the contrary, they simply slam down hard in favour of, and mirroring, the most extreme hard-line positions taken by some on the Sri Lanka government side. This is hardly likely to further the cause of peace in Sri Lanka.

The recommendation is very hasty and early in its pronouncement against offering any amnesty. One could say the report is devoid of any feeling or commitment for possibilities around Truth and Reconciliation as have been carried in other post conflict situations.

(5)       To All United Nations member States. 

“In accordance with Security Council resolution………………..withhold any financial, political, or military support to the LTTE until it ends all child recruitment and releases all children currently in its rank” (HRW Nov 04 – Page 13)

The person making the above recommendations to the UN Security Council and all UN member states has completely ignored the fact that there are serious Child Rights issues in the South too, relating to both the Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - CRC.

Firstly the child soldiers issue exists in the Sri Lanka government forces and has not been addressed at all. Secondly, there is a massive problem regarding the rights of the Child in the South vis-à-vis Child prostitution. Sri Lanka has not ratified the second Optional Protocol of the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In fact Jo Becker herself said that this problem equally affects Children, when in her capacity as Steering Committee Chair of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers - Asia-Pacific Conference on the use of Children as Soldiers: Conference Report  - 15-18 May 2000)

Jo Becker claims to be an expert on Child rights, yet never bothered about the rampant Child prostitution and Child labour in the South and the many layers of suffering inflicted on the war affected children in the regions she claims to have visited. Please refer the report (

This report by Jo Becker in the name of HRW leaves the Sri Lanka government free of any scrutiny of its human rights records. This is quite shocking to anyone who has been working for any time on these issues.

The human rights violations of the government, both past, as the root cause of the conflict, and present, as the cause of the deteriorating human rights situation of the Tamils in the North East, go utterly unchecked – not even commented upon. This encapsulates a sort of impunity reminiscent of the dangerous impunity in Sri Lanka which has allowed human rights violations to escalate.

To blatantly omit any mention of the systematic nature of the Sri Lanka government's violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law is highly irresponsible of an international human rights organisation.

Even though this report was said to be the result of findings during their visit to Sri Lanka, not a single word in the report mentions anything other than allegations against the LTTE.

These are some of our reflections on the report published in November 2004.

In our view, the consequences faced by Jo Becker and the group that she was accompanied by in these meetings have obviously sown seeds which have neatly fallen into the second report, published in March 2006.

Report of March 2006

Funding the "Final War." LTTE intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora


A         Under the section, “Methodology”, the report says that “Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report from October 2005 through February 2006, conducting interviews in person……..”

B         The “Recommendations” are very politically motivated....

(ii)       Under the recommendations, even though "other groups" are        mentioned in one of the paragraphs :

“…….  and fundraising by the LTTE or other groups, ….”. (HRW          March  06)

we find absolutely nothing else other than the above mentioned line, about the other groups in the whole of the report.

(iii)       “Urge the LTTE to end all use of violence, threats, intimidation, and harassment against members of the Tamil diaspora”. (HRW March  06)

If the author really intended to include other groups and thus maintain neutrality in the report, why are the recommendations only addressed to the LTTE?

C         The paragraph titled – “To the Tamil diaspora”

“When it is possible without undue personal risk, ensure that funds provided to organisations in Sri Lanka are not directly or indirectly benefiting the LTTE so long as the LTTE continues to commit serious human rights abuses”. (HRW March  06)

Here, the author appears to be encouraging the Tamils to give funds        to other groups which this report indirectly supports and endorses.

“Seek opportunities to promote human rights within the Tamil Community, including dialogue regarding the community’s role in improving the  human rights situation in Sri Lanka”  (HRW March  06)

One wonders what Jo Becker means by this paragraph.

Jo Becker may not be aware of the extensive documentation of gross and systematic human rights violations against the Tamils since 1983 taken up by international human rights bodies and the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. What has been lacking is a strong and effective commitment by the international community in taking firm action in dealing with Sri Lanka.           

If the international community had met its obligations to protect victims of genocide in Sri Lanka the other problems would have been taken care of long ago.

Hiding the Sri Lankan government's violations

D         Under “War in Sri Lanka”

The author takes a soft line on the Sri Lankan government and portrays the LTTE as the cause of the whole conflict.

“…….Security forces also cut off the supply of the food and humanitarian assistance to the North for weeks at a time”. (HRW March  06)

This is a very soft statement. In reality there was a draconian Sri Lankan government enforced economic embargo to the Tamil areas for more than a decade and the embargo was lifted only after the cease-fire was signed in February 2002. Allegations of the Sri Lanka government using food and medicine as weapons of war against the Tamil civilians, leading to starvation and diseases, were repeatedly made by ECOSOC NGOs in the UN Human Rights Commission and Sub-Commission between 1997 and 2001.

“Children in the North and East were particularly affected by the conflict. One study in the North found that one-third of children had lost a relative in the war, 25 percent had witnessed violence, and 25 percent had experienced a threat on their own life”.  (HRW March  06 )

Why was the above fact hidden in the report of November 2004, which was specifically about children? This fact is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the well-documented breaches of International Humanitarian Law by the Sri Lanka government.

As a signatory to the Geneva Conventions it should have protected children from the scourge of war, not targeted them along with women and other civilians, too.

“The LTTE, led by Vellupillai Prabaharan was responsible for committing gross abuses, ……………….” (HRW March  06)

 “………….. Since the beginning of the cease-fire, more than 200 mostly Tamil have been killed in apparent political killings, most allegedly the work of the LTTE, which continued to carry out killing of LTTE critics and members of non-LTTE Tamil political parties. (HRW March  06)

These statements show the partiality of this report which is trying to hide an obvious truth, as in the Tamil proverb “Mulu Pusanikayai Sothukai puthaipathu” (Trying to hide the entire Pumpkin in a plate of rice). Where is the mention of the killings of ex-parliamentarian Chandra Nehru, Kousalyan, journalists like Nadesan, Sivaram and Member of Parliament Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham and many others that took place in Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna and many other places? Jo Becker proves that she is only concerned about condemning the LTTE.

“In late 2005, the LTTE carried out numerous ambushes and other attacks that killed more than eighty members of the Sri Lankan Army and Navy, putting the cease-fire into serious jeopardy”…………….. (HRW March  06)

This is another partial statement which casts doubt on the credibility of the report. Jo Becker chooses only that which is against the LTTE and does not consider real human rights violations under the legal international standards.

For a human rights activist working for HRW, these statements fail to maintain a neutral position vis-à-vis the conflict. The list of killings, massacres, rape and other violations committed by the Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitaries are not even touched on here.

 “The LTTE also continued to recruit children into its forces throughout the cease-fire……………..” (HRW March  06)

There is no mention in the report about the Child soldiers in the Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary forces. This was noted even by the opposition leader Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe in the Sri Lankan parliament. (Please refer to the report -

As pointed out earlier, the author of the HRW report is said to be an expert on Child rights. What steps have been taken to address the issues of Child prostitution, Child labour and slavery and the War affected children in Sri Lanka?

Reference is made in the report (footnote 11), to the first Optional Protocol to the CRC, about Children involved in and affected by Armed Conflict.

If the author has a good knowledge of international law and about the       Optional Protocols of the CRC, why for so many years, has not a word been      written about Sri Lanka's non-ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale      of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OP/CP)?

Is this author aware that Sri Lanka is known to the world as a "Paedophiles' Paradise" and is she aware of the scale of the Child trafficking and child Labour in Sri Lanka?

Sources and Credibility under question

E         Under, “The Tamil Diaspora and Support for the LTTE”


Let us take it for granted that the HRW report is acceptable even without mentioning the names and addresses of the interviewees/complainers.

List of sources given in this report : 

(1) One Toronto Tamil remarked (2) The former volunteer said (3) One Toronto woman moved (4) One volunteer who participates (5) One activist received a telephone call (6) One Toronto man involved (7) In London, a Tamil man (8) A Toronto Tamil who once targeted (9) Toronto woman asked for fund by the LTTE (10) Some families told Human Rights Watch (11) One Toronto family received (12) A Tamil who has lived in London (13) A London businessman told Human Rights Watch (14) One Tamil whose job brought him (15) One Toronto woman said (16) Another Toronto family told Human Rights Watch (17) A Toronto area businessman was visited by the LTTE (18) A London Tamil told Human Rights Watch (19) An attorney told Human Rights Watch (20) A Tamil in London told Human Rights Watch (21) A medical professional in Toronto (22) A reliable source in London (23)and several other anonymous sources are cited in this report.   

In this report a serious allegation against an organisation which is a party to        the CFA and the peace negotiations is placed without disclosing 95% of the           sources.

The same report indirectly states that this organisation enjoys massive support from the same Tamil diaspora.

According to this report – business people, publishers, lawyers and others have said that more customers come to their business because they support   this organisation.

Hereone should not forget the reason why HRW is not giving the names, addresses and other details of the interviewees/complainers. The HRW report says, it is “for their safety and security”. (HRW March  06)

Is this reason acceptable to members of Civil Society? Can the withholding of sources really be for the safety and security of the people who gave interviews/complaints to the HRW? If the incidents which are quoted in the report (see below i - ix) are true and correct, then without mentioning names, addresses and other details of the interviewees, those from whom HRW attempts to hide the details using a pretext, will obviously come to know.

If the incidents are true, it is very easy to trace the interviewees/complainers. So then, from whom is HRW hiding the sources? Can it be a genuine claim that it is for security reasons, that the names of the interviewees or complainers must remain confidential.

In the light of what has been stated consider the following examples :

(i)         "If you don't support the LTTE cause in your newspaper, we will deal with you", said to HRW by an individual journalist in Toronto as allegedly said by a LTTE representative. (HRW March  06) 

(ii)        “You have three children, tell your husband to get out of it, otherwise you will become a widow”, told to HRW by a volunteer who participates in a weekly TBC program in London. He claimed that his wife had allegedly received an email message. (HRW March  06)

(iii)       “If you are not going to control yourself, they will take care of you”, said to HRW by one activist in Toronto who said he received a telephone call from a relative alleging that LTTE representatives warned them. (HRW March  06)

(iv)       “Your brother should shut up; otherwise it is not good for him” said by a person in London to HRW, as allegedly said by a brother from Sri          Lanka. (HRW March  06)

(v)        "We are going to declare Tamil Eelam, so we need the funds      immediately", said to HRW by a trustee of a Hindu temple in Toronto as        said by alleged representatives from LTTE intelligence group. (HRW   March  06)

(vi)       "Can you fill this out and write down that you don't believe in what the LTTE is doing?" said to HRW by a family in Toronto to whom alleged LTTE representatives presented a form demanding them to fill it in.         (HRW March  06)

(vii)      "Others have no room to give, but they find a way. This is your duty. You have to help your community from here. THIS IS MR PIRABAKARAN'S REQUEST. You need to help start the war." "If you don't want to contribute, say that you don't want to".  "Okay, we understand that you do not want to help us, but you will learn the lesson soon. We understand that you are not considering your wife and your children." said by a businessman in Toronto to Jo Becker relating what four men allegedly from the LTTE told him. (HRW March  06) 

(viii)     “When you go back, you should give money. You should help our struggle. It is your obligation to help us”. Priya’s story, if true, could be very easily traced by the people from whom HRW is seeking to hide information for Priya's safety and security. (HRW March  06) 

(ix)       “A reliable source in London provided information about a Tamil   woman with two children from ANOTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRY? ………………… the woman flew back to Colombo that same night, and went to her embassy the following day, claiming that she had lost her passport. After receiving a replacement passport, she quickly returned to Europe with her children.”

First of all it is not at all easy to get a replacement passport whatsoever from any Embassy in Colombo. Secondly, if this incident is true, why does Jo Becker not name the country?

Many other statements could be similarly highlighted from this report.

If these interviews are indeed neither fiction nor imaginary, then HRW is under obligation to disclose those interviewees' details in this report to prove its credibility.

Given that this report contains 95% undisclosed sources, did Jo Becker and HRW ever think of the credibility of this report?


Not a single incident of intimidation reported by HRW

Now more than a month has passed since this report by HRW was published. Not a single incident of intimidation of the interviewees/complainers has been reported by HRW via a press release or an urgent action.

This leads members of Civil society to conclude that the incidents quoted in the HRW report are not true and correct.

We hope HRW will not come out with a Press release after seeing these reflections saying that some of the sources were harassed even though HRW had sought to protect their identity

Neutrality not maintained

F          Under "A Culture of Fear : LTTE Intimidation, Threats and violence" 

(i)        “…..The principal, Kanakapathy Rajadurai (Principal of Central College,Jaffna), known to oppose the LTTE’s recruitment of children, was shot and killed at his school on October 12, 2005………..” (HRW March  06)

Exactly a day before the killing of Mr. K. Rajadurai, another Principal, Mr. Nadararajah Sivakadadcham of Kopay Christian College in Jaffna, was shot  and killed.

If this is a genuine human rights report published in the name of HRW, why did this report hide the story of Mr. Nadararajah Sivakadadcham? This Principal was killed by anti-LTTE elements, in paramilitary groups working closely with the Sri Lankan military intelligence.

(ii)       “Another incident frequently cited by Tamils is the 1994 murder of Sabaratnam Sabalingam in Paris. Sabalingam was reportedly preparing to publish an anti-LTTE book, based on his acquaintance with LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirabaharan…….” (HRW March  06)

Jo Becker listened to this accusation against the LTTE and considered it important to mention it in this report.  Yet she failed to report on a double murder of two LTTE cadres in the heart of Paris in 1997 by the Sri Lanka government. Why did the accusation against the Sri Lankan government go unmentioned in this report?

One person who was killed in this 1997 incident was the Editor of "Eelamurasu," a weekly newspaper still published in Paris and the other one was in charge of the finances of the LTTE.

Is this double murder carried out by the Sri Lankan government not a human rights violation? Is it not worth mentioning in this report to maintain neutrality?

(iii)      “Staff and volunteers at the London-based Tamil Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) have been particular targets. The TBC is an independent radio station that regularly broadcasts programs that are critical of LTTE abuses, TBC’ program director, V. Ramaraj has received repeated death threats and volunteers at the station regularly receive abusive and threatening telephone calls.”(HRW March  06)

As stated earlier in this report, TBC is a radio station run by the Sri Lankan government. It is registered in the United Kingdom and until recently the Director was a Singhalese person who is a British citizen.

First of all, Jo Becker knows V. Ramaraj very well. He came with 30 to 35  people to Jo Becker’s London meeting and his colleagues manned the HRW stall in the hall. One of his colleagues shared the platform with Jo Becker.

In fact, V. Ramaraj, whom Jo Becker mentioned as Program Director of TBC, was arrested by Swiss Police in February 2006 and is still in their custody. He was wanted for drug trafficking, human smuggling between Asia and Europe and credit card fraud.

Is the author of this report trying to pretend that they are not aware of the whereabouts of Ramaraj and his activities?

If this report is not biased, why is the story of V. Ramaraj of TBC hidden? Is this report credible?

If Jo Becker has access to a good and genuine Tamil-English translator, we kindly request HRW to listen to the TBC radio programmes. These include programmes which advocate the intimidation of people who do not support the Sri Lanka government's policies on the ethnic issues in Sri Lanka

Factually incorrect statements

G         It is well known that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been struggling for an independent state for a very long time and that they have been administrating a de-facto government which is known as “Tamil Eelam,” for  more than a decade.

It is nothing new that most Tamils, and especially LTTE supporters, do not accept Sri Lanka as their country.

From top to bottom, members and supporters of the LTTE, when they make reference to the traditional Tamil hereditary area of the NorthEast, they call it “Tamil Eelam” or “Nadu” (Country). This is a cardinal principle within the LTTE and they do not make a mistake on the use of this terminology. This is well known among Tamils, whether they are pro or anti LTTE.

Jo Becker, who visited the LTTE administered area at least twice and also met LTTE members in Geneva and other places, could not have failed to notice this use of terminology by members of the LTTE.

In such a situation, those who alleged intimidation by the LTTE in Toronto and London, while believed to be true by the author, have given factually incorrect statements clearly showing that they cannot have been real LTTE representatives. The intimidation must therefore have been done by groups other than the LTTE that Jo Becker has mentioned in her report.

One should not fail to note that the anti LTTE Tamil organisations working hand in glove with the government of Sri Lanka are the ones who accept “Sri Lanka” as their country and accept that they are Sri Lankan.

It is obvious that none of the LTTE cadres, representatives or supporters  when talking with fellow Tamils will refer to the LTTE leader Pirabaharan as "MR PIRABAHARAN." They always call him "Thalavar" (Leader), "Annai" (older brother) or "Thambi" (younger brother) if they are older than him. This is well known among Tamils whether they are pro or anti LTTE.

If somebody refers to "MR. PIRABAHARAN's REQUEST,"  then it is absolutely certain that either someone from an anti-LTTE group is intimidating the Tamil diaspora in the name of LTTE or else that this is utter fiction.

In the HRW report :

(i)         "If you contribute money here, you can GO TO SRI LANKA and visit your family. We will give you a PIN number. That number will allow you to move freely in Jaffna. Otherwise, you will have problems. If you  don't pay here, you will pay double or triple when you GO TO SRI LANKA," said to Jo Becker by a Tamil who lived in London, as allegedly said by two alleged LTTE representatives at his home. (HRW March  06)

(ii)        "YOU ARE FROM SRI LANKA, it is your responsibility, you must give. If you have family to look after, that is your problem. We are asking you to contribute to the freedom struggle", Jo Becker says it was said to the same person by the two alleged LTTE representatives in London.            (HRW March  06)

(iii)       "Others have no room to give, but they find a way. This is your duty. You have to help you community from here. THIS IS MR PIRABAKARAN'S REQUEST……………………." said by a businessman in Toronto to Jo Becker that four men allegedly from the LTTE told him (HRW March, 2006)

Our conclusions 

Pre-Planned publicity 

Civil Society should not fail to make a note that the Minister of Foreign affairs of Sri Lanka made an announcement about this report in London, on the very same day HRW was getting ready to release it. This announcement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, obviously alerted civil society to the fact that a report was coming out in favour of the Sri Lankan government, by Jo Becker in the name of HRW.

Confusion about author 

The author of the report claimed to be Jo Becker – HRW. Jo Becker had been to the LTTE administrated area – Vanni, at least twice. No other route other than by road is available for anyone other than VIPs. In that case Jo Becker must have gone either through Omanthai or Muhamalai crossing points into LTTE territory. But the report says:

“Leaving government-held territory, they must exit their vehicles and show documentation at a government checkpoint before CROSSING SEVERAL KILOMETERS OF NO-MAN’s LAND that is monitored by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). (HRW March  06)

This paragraph raises further doubts as to whether this report was really written by Jo Becker in the name of HRW. The distance between the two ICRC points, separating government-held territory and LTTE administered areas is not several kilometres (either South or North of Vanni) as mentioned. This suggests that someone else who has never been to these areas has written this report which was then published by Jo Becker in the name of HRW.

Hundreds of diaspora Tamils–harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained

Since TCHR was established in 1990, we have documented hundreds of cases of complaints by the Tamil Diaspora who went on holiday to Sri Lanka – some were arbitrarily arrested by Sri Lanka security forces at Katunayake International Airport itself, others at checkpoints, some on cordon and search operations from homes, lodges and hotels.

Out of these cases, many were forced to pay lump sums to law enforcement  authorities in Sri Lanka and thus managed to escape unlawful detention and punishment. Some, of course, ended up in Welikadai, Panagodai, Bogampara and other places of detention notorious for torture and indefinite detention.

It surprises us that these types of cases were never raised by Jo Becker who claims to have written this report in the name of HRW. Are these not violations of human rights? Such cases are frequently cited in the Tamil community.

Only four cases with details

Whatever the true circumstances are, if anyone's fundamental rights are violated, the matter must be raised. But, as we said before, it should be raised with the right information pertaining to the relevant international human rights standards.

Out of the forty-five page report, Jo Becker in the name of HRW cites only four incidents with names and other details, which are believed to have taken place in Western countries. These cases are not connected to fund-raising and two are long-standing cases regularly written about in the media.

It is well-known that some individuals who worked closely with the supporters of the LTTE in foreign countries had some problems. These individual problems have nothing to do with the question of fundraising as raised by Jo Becker's report in the name of HRW.

All the other cases without details of sources could be assumed to be fiction or imaginary.

Do email and telephone interviews have credibility?

Most of the references refer to telephone interviews and emails. One has to consider whether it is possible to be absolutely certain that one is speaking to the right person on the phone, and whether it is possible to always receive the email from exactly the right person – yahoo, hotmail and many emails are frequently created with bogus names, a practise widely used by Sri Lankan government lobbyists.

Fund raising for war by Government, JVP and other groups

If HRW is really worried about fundraising in the name of the war, then HRW could have produced a report long ago against the Sri Lankan government which collects funds through their embassies in the name of “Security fund.” This has been happening since 1983. Everyone who goes to get a Sri Lankan passport has to pay this money, otherwise they will not be issued a passport. Out of more than 500,000 Tamils who have sought political asylum in Western countries, other than those accepted as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention, all others need a Sri Lankan  passport to have their legal papers in foreign countries.

Not to be forgotten also is the massive fundraising going on in many countries by  several groups, including Tamil Paramilitary forces and Singhalese groups such as – EPDP, PLOTE, Karuna group, JVP and JHU, to fund war. This was highlighted in many newspapers and in the “Sunday Leader” of 26 June 2005.

If HRW had been concerned about its organisation's credibility, and genuinely concerned about fund-raising for war, they should have investigated these fundraising activities as well, to show their neutrality in the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Usual anti LTTE writings

In our view, the HRW report of March 2006, sits alongside the usual anti LTTE writings that we frequently read in a racist Colombo newspaper written by government propagandists and by certain anti LTTE columnists in other newspapers.

There is a proverb in Tamil, “Vellieekku Ohnnan satchi”, which translates as “The chameleon (lizard) is the witness to the fence.” In the same manner, the HRW report, without any credibility, was given publicity by the usual media which publish the propaganda of the Sri Lankan government in Colombo and in other countries.

Amongst the references in the HRW report, footnotes 18 and 19 refer to one of the usual international paid lobbyists of the Sri Lankan government.

Partiality visible in the title

The title of the report itself shows its partiality. It is a total surprise, how this report  was rubber stamped by a human rights organisation based in the USA.

For unknown reasons, the author of this report expects the law enforcement agencies in Canada and UK to harass anyone believed to be a member or sympathiser of the LTTE.

The reasons for Jo Becker to take this line will come to light one day. It may be too late at that time for the international community to realise the truth behind this report.

There is no doubt that some individuals among the Tamil diaspora may have some personal grievances because they were not given prominent places by the LTTE. This does not mean that Jo Becker should associate with such individuals and groups and make such unjust and flimsy allegations against an organisation which is involved in peace negotiations for a just and durable political solution to the longstanding ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

Responsibility and Credibility

International organisations like HRW should not add fuel to the fire by taking sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka. We sincerely hope that Jo Becker's report in the name of HRW will not become an obstacle for a peaceful negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka. Some of the suggestions made in the recommendations are irresponsibly destructive towards progress so far in the peace negotiations. This is not responsible action to take as part of the International Community which raises its voice.

It is well known that in the past, the Sri Lankan government hired a few advertising agencies and lobbyists in western countries to carry out their propaganda work to influence the international community. What is the current situation?

Whatever said and done, how many readers of this report know the international human rights standards, international law and legal standards? This report was launched into wide circulation because it was published in the name of HRW.

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